Brainstorming brilliant and fresh ideas can be an exciting journey for project teams. But, before they start sharing and further distributing, their ideas need to go through a developmental process.
Teams need to have a project quality management plan set in place or a clear understanding of what issues they are trying to fix. Additionally, if you want potential investors and clients to accept your ideas, you need to prove that they are indeed helpful, practical, and worth spending money on them.
How do you accomplish that? The answer lies in proof of concept or POC. This short guide will elaborate on what POC means and why it is so vital for businesses and project teams.
What does proof of concept mean?
Proof of concept is an exercise to see whether you can turn an idea into reality. It helps you determine the idea's feasibility or verify whether it will function as imagined.
POC is not designed to explore the marketing side of the idea, nor should it determine the best production processes. It's instead focused on the idea's viability, giving those involved in this process an opportunity to explore its potential.
With the help of POC, project managers can prove that building the proposed method, feature, product, or solution is possible. Further on, decision-makers will have a bigger picture of the situation once a business or an organization launches a product.
This also means that this solution will not only support customers' needs but also meet the organization's goals and missions. Keep in mind that different industries will have different use cases or proof of concept examples.
Let's say a candy store is launching a new flavor. To check the viability of that new recipe, they could launch a survey and ask their customers if they would be willing to try and buy one.
How to write a POC?
This process involves a five-step plan your project team can follow, from developing an idea to presenting it.
Showing that the product is needed. When presenting an idea or a product, project leaders need to establish whether it is necessary and know the target market and their pain points. Project managers need actual and relevant answers, and the best way to get these is to survey a representative sample of customers. They need to ask customers detailed questions and how the product can minimize their inconvenience while improving the user's experience.
Propose the right solution. Using this survey and the answers, the project manager will start discussing the right solutions to the customer's pain points with their team. Be aware that these ideas need to be within the company's capabilities.
Design a prototype and test it. Once your team has developed a feasible idea, the next step would be to create a prototype based on the solutions, features, and requirements. The project team needs to allow their sample group to try and test the finished prototype. They will determine whether the product will satisfy the needs of the sample group.
Document feedback. During the testing stage, you need to gather the sample's group feedback. It should include their reactions and experience with the product, as well as other valuable details. By collecting this feedback, you verify the feasibility and usability of the product or an idea.
Present for approval. The last step is to prepare the presentation. With this concept tested and improved, you can present your product to stakeholders based on the received feedback. You need to include all relevant matters and problems that the product addresses and demonstrate the idea's value.
What does a proof of concept look like?
POC model includes several stages:
- Ideation stage: feature a POC schedule and determine criteria to measure the success.
- Research stage: when you survey a sample group, your final objective is to review your criteria's success according to their feedback.
- Creation stage: create a proof of concept, and your deliverables will feature a prototype, an action plan, and success criteria.
- Testing stage: together, your sample group and you will test the proof of concept.
- Final stage: during this stage, deliverables should have an evaluation mode, a summary, and an execution plan. You will share these ideas with everyone involved as you slowly move your product into development.
How to run a successful POC?
While it's part of a larger project, proof of concept should be a project on its own. There are four critical steps when it comes to running a successful POC.
Make sure your objectives are clear. If you want to get accurate and useful results, defining the scope and ensuring your goals are clear is crucial. Even if the proof of concept proves viable, it would be worthless if the scope isn't correct. You would want to restrict POC to a single goal. If the scope tries to cover multiple things, you might end up failing.
Know how long it lasts. Your timeline should be short, no more than a couple of weeks. You will want your team to do the job quickly but not engage too many resources.
Choose the right resources. Having the right team to execute your POC is crucial as the project itself. You want to ensure your team has the necessary skills to complete the job and deliver the required outputs while staying within the budget.
Select the proper criteria to evaluate outcomes. For relevant outcomes, you'll need to set project metrics that will help you gather pertinent proof of concept results and determine success or failure. These metrics need to be established in advance.
What is the difference between pilot and proof of concept?
When we compare these two terms, a pilot is a more advanced testing stage than POC. The pilot is, in fact, the final testing phase before the product goes into production.
During this stage, customers are allowed to try and test the product, ensuring it will indeed perform the function it is designed for. In most cases, you will test pilots on a small number of customers.
If something goes wrong, the company will have time to fix any last-minute bugs or even rerun the pilot if more significant issues arise.
What comes first, proof of concept or pilot?
Proof of concept comes first because the pilot is the last testing stage. A proof of concept requires a shorter timeframe and costs less money than the pilot. It is administered in the initial stage, and it tests whether some idea is viable. On the other hand, the pilot is the final step of this process.