One often hears the idiom that a long journey always begins with the first step. It is so popular that usually, we don't even try to question the veracity of these words. But, we would like to object: a long journey does not begin with the first step. It begins with a deliberate and balanced determination of the correct direction and a safe route. Only competent and adequate planning can lead you to the desired goal and make this path simple and effective.
This approach seems to us optimal in any field of activity. Especially if you are engaged in software development and implementation. Moreover, this area requires careful analysis and forecasting. After all, the cost of a mistake is too high and will be measured in money, hours, and human resources.
To avoid such an unpleasant outcome, many algorithms and mechanisms have been invented and confirmed, one of which is Proof of Concept (PoC). Today, this concept has become an integral part of any software development process. In this context, a PoC can be described as a set of actions that lead to the confirmation of a functional or non-functional aspect of an information system, or part of it, by a user area or a technical area. And today, we will dwell on this concept in more detail.
PoC in software
Before starting a new project, the main task is to clearly understand the essence of the product that you expect to receive. As a result, its ideas and orientation. The initial idea of the project contains many hidden nuances that can turn into a real disaster. And there is practically no possibility to avoid it since it is impossible to see and calculate all aspects at the starting stage.
It is quite natural that a forecast with a low level of relevance or unfinished miscalculation will become a catalyst for some semblance of a chain reaction, leading to a negative result. At best, you will find this late in development. Even so, the efforts to correct the errors will be titanic.
It is to avoid such consequences that the Proof of Concept method is used. This method is used in many industries and, despite some differences, it performs the same task in all areas. When developing software, POC provides a specific vision and opportunity to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the project. No product is created by using POC. But, the totality of the intangible mechanisms of this principle, in fact, becomes the foundation for the future product.
A clear understanding of the final product with all its pros and cons creates a roadmap for the team, a playbook that will help avoid many problems and help keep in the right direction. In addition, the POC will preserve the original spirit and style of the project and will not allow its philosophy to be lost while passing through the production hell.
What does PoC mean to business success?
There are no constants in the modern business world. Getting at least an approximate tool to help form a working forecast is literally a luxury for an enterprise. Thanks to this logical tool, the task of any business becomes achievable more simply and understandably. And this does not depend on what specific task the company sets itself: achieving certain sales results, increasing profits, brand awareness, or attracting new customers.
Basically, business projects have an identical basic structure and aim to solve the following issues and tasks, which are often similar even for the different projects.
Personalities. Adequately defining the circle of people who will be part of the project is one of the main keys to success. This is a complex and thorough process. The deeper you delve into the values of your target audience, the more reliable the connection will be to understand it. And understanding is the key to dialogue.
Objectives. As trite as it may sound, setting goals is an important and complex process. Sometimes it seems that the price is clear and logical, and only after the mechanism has already been launched, it turns out that this is not so. This task captivates with its apparent simplicity, but this is its insidiousness. Therefore, it is worth thinking twice when answering the question, where is the final stop of your project.
Problems. You will not go anywhere from them. Success and trouble always go together. But, success is always the same, and problems will surprise you with their diversity, from the usual nuances with changing costs and staff variability to market competition and ongoing product changes. The more aspects you consider, the easier it will be to react to them when they arise.
Criteria. Your main goals should be embodied in the criteria. You can use key performance indicators to determine them or use your own. But, in any case, they should be formed around the projected timing of completing the project and the declared budget.
Despite the apparent simplicity of these norms for bringing the project to life, as you deepen, you will understand how difficult it is to follow this algorithm. This is exactly what PoC exists for, which, of course, will not solve all your problems but will greatly simplify the task.
PoC in software and its stages.
In the context of PoC application in software development, there are two main parameters:
Concept. Your plan, the heart of your project. A product plan or early MVP decision, the foundation of the algorithm on which further decisions will depend. The concept may even be schematic, but the more specific the aspects are, the easier it will be to work with it.
Proof. A project satisfies the objectives if it potentially correlates with the criteria and objectives that were approved at the initial stage. You can make the correct conclusion about this based on the test results and PoC assessment.
The POC must be taken very seriously. Moreover, it should be taken as a full-fledged, separate project. Its importance and significance are no less than that of other stages of development aimed at the direct creation of a product. And we are talking not only about psychological perception but also the allocation of a sufficient budget and team.
Balance in the PoC process is also paramount. Do not overload this stage with tasks and scenarios. Leave it for the MVP phase. Solve only basic tasks and focus only on the essentials. But, at the same time, do not forget that insufficient tasks will not lead to a relevant result.
A separate difficult task is to get the opportunity to measure KPI from the point of view of the specifics of a unique project. To do this, you need metrics that will become the points that allow you to carry out comparative analysis and understand the differences from the original data.
Why does your IT project need a Proof of Concept?
Walking the beaten track is boring and simple. But if you are gonna conquer some uncharted lands - you should be ready for each punch of fate.
If you are creating a secondary product, you shouldn't put so much effort into inventing something unique. It is enough to study and analyze the previous practice carefully and, on its basis, create a certain algorithm, taking into account the specifics of your own project. But, if you are going to dive into unknown depths - it is Proof of Concept that will prepare you for this.
This stage is vital when you do not have enough information to analyze competitors, practices, and other people's experiences. When you have a unique idea, a small budget, and a lack of information, PoC will fill most of these gaps.
How to verify your project idea – Alternatives to PoC.
Proof of Concept is definitely a useful and unique practice, the implementation of which is considered a necessity today. But, this concept is not uncontested. It would help if you considered all aspects of your project to figure out which method, or a combination of them, is best for your goals.
A prototype is a technique in which a team creates a working project that can demonstrate functionality. If the PoC methodology aims to establish the feasibility of the project, then the prototype allows you to find out the viability of the product in practice.
MVP - a minimum viable product, not the most valuable player. A certain symbiosis of PoC and prototype, in which the concept is combined with the "alpha version" of the product. MVP is usually aimed at identifying the predicted demand among the target audience.
There are no single correct answers here. It would be best if you chose algorithms that are suitable for your specific product. The ideal practice is to use the entire PoC-Prototype-MVP loop. But, perhaps, you can limit yourself to individual stages, if appropriate.
What is the difference between PoC and MVP?
Despite the obvious differences between these two concepts, we would like to dwell on this issue separately. MVP, in essence, is a specific product with practical application. It has basic functional solutions and allows you to use the product, albeit with reservations.
PoC ideology lies in the abstract plane. Its meaning is to test the viability of an idea that does not yet have practical application and intelligible functionality.
In a nutshell, MVP allows you to use a physical raw model and see its disadvantages. PoC - is all about theoretical analysis of the product from all possible angles.
The main difference between the two is that the MVP has more flesh on bones, meaning it is a more functional solution with core features that best represent the product. PoC is a little more abstract. The point of PoC is to test a single idea that doesn't yet have much functionality. With an MVP, it's more like testing an unpolished product in the field to see if it gets the required level of demand.
Steps that guarantee successful PoC software launch.
PoC is an exciting, broad, and useful technique. You can talk about it endlessly, but let's move on to the practical application of this technology. And let's dwell on the step plan, which will allow us to implement a standard PoC. The plan is an important part of your algorithm because it is worth remembering that it is not enough to create a PoC mechanism. It still needs to be functional.
Setting requirements and goals.
Move from large-scale tasks to local ones and detail them. This will provide an improved understanding of the processes and help to distribute forces and personnel correctly.
Data. Consider everything that can be numbered. Check authenticity and compliance with standards and analyze them. Data will be the main weapon that will form the practical basis of the forthcoming verification.
Functionality. At this stage, you have to discard illusions and answer whether the product can give the target audience a real opportunity to solve the stated list of problems.
UI / UX. The ergonomics of a product are coupled with functionality and have the same meaning. Answer the question of whether the product can become not only practical but also convenient.
The crew. Your product is the result of the team's work. She must be competent and professional. Understand who you need and how many people can solve the problem at a high level, without problems and crunches. And, remember that when developing software, people are the most important part of the project.
Resource allocation is a story about adequately assessing the scope of work and available budgets. No matter how much money you have, it will still not be enough. Therefore, only an impartial assessment and a clear understanding of the processes will become your allies.
Well, and, evaluation of the results. The final stage of the PoC, which involves a careful and thorough examination of reports and results. Close monitoring is essential. Based on it, you will make changes in time and edit the concept taking into account errors.
Proof of Concept is a great, logical, and reliable tool that can give you a unique opportunity to avoid fatal mistakes. In the field of software development, PoC looks especially organic and applies to almost any startup.
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