Proof of Concept vs MVP Development

Proof of Concept vs MVP Development

Introduction

In the quest for innovation and revolutionary solutions, understanding the differences between Proof of Concept (PoC) and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) development becomes not just an important but an absolutely essential task.

Take a look at the core functions of these two concepts, and learn how to make the most of them to facilitate your digitalization journey from a mere idea to a robust, market-ready product. 

What is PoC and when do you need it?

Proof of Concept (PoC) is a demonstration or a prototype that is developed to validate the feasibility of a concept, idea, or hypothesis.

 

This is a crucial phase in the software development lifecycle, serving as a preliminary exploration to validate the feasibility of a concept or idea. Often, the need for a PoC arises when a business is contemplating a new product or solution and wants to assess its viability before committing to full-scale development. Unlike an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), which represents a more advanced stage with a functional set of features, a PoC is focused on answering the fundamental question: "Can this idea be brought to life?"

 
 

Often, the initiative of PoC development comes from us [the software engineers], as we have an in-depth understanding of the technical side of project realization. Sometimes its results even can not be visually demonstrated to the client, as it might be something running in the backend. For us, PoC is a proven way of risks management that allows avoiding large losses in the future, and its importance can hardly be overestimated.

 

Taras Dolyniuk, CTO at Apiko

In general, we apply PoC to only one aspect of the app (e.g. the whole feature or a way of implementing some part of it) to check 

a) if it’s doable

b) if it’s easy to do.

If PoC proves the upcoming development to be too challenging, it’s hard to estimate the time required for such project scope completion.

Most often you need to minimize software development risks with PoC when

  • Building an app completely from scratch
  • Handing the project to a new team of software developers
  • The app functionality is “blurry,” and it’s necessary to check if it’s doable
  • There’s no ready solution for the feature you need to develop
  • Dealing with unique functionality
  • The software engineers 
    • don’t often develop the required functionality, e.g. integration with some specific rarely-used third-party services 
    • lack relevant experience 
    • are uncertain about the best way of feature implementation.

In summary, the PoC is a pivotal step in the journey from the idea to product, helping businesses make informed decisions and set the stage for subsequent development phases. 

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What are the main steps of building PoC?

In the realm of business, the PoC is not just a technical endeavor: it's a strategic move. The stages of a PoC, ranging from initial ideation to the demonstration of a corporate solution, provide a structured approach to assessing the concept's viability. While an MVP is geared towards early user adoption and feedback, PoC serves as a precursor, proving the idea is doable. Investors, in particular, are keenly interested in both PoC and MVP phases, as these demonstrate a commitment to thorough planning and risk mitigation.

Proof of Concept steps

 

Steps in building a Proof of Concept (PoC):

  1. Concept definition
    1. Articulate the idea.
    2. Establish goals for the PoC.
  2. Planning: outline the scope, resources, and timeline.
  3. Technology stack and architecture: choose the right tools for effective execution.
  4. Application prototype development:
    1. Collaborate on building the actual prototype.
    2. Ensure close alignment with the initial concept.
  5. Testing and evaluation:
    1. Rigorously test the PoC.
    2. Identify shortcomings and areas for improvement.
    3. Gather feedback for refinement.
  6. Documentation:
    1. Document the entire PoC process.
    2. Provide insights into methodology, outcomes, and recommendations.
    3. Serve as a valuable resource for stakeholders.

After the successful demonstration of a PoC, businesses often move towards the next stages of development, which may involve refining the concept further or transitioning into the development of a fully-fledged product. In the context of Software as a Service, a proof of concept SaaS can be particularly relevant, showcasing the potential of a service before full-scale implementation.

What does it take to build PoC?

Building a Proof of Concept (PoC) is crucial in software development. In the PoC vs MVP context, PoC focuses on proving viability, without delivering comprehensive features. Aligning technical aspects with business goals ensures the app functionality directly addresses core challenges.

The team should have a clear understanding of PoC in business terms, bridging the gap between technical feasibility and strategic objectives. Having a complete vision of the solution developed, understanding its purpose, along with solid professional skills are absolutely necessary for PoC development.

As the development progresses through Proof of Concept stages, feedback from stakeholders becomes invaluable, especially when considering potential investors for MVP. Post-PoC, decisions are made on whether to proceed to the next phase, which may involve developing a Minimum Viable Product for broader market testing.

In essence, building a PoC requires a combination of technical and strategic approaches.

Who should be on the PoC development team?

As a rule, we limit the quantity of specialists on the Proof of Concept (PoC) development team to a minimal number of necessary professionals. Usually, it consists just of one software engineer, and a business analyst. 

This way, the procedure’s cost is the lowest and does not affect the client’s budget significantly, while providing enough information about the feasibility of the checked concept, and team’s competence for the project. 

Although rare, there also may be broader cases, when the development team includes a wider mix of skilled professionals to cover various aspects of the project:

  1. Software engineers write the code and implement the technical aspects of the PoC. They ensure the feasibility of the concept from a coding perspective.
  2. System architects design the overall structure and framework of the system. Their role is crucial in ensuring scalability, efficiency, and adherence to best practices.
  3. Domain experts possess in-depth knowledge of the industry or subject matter related to the concept. Their insights are valuable in shaping the functionality to address specific challenges.
  4. Project manager helps coordinate efforts, manage timelines, and ensure that the PoC aligns with broader business goals. They play a key role in keeping the development process on track.
  5. Quality assurance (QA) specialists test the PoC to identify and address any bugs or issues. Their role is essential in maintaining the reliability and performance of the prototype.
  6. Data scientists (if applicable) handle complex algorithms and modelsif the PoC involves data analysis or machine learning.

The composition of the team can vary depending on the nature of the project. Collaborating effectively across these roles ensures a comprehensive approach to validating the feasibility of the concept.

Timeline for PoC development

Typically, a Proof of Concept (PoC) may take anywhere from 10 to 30 hours. The approximate timeline for building PoC can vary based on the concept’s complexity and allocated resources. Striking a balance between speed and thoroughness is crucial, ensuring the PoC is robust enough to effectively validate the concept within the given timeframe. This flexibility allows for adaptation to project-specific requirements and goals.

We try to minimize the time required for PoC, so it’s as cost-efficient as possible. When it’s clear something we tested is going to work out, we can get down to it asap.

 

 
 

If PoC fails, it should fail quickly to minimize financial losses and risks.

 

Taras Dolyniuk, CTO at Apiko

In case PoC fails, the team may reconsider if this required functionality is necessary, and look for alternative solutions. If none of those work out for the client, and they keep insisting on their preferred implementation idea, leaving developers with serious uncertainties, it is better for both parties to terminate the software development contract.

While PoC tests only one aspect of the software solution, MVP tests all the features that create app value. Understanding the difference between PoC and MVP is the key to navigating a complex landscape of software development and ensuring the success of innovative ventures.

Case study: PoC development for a healthcare video monitoring app

PoC development for a healthcare video monitoring app

It’s always heartbreaking when our loved ones get hospitalized, and even more so when it’s prohibited to visit them. Our client reached out with an idea of a mobile app that would allow the first-line relatives to see their hospitalized family members any time they wished to. 

But before getting down to the development, we needed to check the possibility of integrating video streaming tools into a React Native app, as well as the whole idea’s feasibility. PoC was to be our guiding light.

The development team consisted of a developer, a business analyst, and a UI/UX designer. Their main tasks were as described below.

The developer

  • Set up the Jitsi component
  • Check if it satisfies the app requirements, and the possibility of its integration
  • Review Jitsi’s API in terms of building secured links for video streams
  • Develop a preliminary version of the end-to-end video streaming solution. 

Business analyst and UI/UX designer:

  • Process app requirements 
  • Evaluate existing wireframes, enhance them, and provide finalized designs
  • Deliver a detailed backlog for the MVP phase.

Having successfully completed all the tasks, we provided our client with the following PoC deliverables:

  • Investigatigation of video streaming API for integration: we created a stream via REST API, managed passwords for it, and got active streams)
  • Initial mobile app and video streaming integration: the ability to start the stream from one device and connect to it from another one
  • UI/UX design for the upcoming development phase
  • Final software architecture diagrams
  • Detailed backlog for the upcoming development phase - up to user stories level.

What is MVP? What is its role and importance?

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the initial version of a product that incorporates minimum features necessary to address the core needs of early adopters. This intentional simplicity serves a dual purpose – not only does it allow for a faster time-to-market, but it also facilitates the collection of invaluable user feedback. By engaging with early users, developers can refine and enhance the product based on real-world insights, ensuring that subsequent iterations align more closely with user expectations.

 

The role of MVP extends beyond the confines of traditional product development methodologies. It acts as a litmus test, gauging market demand and viability while minimizing resource expenditure. Its strategic importance lies in its ability to mitigate risk by validating assumptions early in the development process. By presenting a functional yet scaled-down version to the target audience, developers can assess whether the product has the potential to gain traction and meet user expectations.

Furthermore, MVPs play a crucial role in attracting investors and stakeholders. The tangible demonstration of a product's core functionality provides a concrete foundation for discussions about scalability and future development. Investors are more likely to support projects with a proven track record of user acceptance and iterative improvement, making the MVP an instrumental tool for securing financial backing.

How to build MVP

What is the difference between PoC and MVP?

 

                               PoC

                              MVP

Target audience

Internal stakeholders, technical teams, and decision makers within the organization. The goal is to showcase technical feasibility.

External users, including early adopters and potential customers. The focus is on delivering a functional product that addresses their needs.

Scope of functionality

Limited features to prove the idea's feasibility, validate a specific technical aspect or capability of the concept.

A more comprehensive yet minimal set of features to provide real value to end-users.

Development timeline

A shorter development timeline to quickly demonstrate technical viability without extensive feature implementation.

A more extended development cycle to incorporate a minimum set of features that deliver a meaningful user experience.

Value for finding investors

Primarily demonstrates the technical feasibility of the concept, proving that the idea can be implemented. It may attract technical or R&D-focused investors.

Showcases a tangible product with real user value, making it more appealing to a broader range of investors, including those interested in market potential and user adoption.

Iterative development

Often serves as the foundation for further development but may not evolve directly into the final product. Iterations are common based on technical insights.

Designed for iterative development based on user feedback. Each iteration refines the product, aligning it more closely with user needs and market demands.

Market testing

Limited or no exposure to the broader market. Focuses on internal validation and technical assessments.

Released to a group of users or to the market to gather feedback, validate assumptions, and assess market acceptance.

 

While both PoC and MVP are the crucial steps in product development, they serve distinct purposes in terms of audience, functionality, development approach, and their impact on attracting investors and market validation. Understanding these differences is pivotal for steering a project in the right direction from concept to a successful, market-ready product.

Do we need both PoC and MVP?

In the dynamic landscape of software development, the symbiotic relationship between Proof of Concept (PoC) and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is indispensable. The question then arises: Do we need both PoC and MVP in the development process?

Yes, we do. The Proof of Concept provides the essential groundwork, validating whether an idea can materialize into a viable solution. It's the 'can we do it?' phase. However, a successful PoC does not guarantee market acceptance. Enter the MVP - the bridge from concept to market reality. MVP incorporates user feedback, ensuring the product not only works but also caters to user needs. The iterative nature of both PoC and MVP facilitates a holistic approach, reducing risks and enhancing the likelihood of a product's success.

What are the risks of not building either PoC or MVP?

  1. Unvalidated assumptions. Without the structured approach provided by a PoC, development teams may find themselves relying on untested assumptions about the feasibility and viability of their ideas. This lack of validation can lead to misguided decisions and a misalignment with market needs.
  2. Investor disinterest. Investors often seek tangible evidence of a project's potential before committing financial resources. Without a PoC or MVP, the absence of a concrete demonstration may deter potential backers, hindering the project's ability to secure crucial funding.
  3. Missed market opportunities. The absence of an MVP means delayed entry into the market. This delay can result in missed opportunities to establish a foothold among early adopters, allowing competitors to gain a competitive advantage and erode the project's market share.
  4. Inefficient resource allocation. Without a clear understanding of the project's viability, resources may be squandered on features or functionalities that do not resonate with the end-users, leading to wasted time and effort.
  5. Lack of user feedback. By skipping the MVP stage, development teams miss the opportunity to gather essential insights from real users, resulting in a product that may not align with customer expectations.
  6. Increased development costs. Failing to identify and address potential issues early in the development process can lead to increased costs. Rectifying major flaws or pivoting the project direction becomes more challenging and costly without the insights gained from PoC and MVP development.

Conclusion

In the realm of software development, understanding the distinctions between Proof of Concept (PoC) and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is paramount. While PoC serves as a preliminary exploration to validate the feasibility of an idea, MVP represents the first market-ready version with essential features. The choice between the two hinges on project goals, resources, and market dynamics.

Implementing both stages facilitates informed decision-making, attracts investors, and ensures a product aligned with user needs. In a landscape driven by innovation, embracing PoC and MVP development is the strategic key to navigating the complexities and achieving project success.