Softjourn

What’s the Difference Between Proof of Concept, Prototype, and MVP?

Do you need to prove to potential investors that your idea is worth funding? Or are you wondering how best to validate your idea out in the market?

Updated: 5/7/2020

You have an excellent idea but don’t know what to do with it? New app or service—how much do you need to build in order to show investors, get potential clients on board, or just to start selling? Speculators, technology bloggers, early adopters, journalists—how to get the interest of all these individuals? What is going to separate your company from the crowd?

Hard to decide. Sounds like you might need a proof of concept, prototype, or minimum viable product. At Softjourn, we understand the need of all these types of solutions and know that each of them minimize time and cost of implementation. 

So let’s start from the top.

Ideation-poc-prototype phases

What is the Ideation Phase?

Ideation is the process of generating new ideas and solutions. It is a creative process that provides your team with a transition from identifying problems to developing solutions. In the process of product definition, ideation allows you to think differently about new software concepts.

By asking the right questions in the ideation phase, your team can bring together new perspectives and step beyond an obvious, single solution. Ideation facilitation is important in a Design Thinking approach as it guides the team towards innovation.

What is a Proof of Concept?

When you come up with an idea that involves exploring innovative technologies, a proof of concept (POC) will show you all the different strategies you can use to develop a product. It will test your idea only to verify if the product you envisioned has the potential for further development.

Once a team focuses on the technology, they can assess whether the product is feasible or if it comes with potential limitations. A POC can help you with:

  • Applying existing technology in a new way to gain knowledge and inspiration
  • Creating and understanding new technology while assessing its application
  • Showcasing your idea to investors by implementing it to gain a better understanding

With a successful POC, project managers can see whether a product meets customers’ needs to ensure the best possible process outcome. Regardless of the short life cycle of a POC, shareholders will be able to decide whether the idea is worth developing or not.

Here’s how to write a satisfactory proof of concept:

  • Use research data to understand what you want to develop
  • Brainstorm a solution
  • Decide on the technology used in the process
  • Demonstrate product functionality and identify possible features
  • Present POC and get feedback

When Do You Need a Proof of Concept?

A POC varies greatly depending on the type of product and the complexity of the development phase. Behind every POC, there is comprehensive research and assessing one or more key aspects of what might be involved in a production system. 

After data analysis, we know which tools we need to develop for a fully functioning solution and have input on setting out a project plan and timetable. 

Here's when you need a POC:

  • Validation. If you don't know whether you have a marketable product, a POC will give you valuable insight. 
  • Looking for investors. Even if you don't have investors for your product, you need to demonstrate a financially sound concept. 
  • Resolving problems. Get a clear picture of potential issues in the development phase. 

What are the Benefits of a Proof Of Concept?

Here’s how can a proof of concept can benefit you:

  • Knowledge and inspiration. Even if the solution won’t work, you will be sure that the technology could be used in some other way.
  • Understanding. Engaging the whole team and each stakeholder during this stage ensures that everyone speaks the same language from the beginning.
  • Risk minimization. You won’t invest in solutions that can’t be produced.

Proof of Technology vs. Proof of Concept

Proof of Technology (POT) and POC are terms used interchangeably to describe testing an idea to see whether the technology used can support project goals.

Once your product passes through ideation stages and you gain valuable feedback, it is time to determine whether the product is viable. Both POTs and POCs help developers to define clear input and output flows and get a general view of the product's layout.

Building a POT will provide you with data that shows how to move forward with the product. You can stay on your initial course or change your focus depending on the findings you've gathered in this stage of development.

What is a Prototype?

A prototype is another way to test the viability of your concept. A prototype addresses the question of how a product can be delivered, while a POC asks whether it is possible in the first place. 

A prototype brings your idea to life. A development team can create a layout and most of the product's functionalities to access its performance.

The purpose of a prototype is to transform a complex idea into a product by allowing users to interact with it. Every conclusion you acquire from this process will guide later product development cycles.

Here are the steps to build a successful prototype: 

  • Gather basic product requirements
  • Create a prototype
  • Collect feedback from target audience
  • Revise and repeat until you get enough data to proceed to creating an MVP

When Do You Need a Prototype?

You know that the solution can be developed but you are not sure how to do it?

A prototype is what you need. Before creating a prototype, we define input and output flows and provide an idea of the layout. We can gain greater knowledge of what the solution of the POC will be when finalized: product usability, functionality, and design.

You need a prototype when:

  • Identifying requirements. Project requirements are not clear to the team.
  • Solidifying product description. Product description changes have to change too often.
  • Provide clear guidelines. Your team is working on a big project that requires a lot of experimenting and has a tight timeframe.

What are the Benefits of a Prototype?

Benefits of a prototype include:

  • Certainty. Prototyping helps to ensure that the product does what it is supposed to do.
  • Predictability. You will have insight into weak points and where errors might occur.
  • Estimation. You will also have quantification of time, resources, and money needed.

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

One of the best ways to examine whether a product is ready to go to market is by building a minimal viable product (MVP) with basic functionality. 

An MVP is a working version of the product that you give to potential users to test its functionality. During this stage, the main objective is to collect data and prioritize a backlog of features. 

Also, it is crucial to decide which product features to focus. This allows you to reduce risks and maximize return in the future development stages. 

Here are the steps to build an MVP:

  • Do market research
  • Analyse the value your product brings to the market
  • Create user flow 
  • Prioritize features
  • Launch your MVP

When Do You Need an MVP?

You have a prototype but are wondering if the market really needs it?

The only way to check it without spending lots of money is to prepare an MVP that provides only the minimum functionality and can be confronted with a group of potential users. 

During this stage, the work is focused on business functions. Moreover, you will be forced to define your value precisely and decide what really needs to be developed to test this value. 

Here’s when you need an MVP:

  • Materialization. When you need to create an actual product you can offer to users and you don’t want to spend too much time and resources making it.
  • Feedback. If you don’t know how the product will perform on the market, an MVP will give you a new understanding of the product’s appeal to customers.
  • Planning. An MVP is a great learning tool, as every new piece of information can be used for further product development.

What are the Benefits of an MVP?

Advantages of an MVP include: 

  • Money. By building an MVP, you reduce the development time and resources.
  • Risk minimization. In the end, you will be able to tell if the market shares your opinion and what the demand is for the functionality you have achieved.
  • User experience. If users like your MVP, you will gain good relationships with clients sooner.

A chart shows the development time differences between a POC, a prototype, an MVP, and taking a full system into production.

POCs, prototypes, and MVPs provide cost-effective and time-saving alternatives before delving straight into production.

Cheat Sheet for Deciding  Between POC, Prototype, and MVP

These three approaches can be used as a quick and less expensive way to validate a product.Each method comes with its advantages when used to test business concepts early or win over stakeholders.

Go for POC if:

  • You need a seed-stage funding
  • You need to check whether the technical aspects of the idea work
  • You want to share information within your team

Go for Prototype if:

  • You need to visualize your product and show it to stakeholders and potential investors
  • You have limited resources

Go for MVP if:

  • You have to monetize your product quickly
  • You have to show a working app to future customers

A table discusses the differences and benefits of proofs of concept, prototypes, and minimum viable products.

What's the Best Approach for You?

Validating an idea and choosing the right tech stack can make or break your project. These decisions directly affect every stage of development, so choosing the right path is important! Once you understand how POC, POT, prototypes, and MVPs work, it is easier to decide which is right for your project. 

Softjourn is a global technology services provider that finds custom solutions for our client's toughest challenges. If you are struggling with your product, we can offer our help and expertise to guide you through the ideation process and help you move from proof of concept to other development stages.

We leverage our domain expertise in Fintech, Cards & Payments, and Media & Entertainment and use new technology to bring our clients' growing needs to life.

Softjourn is a global technology services provider that finds custom solutions for our clients’ toughest challenges. We leverage our domain expertise in Fintech, Cards & Payments, and Media & Entertainment (with a special emphasis on ticketing), to apply new technology that brings our clients' growing needs to life. Contact us to discuss how we can make your idea a reality!