What is a Proof of Concept (PoC) in software development?

30 Jun 2022 | 9 min read
Proof of Concept (PoC) in software development

Got a fantastic new idea for a software development project? Great! But that’s only the first step on the journey to getting it created in reality. Research shows, however, that as much as 66% of software projects fail. How can you avoid falling into this category? 

The answer is proper preparation and planning, in the form of a Proof of Concept. Find out what a proof of concept is in software development, and why you need one for your next project.

What is PoC?

PoC definition

Proof of Concept, also known as PoC, is a term referring to the evidence gathered from an initial pilot project that is used to demonstrate that a theoretical idea for a project is achievable. PoCs are used in a wide range of different industries for different use cases which can include product development, business plans and more. 

PoC in software development

PoCs are also used in software development to determine whether the software can be created in reality, what tools and resources will be needed in the development stage and whether it actually suits the needs of the intended users. PoC is essentially an experiment to see if the idea for the software is feasible in the real world, in the same way that products are trialled before reaching development.

Think about it this way, a new type of shoe wouldn’t be rolled out to the public until it had been tried and tested first. The shoe company would have to prove that the shoe is a good market fit, is fit for purpose and liked by customers, and that it could be made with no faults. A software development PoC works in the same way. If you had a great idea for a new app you’d like to launch, you would first need to make sure it could be built, that it was needed and worked for users, and that there were no technical errors.

Your PoC should be created after you’ve fully developed and defined your idea. You should already have a solid plan of where you’re headed before the PoC. The PoC is the first step in the technical implementation of the concept.

Proof of Concept (PoC) in software development - stages

The benefits of creating a PoC

Now you know what a PoC is, but what is the point of creating one in the first place? There are a number of benefits that make drafting a PoC a great idea for your next project. 

Insights from key stakeholders

A PoC is great for helping to gather feedback from key stakeholders involved in the project at an early stage. Once they can see the software in action, they’ll be able to provide feedback throughout. It’s beneficial to capture this feedback early, before full development, to allow flexibility and room for adjustments before it’s too late. Both positive and constructive feedback can be incredibly helpful in making sure that the project is heading in the right direction.

Insights from developers

PoC also allows the developers themselves to offer feedback and insights about the technical aspects of the software. As the ones that will be actually building the software, they can actually test it to see if it’s technically possible. If not, you can go back to the drawing board and develop your concept so that it’s ready for development.

Demonstrate market-fit

A PoC defines the market need for the software and demonstrates what problem it will solve and how it will do so. To demonstrate this in the PoC, you’ll need to carry out research with your intended audience. This helps prove, rather than just speculate, that your software will be received positively by your target users – minimising the risk that your software won’t be successful upon launch. Getting user feedback can also help you to flag any issues your team may not have spotted themselves. 

Cost-effective approach

Creating a PoC can be far more cost-effective in the long run. Without a PoC, you risk choosing the wrong tech or spending lots of time developing features that don’t work or aren’t needed. These stages of development can quickly become very expensive – especially if you have to account for issue-correction or major changes to the plan. Instead, it’s much better for your budget if you develop a PoC before you start on the actual product.

More accurate project plan

A PoC also allows you to more accurately plan your project. It will give you a much clearer understanding of the time, resources, effort and costs involved, and will allow you to manage them accordingly. This will prevent surprises like delayed timeframes or the need for extra resources.

How to create a PoC

PoCs can be vastly different from each other as they follow no set structure or rules. A PoC can be created as a text document, presentation or demo and can be updated as you develop the project and receive feedback.

For software development, you can start creating your own PoC by following the steps below:

Process of Proof of Concept (PoC) in software development

1. Complete research and prove the market need

In this phase you need to demonstrate two main things: what problem exists that you’re trying to solve; how you’re going to do it. Just explaining them isn’t enough however, you need to prove your idea is feasible. Lay out the exact pain point your target audience experiences and conduct research to support –  you could speak to a small representative working group for example. Identity any patterns and use the insights to define what your software needs to include.

2. Define the solutions

Using your newly gathered feedback and insights, start matching them to solutions as part of your concept. Come up with ideas on how you can solve their pain points using the software. Once you’ve come up with your solutions, refer back to your initial research group and analyse their responses to see if you’re on the right track.

3. Deliver a prototype

Next, create a prototype of your solution based on the decided software features. Once you’ve done this, test the prototype on your sample group to verify whether it addresses their pain points in actuality. Document all of this to demonstrate the usability and feasibility of the software.

4. Present the PoC

Involve all key stakeholders and present them with the PoC for their approval, feedback and insights. It should include the research you conducted, how the product solves the identified problems, as well as details on the features and the technologies used in the development.

Work with us!

Get your own Proof of Concept in just 2-4 weeks by partnering with our team. Through extensive market research, idea validation and the rapid prototype development of your product, we’ll test out whether your ideas can be achieved and what needs to be improved and/or changed about it.

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