What Is a Proof of Concept? How to Write a Successful POC 📄

  • Remote Working & Freelancing
Contra Tips
· 7 min read

Learn what a proof concept is, how it differs from prototypes and MVPs, and how to create one from scratch. Also, discover examples to seek inspiration.

Businesses need robust project evaluation and strategic planning to be successful and lucrative. Every innovative idea warrants rigorous scrutiny and methodical execution. Enter the proof of concept (POC). 

In this article, we’ll discuss what a proof of concept is, why it’s important, and how to create one. We’ll also take a look at a couple of examples of a POC in action.

What is the meaning of POC? 📑

A proof of concept demonstrates if a product or service is feasible. This might sound slightly vague — and for good reason: A proof of concept can be a small-scale demonstration of a concept or a document outlining why the idea is feasible. In other words, a POC’s purpose is not to create a working product but to show that it can be done.

What is a proof of concept trying to achieve? 🧐

A POC aims to verify that a specific idea or concept has the potential to be developed into a functional product, service, or solution. Here’s what a POC document outlines:

  • Goals
  • Expected outcome
  • Execution process
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Feedback collection 

Further, you can use a POC in any business field, such as:

  • Project management
  • Business development
  • Software development
  • Cybersecurity
  • Healthcare
  • IT

Types of POCs 📝

  • Technical POCs: These validate a technical solution’s feasibility, such as testing a new algorithm or system architecture's capability.
  • Functional POCs: These demonstrate that a solution fulfills its intended function or solves the identified problem, like showcasing a software feature's desired outcome.
  • Operational POCs: These assess how a solution integrates with existing workflows or systems, determining, for instance, how a new software aligns with current IT infrastructure.
  • Business POCs: These evaluate a concept’s business viability by gauging market demand, potential revenue models, or cost structures.

Why do you need a POC? 🚨

A POC helps you analyze a product or service before starting a venture. You can't make a hover car, for example, because the technologies have yet to exist, and if they did and you created one, it would probably be too expensive for most people to purchase. 

Here are a few benefits of creating a POC:

  • Reduces risk: By testing an idea early on, you can identify and rectify potential problems, mitigating the chances of larger issues or failures later in the development process.
  • Saves resources: A POC allows you to evaluate a project’s feasibility before fully committing resources, helping avoid unnecessary expenditures on unviable ideas.
  • Enables investors to assess situations: Investors will likely back your project if they see potential. Remember, their job is to calculate risk and reward, and without a working prototype or airtight reasoning for a project’s success, they might deem the risk too high –– eventually backing off.

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How to write a proof of concept: 4 steps 🖊️

A POC is like a business plan or a client proposal, except in a POC, you record your findings into a document to make the project a reality. 

Ready to draft your first POC? Here are four steps to follow: 

1. Identify your idea or objectives 💡

Before you jump to conclusions, you must know your goals. Do you want to test a new service, assess a marketing strategy’s success, or determine a product’s feasibility?

Knowing the outcome is essential to structure the rest of the document since you'll need to know if there's a demand for the product or service, if you have the resources to do it, or if it's technically possible.

2. Outline resources and methodologies 📦

Now that you know your POC’s purpose, list all resources needed. This includes tangible resources (tools and materials required) and intangible resources (research and development time, rent, and specialized expertise).

You’ll also need to define idea execution techniques. With physical products, this means the process of creating it. For intangible things, that means describing precisely what the thing (service, marketing strategy, etc.) is and how it will be implemented and tested.

3. Define success metrics 📐

Next, detail idea performance metrics. When working with a client, you'll need to ask them. Be realistic about the success metrics or standards to avoid putting money into an idea that's a money pit. Obvious metrics include projected profits compared to expenses. Less obvious KPIs are customer satisfaction or brand loyalty.

4. Structure scope and timeline ⏳

Finally, define the project's scope, including the timeline. How big will the initial release be? Do you have the infrastructure established for a massive launch? How long will the project take, and do you have the resources to go beyond the predicted timeline? Gather feedback as you slowly release the finished product to conserve improvement time. 

Proof of concept examples 📃

Now that you have an idea about how to write a POC, here are two examples from different industries to further bolster your understanding: 

POC in software development 🧑‍💻

A client wants to develop a piece of software. As an Independent working on the project, here’s what you’ll do:

  • Work with the client to research the current market, check the available software, and compare how theirs will differ. 
  • Survey potential users to find out what they need that existing software doesn't provide.
  • Ascertain whether this software’s development is feasible, communicating your concerns or opinions to the client.

POC in product development 🧑‍🔧

A business wants to create a product to automate the drying of dishes in under 30 seconds. Here’s what it’ll do:

  • Gauge who needs this product and if there is a demand for it. 
  • Outline the requirements, and determine if current technologies exist for the product to be possible. 
  • Detail how it will develop the product, and eventually factor in product benefits, production cost, and sale price to determine sales. Regardless of how amazing it is, a product that doesn't sell is pointless.

(Additionally, if you need a proof of concept template to get started, check out a few options online.)

POCs vs. prototypes vs. minimum viable products ⚙️

The terms prototype and minimum viable product (MVP) may sound similar to a proof of concept. That’s because they’re both stages a project idea typically goes through before being considered a final product. 

  • A proof of concept is typically a document that details whether creating a product is possible by outlining the detailed procedure. 
  • A prototype is a tangible or interactive representation of the product or solution. It's a working model designed to showcase how the end product will function. 
  • An MVP is a product's version with enough features to be launched to the market. It aims to satisfy early adopters while minimizing development costs.

In essence, a POC tests an idea’s validity, a prototype demonstrates its functionality, and an MVP tests its viability in the real market with minimal features.

Use your newfound skill with Contra 🔧

Understanding concepts like POC is crucial in business innovation. As you steer ahead with your innovative ideas and projects, remember that having the right partners and resources is equally important. Join Contra today, the ideal platform for Independents to showcase their expert services and seamlessly connect with clients without the burden of commission fees. 

And if you’re a business owner seeking top-tier talent, Contra is your destination to discover skilled Independents ready to evaluate and execute your projects with precision and efficiency.

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