How to create a proof of concept in software development?
A good Proof Of Concept not only simulates the product’s operations – it also seeks elicit feedback from those involved in the project in terms of any perceived weaknesses and solutions.
What is a proof of concept?
Also known as a POC, a proof of concept refers to a process in which the proposed software product is tested to discover whether it is viable and may be successful when implemented. Testing occurs when we use prototypes in simulated real-world scenarios in order to identify the software product’s feasibility, risks, or any gaps in its processes which may interfere with its smooth operation.
While working closely with clients, developers and business analysts use a proof of concept cycle to identify specific requirements for the product, focusing on the most critical ones, and using the POC prototype to prove that their concept satisfies the clients’ needs. In case the product should include any utility layer, another person to engage at this stage is an experienced UX designer, who will take care of the user-friendliness of the prototype, so important for all user-centered products.
What are the benefits of creating a proof of concept?
Carrying out a comprehensive proof of concept simulation is an important step in the software development cycle. If developers forget about this crucial stage, some errors may occur further down the line – usually those errors could have been avoided with a virtual POC test.
There are many benefits of creating a proof of concept. Here are some of the most important ones:
The most important benefit of creating a POC prototype is to prove that your software product concept actually works. Without this, all your plans are simply theoretical and have not been tested in any real-world environment.
Also, creating a POC provides you with a chance to prove that not only will the software product work, but also that it will be financially feasible. It will help to determine what the ROI is likely to be, as well as the market demand for the product.
Confidence in the project
A proof of concept helps the software developers, clients, and investors alike to build confidence in the project. It demonstrates that the developers and DevOps architects have carefully considered the myriad of possibilities and have come up only with reasonable and practical ideas.
A POC also benefits the writers themselves. Through rigorous testing, they are able to highlight any potential obstacles, risks, and difficulties that the software may encounter, which helps to make the product a success by mitigating these risks further down the line. In addition, it provides space for the developers to grow their ideas and maximise the potential of their product.
Being able to confidently show the potential investors that you have a well thought-out roadmap that identifies the market value of your product and the steps to mitigate potential risks have been already taken, and that there is a solid plan in place for monetising the idea is a fantastic way of building their investor confidence and secure the potential funding of your concept.
Teamwork and change management
Another huge benefit of undergoing a POC that is often overlooked is that it will help to build a culture of teamwork. Through the process of testing, identifying risks and evolving ideas and solutions, your team will need to be agile and flexible in their approach.
Allowing your software development team the time to get used to the project and have their say in evaluating and improving it will be great for their morale.
How to create a proof of concept in software development?
Creating a proof of concept is an important part of the software development process for the reasons outlined above. So how can we go about creating a prototype?
How to create the perfect POC?
- Step 1: Outline the scope of the project
The initial stage involved in creating a POC must be to define the scope of the project. It is important to get together with the team to understand all requirements, business needs and the idea behind it, to define all the use cases and gather all the information that will be required to begin the project.
This step helps to identify not only the crucial needs, but also the product’s place in the market, its feasibility and its objectives. It should be focused on narrowing the scope of the project and looking to fix any pain points that can be identified early on. At this stage, it is beneficial to involve a business analytic who will be able to understand all those factors and work through them during workshops.
- Step 2: Propose the solutions to any pain points
Once you have defined the scope of your project and identified its pain points, it’s important to outline the effective solutions. Brainstorm ideas with your team and come up with ways of solving each issue. It’s likely that for every pain point there will be multiple possible solutions, so evaluating them at this stage to find the best one is key. If you work with experienced advisors, they will help you do this and will take care of all steps necessary, giving you sound advice on how to address even the most challenging issues.
Remember that feedback is crucial. Once a list of possible solutions is ready, it should be discussed with all stakeholders to see what they think. They will (hopefully) provide you with valuable insights which will help you to move forward with your ideas.
- Step 3: Carry out a full POC
It is in this stage that a full, in-depth proof of concept is undertaken. This involves creating a full prototype that can be used to test all its features and functions. The prototype should have all the expected features that were decided upon, plus the UI/UX – so crucial for the functionality and user-friendliness of the final product.
When the prototype has been built, it should be tested by the whole team and stakeholders, and their feedback should be carefully recorded. Focus on the most important aspects, such as how intuitive the interface is, errors or frustrations users had when engaging with the prototype and any suggestions for improvements. Analysing feedback from utility tests that aim at identifying any possible problems and coming up with remedies, determined by an experienced UX designer, is of utmost importance.
- Step 4: Implement changes based on feedback
Once you have received feedback from a range of sources, all changes necessary to evolve the software product should be implemented. This will help solve any pain points that were identified, and it will also serve as a springboard for developing the product further for better functionality and increased user-friendliness.
It’s important to note at this stage that if the feedback you received was largely positive but with a few minor troubles or suggestions, the process of optimising your software product will be straightforward and clear. However, if the feedback was generally negative, it might be more prudent to pause at this stage and go back a few steps in order to redesign the product and think more carefully about the points mentioned by the users. It may be that the POC process needs to be halted altogether, depending on the scale of the issues, or simply that it needs to be put on hold with more time allocated to redeveloping it effectively.
- Step 5: Create a roadmap
All going well, by this stage your POC will be tested, developed further and all issues will be solved, leaving you ready to begin implementing your software design.
Creating a roadmap is the last stage of a successful proof of concept cycle. It must outline a step-by-step process from which the full product will be built. Consider it as your blueprint on which all subsequent activities will be based. Having this roadmap will help to focus your team and make sure everyone is on board with its purpose, design, and methods through the following development cycle.
While a proof of concept has often been overlooked and undervalued in the fast-paced software development world, its importance is undeniable. It saves money and time, helps finding investment and is a vital step in bringing a successful product to the market. Experienced software development companies know and embody this knowledge already, so it’s important to harness it to pave the way for creating a successful product.
When outsourcing your software development project, it’s fundamental to find out your partner’s approach to POC. The proof of concept can make a huge difference in the software development process and brings siginificant savings and benefits to your business.