PROOF OF CONCEPT

DEMONSTRATING THE FEASIBILITY OF YOUR PRODUCT IDEA IN 5 STEPS

When you finally come up with the ultimate new product idea, you probably cannot wait to start right away. You think about cool features and integrations, a marketing plan, sales channels, the Go-To-Market strategy.  These are important things you need to consider when you want to launch a new product.

But before that, there is one even more important step that you need to consider. That is a proof of concept (PoC).

A proof of concept validates that your idea is technically feasible before you start investing in product development. It answers the simple question „Is it technically possible to build a product with my concept?“

The PoC is one of the most important steps in product development. As said, it takes place before the actual product development starts.

We’ll show you the steps towards your proof of concept in the upcoming paragraphs.

WHAT IS A PROOF OF CONCEPT?

As the name indicates, the proof of concept (PoC) is a technical validation to the feasibility of an idea. It helps decision-makers of your company to better evaluate how feasible your idea is and to weigh the risk of the investment. After all, there is a range of issues around your idea that you will clarify during the PoC phase:

  • market needs
  • technical and logistical problems
  • risks, obstacles and further costs
  • scalability

Knowing these significantly increases your chance to take the proof of concept to the next phase and develop a real product.

Keep in mind that a PoC is not about the additional product features or the final design. Cut out all the noise, fanciness, and cool features in this phase. You can add those later. Now let’s see how you can reach your proof of concept in five steps.

PROOF OF CONCEPT STEP 1: VALIDATING THE NEEDS

The first step to address your proof of concept is to validate the user’s needs. Knowing the most critical pain point from your target group is crucial for ideating the best solution in all the following steps of your PoC. That is why you need to empathize with the user in this phase.

Usually, you do this by observing the users interacting with their environment or through engaged interviews. The deeper the insights in this step of your proof of concept, the higher the likelihood to develop an innovation that users really need. The following methods can help you with this step:

  • Empathy map: a framework to gain empathy by answering what the user does, says, thinks and feels
  • Extreme user observation: a method to discover user needs by focusing on users who are either extremely attracted to or turned off by a product/service, have the relevant technical expertise, or are completely unfamiliar with the topic
  • 5 whys: an iterative technique that helps to understand a problem in depth and to discover its real root causes

PROOF OF CONCEPT STEP 2: IDEATING THE BEST SOLUTION

The second step towards your proof of concept is ideating the best solution to realize your product idea that meets the user’s needs. Here, it’s important to use the right methods to brainstorm solutions. For instance:

  • Crazy 8: a fast sketching exercise that challenges you to sketch eight distinct crazy ideas in a very limited timeframe
  • Idea tower: a structured team technique where ideas are developed building upon the feedback of the previous reviewers
  • Idea Puzzle: a creativity exercise in which seemingly completely independent areas are explored in the context of a specific problem

Further, you need to narrow your ideas down so that they are feasible with your capacities and goals. Important components in this PoC step are for example costs, timeline, technologies, operations, competition, resources and so on.

PROOF OF CONCEPT STEP 3: VALIDATING THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY

The third step towards your proof of concept is proving the technical feasibility of the ideated solution. To do so, you should identify the most critical part of the solution. Then you develop the technical concept and test it. But beware: don’t be a perfectionist, don’t get stuck in this phase longer than required.

The following two methods help you to take this step towards your proof of concept:

  • Wireframe: a low-fidelity design layout that outlines the most important parts of your solution
  • Sketching: a semi-structured and highly visual method to generate a lot of ideas quickly in a group

During this step, any method that conveys your idea is allowed. Keep it simple, iterate and stay focused on your goal.

Want to know more techniques and methods that help you on the way to your proof of concept? We gathered the most important ones for you in a free card game.

PROOF OF CONCEPT STEP 4: DOCUMENT AND DEVELOP ROADMAP

The next step on your way to your PoC has two main parts. On the one hand, you need to document your learnings and the feedback that you got from users.

The best way to do this is by using documenting the feedback along four dimensions:

  1. Like: what did the users like most about your solution?
  2. Potential: what is, according to your users, the biggest potential of your solution?
  3. Missing: what do the users miss in your solution?
  4. Wonder: what are users wondering about when testing your solution?

On the other hand, you need to identify required improvements that you need to tackle during future iterations. To do so, you can easily use the feedback that you captured along the dimensions before. They will give you great insights into what is next for your proof of concept. All in all, this step towards your proof of concept is important to remain efficient and keep track of things during the whole process.

PROOF OF CONCEPT STEP 5: GETTING THE APPROVAL

Your technical PoC is the key to getting further development approved. Fancy features can be added later. What matters most right now, is proving that the technical solution can work.

All of these insights will help the decision-makers within your company to explore the full potential of your idea. They can put your proof of concept into the bigger picture, including the company’s strategic goals and vision. Depending on the stakeholder environment of your company, a PoC might include a brief presentation with all the insights you gained.

PROOF OF CONCEPT IN A NUTSHELL

During the PoC phase of your product development, you have to prove that your idea is actually needed, come up with a technical concept to solve the user’s pain and develop a very first technical solution. Take your company’s constraints into account, such as your budget, timeline, capacities, and resources. However, do not try to set up a perfect solution and cut out all the noise for your proof of concept.

proof-of-concept-steps

ONE IMPORTANT THING – A PROOF OF CONCEPT IS NOT A PROTOTYPE

Just to be clear, the proof of concept is not (yet) a prototype. There is a crucial difference between a PoC and a prototype. Whereas the PoC focuses on the technical feasibility of your idea, the prototype is a first attempt to build your final product. Be careful not to confuse these two steps. You can find a more detailed comparison here:

If you follow the described steps carefully, you will certainly succeed in the proof of concept and get one step closer to the development of your product. However, the proof of concept is only one phase of the whole product development cycle.

Start creating products that really matter

At Motius, we have put our experience of 7 years in the R&D business into an ultimate guide: Creating tech products that really matter – The lean way of going from an idea to a market-ready product.

Download the free guide here and get more insights into the whole product development process.

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SOME PROJECTS THAT STARTED WITH A PROOF OF CONCEPT

We’ve taken the steps towards a proof of concept countless times. Here are some of our projects to show you the whole potential that your product idea might have, if you get your PoC right: