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What is Proof of Concept in software development?

Kristian Lasić

July 9, 2024

10 min read

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We develop your business ideas

At globalsoft, our famous slogan is "We develop your business ideas" - just like we proudly state on our homepage. But can every business idea really be turned into a successful product or software? Imagine yourself, dreaming of a perfect house on the coast to spend your retirement days in. But there are prerequisites for such ideas: is the beach sandy, will thunderstorms occur every other night, are good materials available and, of course, is the financial support there. Most of these criteria, if not all, need to be met in order to you enjoy a visit by your grandchildren in that perfect beachfront house. The same rules can be applied to ideas that our clients, potential and current, bring to us.

 

What is Proof of Concept (PoC) in software development?

globalsoft, among its other services, offers Product development. The first step in Product development, as you can see on that page, is Detailed analysis - we sit down with our clients and brainstorm the happy path as well as any "what if" scenarios, for those not-so-happy paths. The client will bring out multiple ideas, our team always adds some of our own views, and we sketch out a rough overview of what we want to accomplish. However, some ideas can't directly be visualized and have too many variables, both from a technical and from a business perspective. In such cases, especially when we have clients with their own pre-existing legacy code, we move towards creating a so-called Proof of Concept.

 

Proof of Concept, or PoC for short, is the practice of setting time on the side before actual development, typically with the Product Owner and one or more members of the dev team in tandem, to devise and propose a possible solution and present it to the client. Development of the proof of concept is generally an intellectual task, spending time mostly in front of a whiteboard with multiple coloured markers, but can also be a technical task, at least in part, as feasibility from a technical perspective has to be checked - no point in a great idea if you can't transform it into code.

 

How to write Proof of Concept

To start creating a Proof of Concept you need the third word - a concept. It can be a vague thought or a clear and concise requirement, but in any case it requires careful definition. The know-how of our Business Analysts and/or Product Owners, as well as experienced engineers, is important here, as now is the time to write down certain questions:

  1. What is the Concept?
  2. What is the targeted audience?
  3. What is the happy path?
  4. How to handle not-so-happy paths?
  5. What would be a measurable outcome to determine success or failure, or in other words, to Prove the Concept?

When these questions are answered, then the more concrete items come into the calculation:

  1. What resources are needed, both financial and technical?
  2. Can any potential dangers already be assessed?

These questions can, and usually should, be asked in iterations, as during such brainstorming sessions, some new information will be revealed or unexpected problems might occur - budgets always change, the client comes up with a new idea, frameworks prove to be inadequate etc.

 

After completing one or more rounds of these questions, and all the polishing in the end, the results are presented to the client, and the client usually to their own shareholder, for final approval. All information needs to be presented, both good and bad, as hiding potential risks can work in the short-term, but long-term and successful relationships require open communication and stating the facts - as the saying goes, "warts and all". If the Concept is Proven, then our work is done for that part of the Product Development.

 

Proof of Concept vs. MVP

Since MVP, or "Minimal viable product" is a term often used in software development, we have sometimes been asked "What is the difference?". MVP is a set of tasks and features that have been determined by the client as a minimum set necessary for testing and possibly even using in real life, which are then layered upon with additional features and fixes. They are usually preceded by one or more Proof of Concepts, as any features needed in an MVP should be well thought about before dedicating precious time and resources into their development. Proof of Concept generally demonstrate feasibility - can it be done, while the V in MVP means viability - can the product of software earn money, market share or some other concrete goal.

 

globalsoft PoC case study

Although we have more detailed case studies which you can view here, we can offer you a quick example of Proof of Concept in our own development. For one of our clients, who brought to us their inherited legacy frontend code, we were tasked with introducing a new feature. Since the backend, which was not under our domain, did not directly support this new wanted feature, we offered the client to investigate the matter directly for a number of days to see if we can improvize using other existing features. The PO and dedicated developer took 3 days and found a possible solution which they then presented to the client - along with the benefits, e.g. having the wanted feature, and the short-comings, e.g. response time and complexity of setup and maintenance. After analysis, the client decided the "pros" outweighed the "cons" and decided to go forward with the feature. Starting with the results of the PoC and the feedback by the client who have now seen their feature "in action", the Product development team did an ever better job than expected, bringing an ever bigger smile, as well as some additional revenue, to our client.
 

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