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What is proof of concept? Your guide to POC in product development

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Project planning is critical in product development.  Without a plan, it is just an idea. Demonstrating feasibility (an assessment on the likelihood of success) and viability (the ability to sustain success) in the early stages can garner buy-in from stakeholders and approval for development. One way to illustrate that a project meets customer requirements and makes business sense is by creating a proof of concept. 

This article discusses proof of concept in product management, its value in project development, the steps to create a proof of concept, and more.

What is proof of concept?

A Proof of concept (POC) is the process of gathering evidence to support the feasibility of a project. Project managers perform a POC in the early stages of development before committing too much time and resources to a project.

The purpose of a proof of concept is to demonstrate project viability to product teams, clients, and other stakeholders. A POC may uncover flaws, leading the company to revise or abandon a project. In other cases, a POC can confirm the likelihood of project success, providing evidence of viability for development.

Why is proof of concept important?

A proof of concept is important for several reasons, including:

  • Finite resources: A POC tests project feasibility, ensuring companies pursue only viable projects to prevent wasting resources.
  • Enhanced trust: A POC provides evidence of project viability. It helps earn trust among stakeholders and investors by increasing the likelihood of a return on investment over an idea that lacks planning and testing.
  • Better planning: A POC identifies roadblocks and informs project direction. Thinking ahead can help teams solve logistical issues before they arise, making navigating the later stages of development easier.

Key components of a proof of concept

An effective proof of concept contains several components. While POCs vary by business type, they should include the following elements:

  • Problem statement: Describe what challenges the project will solve and what needs it will address.
  • Project definition: Define what the project intends to do.
  • Project goals: Outline the intended outcomes and how you will measure them.
  • Required resources: List what tools and resources you will need to produce the intended results.

How to create a proof of concept

Creating a document or presentation increases the likelihood of stakeholder and investor approval. Below are the steps to writing an effective proof of concept.

Step 1: Define your project idea

You should first identify the project to test. A brainstorming template can help generate ideas, while a product launch template can help define the need and the market. 

It’s important to ask the following questions: What problems will this project solve, and for whom? The product manager should have the required market knowledge to answer these questions.

Step 2: Set your success criteria

After defining the project, decide on the benchmarks to measure the success or failure of the project. If the project is for a client, consult them about how they define success. If not, conduct the necessary research to determine success criteria.

Step 3: List the resources you will need

Build an exhaustive list of tangible and intangible resources the team will need to execute the project. Resources include material goods, technology, tools, and human capital.

Step 4: Determine your timeline

Create a product roadmap that overviews the timeline for the proof of concept from ideation to development. For example, will there be a full launch from the beginning, or will it start small and then scale? If the latter, how quickly will it scale? These details provide an idea of the pace of the project.

Step 5: Develop and test your prototype

Once you have decided on the project scope, you can develop and test your prototype with the target audience. Pay attention to how it addresses their pain points. It may help to bring in other teams and stakeholders to get a fresh perspective. Gather all feedback, both positive and negative.

Step 6: Review and refine

After gathering feedback, evaluate how the prototype performed against the predefined success criteria. Conduct a competitive analysis to evaluate its performance against similar solutions. Use the information from this step to improve on areas that fall short of success.

Step 7: Present your POC

Present your idea to stakeholders for development approval. Provide a clear model of how the idea works—visuals and illustrations can be helpful. Emphasize how it addresses pain points and meets the audience's needs. If the proof of concept meets the success criteria, approval is likely.

Proof of concept examples

It can be helpful to see real-world examples to better understand a proof of concept. Here are some examples of how they are used in various industries.

POC in software development

The software development process can use many different frameworks and models, making it difficult to decide which suits your project best. A POC can help you identify which technology best supports your project in meeting its success criteria.

POC in pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical development is another example where proof of concepts can prove critical. A POC can assess efficacy requirements as well as include a cost-benefit analysis to ensure profit.

Pitch an effective proof of concept with Jira Software

Jira Software simplifies the challenging process of creating a proof of concept. With project management tools such as boards, timelines, and insights, Jira Software helps project managers keep track of all Agile software development projects from a single tool.

In addition, development teams can use Confluence as a single source of truth, facilitating collaboration from virtually anywhere. Confluence templates, particularly those for product development, provide structure and make it easy for your team to work quickly. Altogether, these tools enable teams to move fast, stay aligned, and build better together.

Proof of concept: Frequently asked questions

What comes after proof of concept?

After presenting a proof of concept, the team receives an approval or rejection. If approved, the project team develops a minimum viable product. If rejected, the team either refines the project and presents it again or scraps it.

What is the difference between a proof of concept and a prototype?

While sometimes used interchangeably, these processes have different purposes and generate different results. A proof of concept determines project feasibility, while a prototype is a draft version of the final product to test its design, usability, and functionality before moving into production.

How does proof of concept differ from a minimum viable product?

While a proof of concept helps measure feasibility, a minimum viable product provides a market-ready solution for users. Project managers create a minimum viable product as an improved version of the prototype, which the team tests further to create the final product.

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