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Published: 28/04/2021

The anatomy of a successful proof of concept

The anatomy of a successful proof of concept

A dynamically changing world requires businesses to adapt, so when it comes to managing, designing, and developing initiatives, the approach to doing them has changed. To develop an optimal agile solution, it’s essential to quickly verify assumptions and project ideas. 

It is critical to plan the development process of many ideas, along with having a comprehensive quality management plan. This is essential for overseeing key aspects of the project, regardless of what stage it is at.

Furthermore, if businesses want investors to think their ideas are worth investing in, they must demonstrate first that their ideas are practical, useful, and economically viable.

There are questions to be addressed: How can you test an idea for a solution, implement it, and evaluate its success? Should you invest in internal development or outsource, and if the latter then how to tackle it? What measures are in place to prevent the solution from becoming an unmanageable and costly project?

What you need in order to answer these questions is proof of concept.

What is a proof of concept?

A proof of concept usually involves a short-term project in order to prove that a business idea can – or should – be applied in a specific company.

During this process, it is validated whether or not a software idea can feasibly be developed and if it is likely to be adopted by its intended users, as well as what technologies should be utilized for the development.

A PoC combines two factors: proof and concept. The concept is an idea in the form of a blueprint for how the future solution will work, and it might not even have any features although specific aspects are necessary. Then, you can find out whether the project is viable and meets your KPIs by getting feedback on your proof of concept and introducing user testing.

Benefits of a proof of concept

#1 Cost effective and time-saving

The proof of concept approach can be used to see if an often expensive, new technology will produce the expected business value at a low cost, thereby reducing the likelihood of loss of time and money if it is discovered that the solution is not the right one and may not be worth implementing.

#2 Investment validation and feasibility

Providing a functional PoC project may also be necessary to convince stakeholders that the concept is worth pursuing as a whole.

#3 Solving technical problems

It enables companies to change with the market and compete effectively, as well as to introduce innovations and implement the latest technologies. Also, if you are building a new product or adding features to an existing product, you will be sure to proceed along the fastest, shortest path to success with a proof-of-concept.

Overall, a proof of concept checks the accuracy of the assumptions made during the development of an original idea.

A PoC might not always be appropriate, however. If the concept is similar to that of a pre-validated idea then a PoC may not be justified, and if the solution can be adopted smoothly via a PoC then it may not make sense either.

7 steps for building an ideal PoC

#0 Prove the necessity

This is your zero-th step.

PoC =/= guesswork. In order to determine whether or not a PoC makes any sense, you have to take steps towards the creation of one.

The only reason to put effort into your project is to meet the needs of those who will primarily use it.

It is not enough to merely presume what customers’ pain points are.

Make sure you understand the problems your customers are experiencing before building software. Try to get a feel for their characteristics by talking to a representative sample of them.

It’s okay to talk to just a few people right away to start hearing different concerns. During interviews with them, be sure to ask about the implications. Understand your clients’ frustrations and how your project can alleviate inconveniences. This will help project leaders to understand the emotions and perspectives of their clients, as well as provide them with a detailed list of specific needs and targets to be satisfied by the project. As this step ends, you should know the specific problems your project must solve in order to be validated.

It is also worth checking whether or not someone has solved this problem already. No one reinvents the wheel in 2021.

#1 Draw conclusions

You will come up with solutions to address each of the identified issues in this step, as there are many potential solutions and approaches to each problem.

By the end of the brainstorm, you should be able to rank each solution by comparing it to costs, competitors, timelines, technological challenges, and other related factors. Therefore, you can shortlist solutions to cover in your PoC.

The next step after putting together your solution list is to interview the users you initially consulted and learn their reactions to the suggested solutions.

Provide more detail to your customers and solicit their feedback. This will provide a useful source of information to move your PoC forward.

#2 Match goals, KPIs, and expectations

Before a project begins, you should determine your business cases and your expected results. In advance of any business case, it is imperative that you define your ROI and KPI goals. A PoC is no different here.

By setting goals for improvement to current performance, you can reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve quality.

Measurement of success is imperative; it should also be achievable in the timeframe allowed and with the resources available. Focusing not only on measurable goals but also business expectations helps streamline the process. Below, you’ll find a few examples of questions worth asking at this stage.

  • Why are we undertaking this task? 
  • What is the goal?
  • Who are our competitors?
  • What is the actual value we are seeking to achieve?
  • Who will be responsible for its upkeep once it goes live?

When defining these aims, opt for measurable goals rather than vague statements, as they are essential to the PoC’s success.

#3 Dedicate resources

A proof of concept is not something that will happen by itself, right? If you choose to begin a project, you should allocate resources to it. And you are looking for an optimal solution.

At this stage, you shouldn’t spend resources on things that don’t require verification. Minimizing the scope of work is advisable since you won’t know yet if you want to create a large application. A PoC helps you verify potential risks at the lowest possible cost.

When selecting the most appropriate solution for a customer’s difficulties, keep in mind that said the solution should also be within the capabilities of the organization. Aiming for the stars while resources are scarce may lead to the failure of your proof of concept. The team should consist of experts, technical professionals, representatives of research groups, and project managers.

Once the brainstorming has been done, a team should consider each of the ideas based on the likely costs, timeline, technologies needed, operational capacity required, competition, and other factors to narrow down what to implement.

#4 Launch your PoC

Once all goals and methods align, the PoC should be ready for launch. 

Once the team has developed a viable idea, they should work to develop a prototype based on the previously discussed requirements, features, and solutions.

To determine if the product actually solves the sample group’s needs, an opportunity for them to test out the completed prototype must be included. When testing with the same audience, the team can easily document their feedback. In addition, you can ask for further feedback from your interviewees after you build a PoC. Observe how users interact with the interface and note whether you missed anything important.

The timeframe for completing a formal proof of concept is usually within twelve weeks of the configuration of project solution. During this time, identify any challenges and issues that arise and come up with some solutions. Never start a PoC and let it proceed on its own, instead you need to ensure that you monitor it and screen for technical queries as it runs. You may also consider investing in tools that allow you to define milestones within a prospect’s relationship with you, and let you know if and when a prospect begins to lose interest in the company.

#5 Learn and evaluate

You can use the output of the PoC to compare current KPIs with those expected from the current operational systems. Once you have completed the PoC, you can analyze the results to ensure that any differences are due to inherent conditions that were not anticipated by the PoC. You should fully control the methodology and metrics to use for calculating ROI.

The project team has to gather and document feedback about the samples during prototyping, including their reactions and comments on even a single detail. After gathering feedback, the product team determines whether the solution is usable and feasible. It also lets the team know what changes they need to make to the product and instructs them about what they will need to do next.

Thus, it is necessarily useful to estimate quantitative metrics (e.g. success versus failure rates or user adoption rates) in order to defend your position in a meeting. However, qualitative feedback coming e.g. from surveys is essential in the process of resolving many of the minor issues that arise along the way.

#6 Obtain final feedback and make a decision

To implement or not to implement – that’s the question.

After reviewing the feedback and making improvements, it’s high time to present the project to the decision-makers who will decide its fate – be they stakeholders, potential investors, CTOs, or simply clients. The proof of concept should outline the type of problems addressed, the features that address those problems, and the technology that proves the usefulness of the idea. Additionally, it should outline clearly defined success criteria, metrics, timeframes, future plans, resource needs, and other aspects depending on each particular case.

A PoC results in a positive or negative decision, therefore it is vital to use the time available effectively and to make a reputable choice.

It is possible to proceed with the implementation of the plan once the team successfully presents the idea and is sufficiently convincing that the plan deserves approval and/or funding. The final implementation must be assigned a timeline after the solution has been selected and the budget approved.

Successful proof of concept

By conducting a proof of concept, you can test plausible solutions for a very low cost. You can reduce the cost of the project you will be implementing on the basis of this proof of concept and eliminate unforeseen problems.

A level of openness must always prevail during a proof of concept. The answers you receive from verification early may be different than what you had originally intended, however, they can save you – or your client – time, money, and resources.

The best of luck moving forward (or not, if a PoC showed you that it would be the wrong choice)! If you need help with your Proof of Concept, you can outsource it to a technology provider like

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