Have you ever heard of the rise and fall of the Theranos biotech startup? Its founder Elizabeth Holmes, a former Stanford University student, came up with the idea of creating a unique medical device. With its help, laboratory tests would take just a drop of blood and one day only. 16 businessmen supported the girl’s bold idea and invested about $1.4 billion in her startup. But years later, it turned out that Theranos technology did not work at all. It was scandalous, and in 2018 the company was closed. Elizabeth Holmes could have avoided such a fiasco if she had used a proof of concept (PoC). She should have conducted clinical trials to make sure the idea was technically feasible. What is a PoC, how is it different from an MVP and why should it be used on software development projects?
PoC: technical feasibility of a software product
A PoC is a procedure carried out at an early project stage to make sure a product idea is technically feasible. Some businessmen cannot properly assess the feasibility of their products. Therefore, an IT company that undertakes the implementation of a software idea suggests conducting a PoC before the start of the development phase.
A PoC helps to make sure that an idea is realistic and find the most efficient technologies for software product development. For example, an insurance company wants to cut time on reviewing each car insurance case. Thus, the manager suggests implementing an AI solution to optimize this process. A PoC helps the company make sure that such an AI tool can be designed and integrated with existing software. Once the idea has been approved, the development team creates a prototype to visualize it. And then they build an MVP to check if the employees of the insurance company are comfortable using the AI solution.
Of course, not all projects need a PoC. As a rule, apps that imitate popular programs do not need it. Innovative pioneering projects demand a PoC in the first place. As these products have no predecessors, developers need to create them from scratch. Therefore, they need to think over the technological basis for future software solutions and predict possible risks, problems, and ways to solve them.
The PoC approach is also relevant for companies whose products have earned market credibility but need to scale or migrate from a monolithic to a flexible architecture. Before starting a project, the development team needs to make sure that the customer’s goal is technically achievable. They need to find technologies that will support future changes and scaling.
In this way, a PoC prevents a project from failing and helps to solve technical problems with minimal costs.
An MVP: check the market demand for an app
As a rule, a development team starts creating an MVP when a product idea has passed a PoC. If it is technically feasible, specialists must make sure whether it will be in demand on the market and whether it will generate income for the customer.
An MVP is the basic version of an app. It includes the minimum possible software functionality and the most valuable features that are enough for the app to run. Despite the limitations, customers can use such a product. Thus, it can be released to the market.
Why does a business need a “raw” app? The owner wants to make sure that their software product will be of interest to consumers and will gradually pay off. If the idea proves successful, they can invest in the development of a full-fledged platform. If not, they will curtail an unsuccessful project with minimal costs.
If an app is successful, IT specialists collect user feedback and add new features in each new iteration thus improving the product. So, it gradually acquires a “perfect look”, and the team does not waste time and money on the implementation of unnecessary functionality.
A good example of an MVP is the first version of the Uber app. The company founder and platform creator Garrett Camp initially implemented a priority feature to connect drivers and passengers. He noticed that clients were willingly using the service and continued to develop the project, adding new features at the request of users.
In 2022, we are witnessing that Camp’s strategy has paid off. He has already built a business empire where about 5 million drivers transport more than 118 million passengers. The service is available in 900 cities around the world.
PoC vs MVP: the difference between these concepts
People often confuse the PoC and MPV concepts. Here are the main theses that will help you distinguish between these terms:
- A PoC answers the following question: “Is it possible to implement this idea technically?” An MVP provides an answer to: “Does the product meet the requirements of the market and the needs of consumers?”
- A PoC is a good option for innovative or complex projects. An MVP is necessary for any project if you need to make sure that your investments will pay off.
- The PoC procedure is carried out before the start of requirements gathering, prototyping, and software development itself. An MVP is part of the development process. It begins after you have studied the market and the target audience and thought through the product requirements.
- A PoC does not affect UI/UX because it deals with the technical aspects of a product. In building an MVP, IT professionals pay much attention to the user interface: it must be thought out, clear, and easy to navigate. In short, it must work smoothly. After all, customers develop an impression about an app when they first interact with it. It is good when people look forward to future app updates.
- A PoC is the development team’s responsibility, clients are not involved in this process. An MVP is aimed at consumers who need to see that a product is of high quality and worth money. It is important not to spoil the first impression of clients so that they stay happy with the product. Thus, by word of mouth, they will bring in more customers.
Thus, the PoC and MVP concepts serve different purposes. A PoC confirms that a product or feature can be built. An MVP implements the features proposed in the PoC and prototype phases. A PoC does not exclude an MVP or vice versa. They are implemented together as successive stages of the software development process.
Despite the difference in purpose and implementation features, both a PoC and an MVP are used on a software development project helping a business to manage time and investment wisely. A PoC is necessary to understand whether an idea is feasible and whether it is necessary to start development. MVP services help business owners “probe” the market and see if their investments will pay off. To test the reliability of an idea, you need an experienced technical partner, with the right specialists, experience, and tech stack. Only IT experts will be able to assess the technical feasibility of your software idea and create a working MVP. They can establish a more accurate project schedule, develop a product roadmap, and better predict costs and possible risks.