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Proof of Concept: What is it? Why is it important?

- Reading Time: 4 minutes
Proof of Concept: What is it? Why is it important?

Every day, ideas for new software, new products, new web applications... emerge. But how many of these ideas are really viable? A minority. So before developing a project with little chance of success, it's best to study its feasibility. This is where the Proof of Concept comes in. So what is a Proof of Concept? What's in it for you? What are its limitations? And above all, how do you conduct a PoC? Find out the answers.

What is Proof of Concept (PoC)?

Definition of Proof of Concept

Proof of Concept is a key methodology in project management. Particularly popular with Agile methods, it is used to verify the feasibility of a theory, concept or idea. PoC is therefore used right from the start of the project management process.

This method can be applied to all companies, whatever their sector of activity, size, level of maturity or project. One of the best-known examples of Proof of Concept concerns concept cars in the automotive sector. But beyond the launch of a new product, it is possible to apply this method to the reorganisation of a department, the construction of a business model, the development of a secure mobile application, and so on.

In all cases, the aim of the PoC is to identify whether or not a business opportunity exists. To do this, two key questions need to be answered:

  • Do customers (or the organisation) need this product/service?
  • Is it feasible and secure?

If the answer is yes to these two questions, it’s a GO. If not, it’s best to continue refining the project or developing another until the answer is yes. Thanks to this testing phase, project managers can validate or invalidate their initial hypotheses. It is preferable to abandon a project at the outset, rather than commit resources to a project that cannot be achieved.

Good to know: Proof of Concept is fully in tune with the times, when agility is increasingly essential to meet consumer demands.

PoC, prototype and MVP

Proof of Concept is often confused with two other project management concepts: the prototype and the minimum viable product. In reality, these 3 approaches are different:

  • The PoC comes into play at the start of the process. The idea is to validate or not the concept before committing expenditure or energy to its deployment.
  • The prototype comes later, when the project is considered feasible. This involves developing a first version of the product to give stakeholders a clearer idea of the future product.
  • The MVP is the third stage. In this case, the aim is to start developing the product, without adding all the functionalities set out in the specifications. This phase is particularly important when developing software or an application.
  • Here, the minimum viable product enables the project to be validated by a community. Depending on the feedback, it will then be possible to make adjustments up to the final version.
  • Through the MVP, you are therefore following an iteration approach that is specific to Agile and Lean methods.

Even if the Proof of Concept, the prototype and the minimum viable product are different, they are 3 complementary methods in the project life cycle.

Why use Proof of Concept?

Particularly used by Agile companies, proof of concept makes it possible to :

  • Reduce risk: by validating the feasibility of the project from the outset, organisations avoid incurring unnecessary costs. This reduces costs and saves time.
  • Anticipate problems: before committing to the project, the PoC analyses it from top to bottom. This helps to identify potential future problems and find solutions. This is in line with the DevSecOps movement, which involves integrating security issues right from the start of the project.

The use of Proof of Concept is increasingly important as companies propose innovative products, services or functionalities in a sector of activity. If there is no reference, it is essential to validate the relevance of the idea by means of a POC.

On the other hand, if the idea is to develop a product or functionality that already exists with competitors, proof of concept is not necessarily necessary.

What are the points to watch?

While Proof of Concept is essential when it comes to innovative projects, there are a number of points to bear in mind:

  • The scope of the test: this involves precisely defining the customer segments, areas of application, potential security flaws, etc.
  • Measurement tools: these must be sufficiently relevant to answer the initial questions. In this respect, it is important to analyse as much reliable data as possible to make better decisions.

If these steps are not carried out properly, there is a risk of abandoning a project that could be viable, or of embarking on a project that is not feasible.

How do you carry out a Proof of Concept?

To make a success of your project using PoC, you need to follow certain steps. These include

  • Define your concept: this must be defined as precisely as possible. But overall, it’s all about coming up with an idea that addresses the problems of the target audience and finding concrete solutions to achieve it.
  • Define your performance and safety objectives: this will enable you to assess the success or otherwise of the project using a set of indicators.
  • Implement the Proof of Concept: this phase is similar to prototyping, through the development of a functional model (but not as complete as a finished product). The idea is then to present it to a sample of the target audience in order to make corrections and improvements.
  • Analysing performance: this involves comparing the results obtained against the indicators defined upstream.
  • Present the results: if the project is viable, it’s time to present it to the decision-makers to develop the product or service.

Proof of Concept is particularly useful for DevSecOps when developing innovative software and applications. At DataScientest, we can help you develop the right reflexes and adopt the right methods to guarantee the success of your projects. Come and join our courses!

Key facts:

  • The Proof of Concept is a project management methodology that enables the precise analysis of initial hypotheses.
  • The idea is then to check their feasibility before continuing with the project. If it is not feasible, it must be abandoned.
  • In this way, the PoC helps to reduce potential risks, avoid committing resources unnecessarily and anticipate problems.

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