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PoC, Prototype, & MVP: What’s the difference
Key insight for mastering the product development journey.
When it comes to starting a new project or implementing a new feature in an existing program, you need to test it first. In the realm of product development, several essential stages play a pivotal role in this process: Proof of Concept (PoC), Prototype development, and the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Each of them carries a unique purpose and contributes to the iterative refinement and validation of your project or feature. In this article, we will delve into the significance of each stage, examining how they foster innovation, mitigate risks, and pave the way for a fruitful technology endeavor.
What is the difference between a PoC, Prototype, and an MVP?
PoC, Prototype, and MVP have specific goals, answer distinct questions for businesses, target different audiences, and vary in terms of risk reduction and cost-effectiveness. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for effective product development. Here is a closer look at the core differences between these three essential concepts:If we try to visualize a PoC, Prototype, and an MVP on a single timeline, it will look like this:Figure 1. Crucial steps in the product development journey
Let’s analyze each step individually for a more comprehensive understanding.
What is a PoC?
In software development, specialists utilize a PoC to test assumptions, typically of a technical nature, and verify the feasibility of ideas. Specifically, a PoC serves to determine whether your application can be built in a cost-effective manner and without potential hurdles.
A PoC addresses the question of business idea feasibility, tests different technical aspects, and reduces risks in further software development. While often used for internal case studies, it can also prove valuable during the presale process or when planning for future releases. A well-executed PoC provides valuable insights into potential challenges and opportunities, by informing subsequent development efforts and enhancing the overall effectiveness of the project.
There are a few key benefits of creating a PoC, especially during the early stages of product development. Namely, it helps:
- Avoid technical pitfalls by testing potential solutions before implementation
- Validate technical hypotheses early in the development process
- Optimize productivity and resource allocation by adopting a “start small” approach
The most common aspect of the overall PoC process is a ‘Proof of Technology”. This is a short experiment carried out by developers to determine which technologies or technical approaches will work best for your product. These tests can take a few days to complete, depending upon how deep or complex the task is. It’s vital to note that PoCs are not customer-focused tasks, which makes them far less tangible than prototypes. It’s rare for them to include a visual element or user interface.
What is a Prototype?
Although a PoC and Prototype may seem similar, these are two different concepts. While a PoC shows whether the product or its feature can be developed, a Prototype shows the way to how it can be developed. It may not encompass the full business logic of your product, but it still serves as a tangible representation of the User Interface (UI)/User Experience (UX) or specific aspects of the planned functionality. Also, you can gather initial feedback and identify potential gaps in the user flow by sharing it with a target audience.
A well-executed Prototype can be instrumental in gaining investor traction and securing funding for future development. It offers a compelling demonstration of the product’s potential, which fosters confidence and generates interest in its continued advancement. Compared to full development, this is a more time and cost-saving solution that helps acquire feedback early on and identifies customer needs for further development steps.
When creating a prototype, it is a great idea to prioritize the big picture and avoid getting caught up in the minute details that may not even make it into the final design. You should maintain a strategic focus on capturing the core essence and functionality of the product. By doing so, you will guarantee that the Prototype effectively communicates the overall concept, user experience, and core features. In order to achieve that, you should proceed with the following steps:
- Illustrate the product idea so that stakeholders can visualize the overall design and user flow, as well as demonstrate to investors how the product will work.
- Gather initial feedback on the effectiveness of designs and workflows.
- Identify flaws in design prior to development so as to avoid wasting resources on building the wrong thing.
There are several kinds of Prototypes that can be leveraged depending on the specific needs and goals of the project. This number encompasses:
- Rapid Prototyping is the right approach when you want to illustrate a new product idea quickly and get feedback from stakeholders as fast as possible. As the name suggests, this approach is aimed at creating an interactive model in the least amount of time. This type of prototyping is often referred to as a ‘throwaway,’ a term that alludes to its short-term applicability. It emphasizes the purpose of generating quick insights rather than long-term viability.
- An evolutionary Prototype is a product development approach where the product team iteratively enhances and refines the Prototype based on previous feedback. This strategy prevents specialists from spending a lot of time on the design. It’s also more permanent than the ‘throwaway’ prototype; usually, an evolutionary Prototype directly underlies the MVP.
- Incremental Prototyping serves as an appropriate strategy when you are working on designing prototypes for several individual features/functionalities separately, intending to merge them in the future. This approach acknowledges the risk of potential inconsistencies in design. Consequently, incremental Prototyping may necessitate a higher allocation of design resources compared to other approaches.
Prototypes provide a tangible representation of the envisioned product and serve as invaluable tools for communication. At Avenga’s R&D, we often use Prototypes to create case studies in particular subject areas quickly. Prototypes have helped us succeed with the following:
- Speeding up the development and delivery processes in similar projects and saving time in selecting technologies and technological solutions.
- Creating case studies for presales activities showing the prototypes to future clients and crafting a roadmap for initiated projects.
For example, an ongoing project within the R&D Department involves developing a Prototype of an ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) perception system that utilizes vehicle-mounted cameras and sensors to detect nearby objects and determine the vehicle’s trajectory. Recognizing that this is solely a Prototype, we will deploy any progress in order to further the growth of a full-fledged ADAS solution.
What is an MVP?
An MVP embodies a fully functional product with primary features that best demonstrate your business concept. It’s a prevalent approach among startups that are centered on creating the bare minimum of crucial functionality. Providing a basic set of features, this product offers its core value to early adopters and allows for feedback collection and further iteration. It is still not a full-developed product, but you can use it to collect analytics and add or edit some features in future iterations.
Our Project Management Office (PMO) department at Avenga strongly advocates for the development of MVPs as they represent the initial cornerstone for building great and successful projects. Creating an MVP empowers us to:
- Collect feedback from real users of the system so that the backlog and final product are built on proven hypotheses and knowledge.
- Test the viability of certain hypotheses or ideas by measuring the number of people who will actually use it.
- Attract further investment by showing how well the MVP has performed in the market.
How a successful MVP works: Use case
For example, the client is a media company that collaborates with artists. Previously, there was an inefficient process in place where artists had to manually remember and convey release data to the company’s employees. This cumbersome barrier implied transferring the information to the support team for processing and caused significant delays for both the support team and the artists.
In this scenario, the MVP was created as a dynamic automated form. It adapted its subsequent questions based on the answers provided to previous questions. With this solution, content creators experienced a significant reduction in the time required to transfer data about a music release. As a result, they no longer had to wait for their requests to be processed by the support team, as the automated form streamlined the entire process.
During the first month, the form was tested by a select group of the company’s clients and was partially modified. Over the next couple of months, all users tested the final version of the MVP. As the project team received verified data on the form’s activity and usability, it was also integrated into the company’s customer accounts to keep it always at hand.
Each option for testing your project idea offers unique advantages that heavily rely upon your specific goals and requirements. PoCs are only suitable for validating technical hypotheses. It is not worthwhile to share the evidence of these tests with external stakeholders. However, you might need a PoC in cases when the idea stretches the limits of technology so as to prove to investors that your vision can be executed.
Meanwhile, Prototypes are ideal for attracting the attention of investors. They allow you to demonstrate how a unique customer experience or unusual feature/functionality works and help investors visualize your solution.
Finally, MVP development is the right approach if you need to prove to investors that you’re capable of building the solution, acquiring early adopters, and generating demand for your product. However, this comes with a caveat. If your MVP hasn’t gained a lot of users or generated a lot of buzz by the time investors see it, they might be reluctant to get behind your solution.
If you’re ready to bring your software project to life and make a lasting impression on investors, choose the product development strategy that aligns best with your goals and requirements. Contact us to discuss how we can help you turn your idea into a reality, attract attention, and secure the support you need for growth.
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