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Enterprise Development at Startup Speed: How to Use Proof of Concept

Laura MacPherson January 4, 2018

In the rush of enthusiasm that accompanies a new idea, it’s sometimes difficult to think through all the elements that could affect the idea’s success. This is true especially when it comes to enterprise software development. It’s expensive to build something that isn’t quite right, that’s missing essential features, or that has unnecessary features. It also wastes a lot of valuable time.

Startups may be known for taking risks, but one thing they typically don’t take risks on is a completely unproven product. They build a minimum viable product (MVP) and/or proof of concept to ensure that they have a decent chance of success.

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

Before we dig into how enterprises can use a proof of concept to reach success faster with their software projects, let’s quickly explore how proof of concept is different from minimum viable product.

MVP Focuses on the Product

Minimum viable product comes from the lean startup methodology. It’s concerned with building a working prototype that includes the basic, essential features that the market has demanded and then testing that product in the real world. It assumes that the market research has already been done.

Proof of Concept Covers Both the Market and the Product

While MVP has an important role to play, proof of concept covers a bit more ground.

First, it’s a way to make sure that your product will resonate with your audience before you build it. Proof of concept answers questions like:

  • Does the target audience want this product?
  • Will they use this product?
  • What features will they demand in this product?
  • If it’s an internal project, will stakeholders adopt the product?

Second, it’s a way to determine how to build the product in the best way possible. It answers questions like:

  • Is it technically feasible to build this product?
  • What technologies should we use to build the product?
  • Can we build this product cost-effectively?

How to Use Proof of Concept to Save Time and Money

Using proof of concept offers two major benefits. You’ll avoid spending money on a project that isn’t viable, either from a user or a technology perspective. And you’ll reach success faster because you’ll know what works and what doesn’t before you spend the time needed to build out a complete project. The insight you gain from building a proof of concept will help you take the fastest possible route to a successful product.

Proof of concept allows you to innovate quickly and try out your ideas without a large capital investment. You can afford to experiment with different ideas as a result.

For example, we recently built a proof of concept for an e-commerce site to test whether a B2B company’s customers would actually order online rather than emailing or calling the company’s receptionist (the existing process). The front end of the site was built out with a complete UX and design strategy, but the back end operated manually — it sent an email to the receptionist for order fulfillment. When a majority of customers started using the new site immediately upon release, the company learned that their hypothesis was correct: customers found online ordering easier. At that point, the company could gather feedback from customers on what features they liked and didn’t like, and could iterate the UX while fully building out the back end.

Enterprises often bite off a bigger project than they need to without knowing exactly what they need to build. It then takes a year or more to roll out the project, and they can end up with something that isn’t really what they need. Proof of concept solves that issue by ensuring the insight is gathered before they make the bulk of the investment of time and money.

Want to talk through ideas for your new enterprise software solution and explore a proof of concept? Get in touch.

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