What Is Proof of Concept (POC)? Definition, Steps & Best Practices


Product development projects can’t move forward without evidence to support that a viable product can be produced. That’s why you need proof of concept (POC) to prove a business idea or project has legs to stand on.

So, what is a proof of concept? It sounds a bit like a prototype or a minimum viable product, but that’s not what it is. We’ll compare those product development methods later on, but first things first, let’s define what proof of concept is.

What Is Proof of Concept (POC)?

Proof of concept (POC) is evidence obtained from a pilot project, which is executed to demonstrate that a product idea, business plan, or project plan is feasible. For example, in drug development, clinical trials are used to gather proof of concept for a final product.

But that’s not all a proof of concept does. A POC collects user feedback and insights from your team members, including those who might not have otherwise contributed, thereby mitigating unforeseen risk.

POC is an important part of the product development process in many industries and fields such as:

  • Software Development
  • Business Development
  • Project Management
  • Manufacturing, IT, healthcare, cybersecurity, among other industries.

A proof of concept is a critical project that can determine the viability of your actual project later on. To ensure you do everything you can to deliver results, give yourself and your team the right tools. ProjectManager has everything you need to plan and execute a convincing proof of concept. Plan with Gantt charts, execute with task lists and kanban boards, and track progress in real time with dashboards. Get started for free.

Gantt chart for planning a proof of concept
Plan every last detail of your proof of concept with ProjectManager. Learn more

Benefits of Using Proof of Concept

The proof of concept is so valuable because it’s a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of your plan before work begins, similar to a prototype or lean manufacturing “minimum viable product”.

A POC verifies that concepts and theories applied to a project will result in a successful final product. POCs do not produce deliverables, as the core issue being considered is the feasibility of the project.

Here are some of the main benefits of using POC during the early development stages of your projects:

  • POC gives potential investors and decision-makers valuable data to determine if the project or product idea will be feasible and how valuable it will be for the target audience.
  • POC gives development teams important user feedback, and information about market demand, target audience and critical pain points.
  • Proof of concept is an important step of the product development process because it’s the base for your product prototype and minimum viable product.

Proof of Concept vs. Prototype

Proof of concept might sound like building a prototype, but there are differences, and each has its own function. The POC is a sort of small project to test the idea. POC exists solely to show that a product concept is both functional and can be developed.

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Creating prototypes is another important exercise. The creation of prototypes is done to help visualize how a product will function in the real world. It shows design, navigation, layout, etc. Therefore, a proof of concept shows that a product idea can be made, and the prototype shows how it’s made.

That doesn’t mean these two concepts are mutually exclusive. They share some common ground. That’s because proof of concept shares user feedback with the team, allows them to investigate emerging technologies and, of course, shows investors and decision-makers that the concept works. Once the POC has proven the project is viable, often a prototype is created.

Proof of Concept vs. Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

A minimum viable product (MVP) is an improved version of your product prototype. Simply put, a minimum viable product has only the basic features that your users would need to have an idea of what your product is like and what it does.

So, we can conclude that the main difference between proof of concept (POC) and minimum viable product (MVP) is that they come at different stages of the product development process, and serve totally different purposes.

Steps to Write a Proof of Concept

As noted above, a proof of concept is a project, and like any project, it must be clearly defined. Even though there is no standardized method to write a proof of concept you will need to break down the POC process into actionable steps.

To help you with that, we’ve outlined these general steps to write a proof of concept document:

1. Define Your Success Criteria

To have accurate proof of concept feasibility measurements, you must have a set of metrics or success criteria. To define the success criteria for your POC process, you can start by interviewing the client, as it is their satisfaction that will determine if the proof of concept is a success.

2. Estimate Duration & Effort

When you’re working on a POC it’s a project, but it’s not the final project. You’ll need to estimate the duration and effort that will be put into the proof of concept pilot project.

Related: Free Project Estimate Template

3. Define the Scope of your POC

The scope of your POC determines what will be done and measured in the POC pilot project. Defining the scope for your proof of concept is key to getting accurate results. Even if the POC is proved viable, that proof of concept is worthless if the scope is not correct, because you failed to evaluate the project thoroughly.

4. Pick Your Resources

Who you choose to execute the proof of concept pilot project is as important as the planning process. You want to make sure they have the right skills to do a thorough job.

Reporting on a POC with ProjectManager

These are the basic parameters that make up a successful proof of concept. Results of your pilot project must be disseminated. If the communication is muddled, no one in the project team will know about the proof of concept.

There’s a lot of POC data to be collected and that means many numbers to crunch. ProjectManager can help. All three of our project management views instantly reflect these status updates. These status updates turn into colorful charts and graphs on our real-time dashboards that note progress, task status, workload and more.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view

Project managers can keep the proof of concept process on track, and when it’s time to present their POC results, filter the graphs and charts to show just the data the client needs.

Proof of concept is critical for the product development process. POC is the project before the prototype, minimum viable product and final product. Having access to the right project management tools can help get the job done right, regardless of scale.

ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that has the most accurate data to keep your POC on track and then the full-fledged project progressing as planned, too. Scheduling with online Gantt charts, visualizing workflow on kanban boards and a real-time project management dashboard are just a few of our features. See them all and how they can help you lead your project to a successful end by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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