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June 4, 2024
Tips and tricks

Writing proof of concept: 6 tips for a feasible project

Proof of concept delivery, from idea definition to presenting to stakeholders: six tips to get the most out of it.

Arzu Özkan-  Digital Marketing Manager
Arzu Özkan
Head of Marketing

Projects can be complicated. They can also be expensive. Before you go ahead and take the plunge with a project, you need a way of establishing exactly what it’s intended to deliver, how it will do so, and its likely success. This is known as proof of concept and it’s invaluable for establishing intended products and processes before you go and blow the budget.

We’ll look at exactly what we mean by the expression proof of concept, so we can be sure we’re on the same page. We’ll then look at several tips you can employ to ensure an effective proof of concept, and from there a successful project delivery. 

What is proof of concept?

Proof of concept (POC) is the evidence that a project or product is feasible to go ahead with. Where do you get the evidence from? You get it from a pilot project, AKA feasibility study, which is a small-scale and focused operation that explores the likelihood of success for an ensuing full-scale operation. 

It is constructed by looking at the results of the feasibility study, as well as feedback from employees and other stakeholders. Customers’ opinions are commonly sought, as they represent the most important aspect of a feasibility study - the market. 

The POC will consist of an objective, specifications for the proposed product or process, a demonstration of a prototype in action, and an evaluation of the performance, together with recommendations going forward. 

Who is a POC meant for? It can be for the budget holder, to assure them that the expenditure is warranted and not likely to end up in failure and waste. It can be for investors and clients, to show that what’s on offer will give them results they will be happy with. It can be for product teams, to show them how the product they will be working on will take shape and have effect in the real world. 

Let’s now turn to tips for a successful POC deployment. 

1. Define the idea

This is the key first step. It’s sometimes easy to think that the need for (and character of) a proposed product or process is obvious. However, it might be the case that it’s just you that sees things this way. 

So, you need to arrive at an objective definition of:

  • a) The need addressed. This will rely on an element of research so that you understand the area properly, whatever it is, from introducing better marketing spreadsheet templates, to improving a social media app.
  • b) Exactly how you are proposing to meet the need with the product.

Armed with this definitive information, your audience will be better able to stay with you as you proceed through the POC.

2. Set metrics

It’s important to set out from the outset exactly how you are measuring the success of the operation, so that results can be properly evaluated. Metrics will include time-saving, return on investment and risk exposure factors.Whichever metrics apply, they should be maintained throughout the POC, to ensure a fair appraisal of the likely success of the project. However, it’s acceptable to build in other KPIs as well should applicable standards arise in the course of the POC. In this way, unexpected benefits, such as employee well-being, can factor into the POC calculation.

3. Establish a roadmap

Again, it’s vital that it’s not just you with the vision. Others need to be brought on board straight away. A useful way of enabling others to visualize what’s in prospect is the use of a roadmap. By this, we just mean a setting out, either purely in words or with the benefit of graphics, of the route the POC will take. Let’s say you’re looking at introducing a method of allocating domain names throughout a multinational operation. You want to make the process easier and more straightforward. To establish POC, you may limit the project to issuing .nz domain names. You then need to set out exactly how your proposed tool or process will do this, and what will follow in terms of deployment and appraisal.

4. Run the POC process

Put your process into action by implementing the working model you’ve set out in your definition and roadmap. Ensure that the POC is free of outside factors that might interfere with its performance.To take a physical product as an example, this is the stage where your product team can put it through its paces. So, maybe it’s a new design of can opener that doesn’t depend on having as much physical strength as a standard model. You’ve given the team the prototype product, together with the need that it’s addressing. You’ve ensured that they can either assemble in an environment that simulates real-world conditions, or you’ve invested in collaborative workspace provision so remote participants can pitch in. They can now set about testing it out in terms of usability.

5. Track and present metrics

Did the can opener open cans? Was it better than a standard can opener? Are there any observations from the team that you should include in the metrics overview? It’s a good idea to conduct a discussion with your team to winkle out data that might otherwise go unexpressed. 

You now have your data. Hopefully, it’s supportive, and the POC is compelling. You now need to put it into a form that is readily understood and appreciated by whomever you have to impress to scale it up to full size. The best way to do this is to go back to their needs. What are their pain points? How does your product or process smash these? 

The right presentation can make all the difference to a POC, so give it some thought beforehand and conduct it with the utmost professionalism. 

Proof of concept and business goals

Businesses depend on parties pulling together to achieve goals. Even a one-person operation will usually need a degree of financial backing. And even those with plenty of cash need to be sure that a new process or product will deliver an advantage and not be an unwise investment or a market misstep. 

POC is what businesses need to stop them from making expensive mistakes. They’re all about turning a pricey and possibly nebulous proposal into a manageable and affordable technique that gives clear deliverables. A business can then use these to give it that all-important steer through otherwise choppy waters. 

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