In software, a proof of concept (POC) is a small demo project that reflects a real-world scenario and provides customers with a way to see value in a product or service. It typically involves the vendor understanding the customer’s requirement(s), choosing a few to focus on, and creating a model that demonstrates how the offering fulfills the requirement.
A good POC combines elements of feasibility, uniqueness (that differentiates it from competitors), and practical potential.
Difference between a POC and a prototype
Both POCs and prototypes help avoid making wrong or hasty decisions. However, the two are not interchangeable.
A PoC typically works on one aspect of a product that shows how it can solve a problem. It doesn’t demonstrate what the final offering could look like.
A prototype is a working model of different aspects combined, more like an unpolished version of the final offering. In most cases, beyond just demonstrating how it solves a problem, a prototype also shows how it will work in its entirety — including with other systems.
How POCs help
POCs are a way to help customers see for themselves how your product solves a problem in their context. They are now increasingly common in the sales process—in a paid or unpaid form.
The reasons for this include:
- They help build trust with new customers and convert them into returning clients.
- They provide a way to differentiate your solution from competitors
- POCs can give you business and product feedback to improve the product and its viability
- Before you dive into building a POC or even committing to it, take a step back to ascertain if the prospect aligns with your ICP and is ready to hold their end of the stick—whether this includes factoring in payments for a POC or commuting their inputs and resources into building the POC. If you can’t show measurable results or if the benefit to the customer is not clear, you might be better off without a POC.
- Wherever possible, make sure the focus of the POC stays on the customer problem to be solved, not arbitrary or pre-existing requirements. This is the best way for you to demonstrate and them to understand the value the POC provides.
- Ensure that you and the customer are clear about and aligned on the problem to be solved and the course of action post the POC. In several cases, even after the POC is completed, the customer is unclear about the benefit or the further course of action. Make sure you get a verbal and documented commitment from them before you start a POC. For instance, before you start, send an email outlining the scope, their commitments, the results promised, and the timelines.