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From idea to the Proof (of Concept)

Published: 2019-08-09

Should we live in a perfect world, no such things like a failed business idea would exist. No business risks – just opportunities, would not that be great? In the meantime, back down on Earth, the risk is an every-day reality External link.. We know the odds, as Deloitte reports, a rough estimate of failed innovation project oscillates around 45%. Each idea might be proved to be a pratfall and the further we go into investments, the more painful the consequences might be. There is a cure to this ailment – apart from deep market analysis, business insights and know-how coming from experience and observation, there is a possibility to check if there is a proof in the pudding we are cooking. And to do it before the experiment consumes our budget.

This business probe is called Proof of Concept. So, let us have a closer look at the definitions and benefits coming from this particular way of working. And I assure you – you will not consider this read a waste of time.

What is PoC

As PoC grows into a trend, new definitions emerge. In my experience, the hardest part to grasp about this concept is telling the difference between the proof of concept and the prototype. For the sake of this article, I have chosen the definition you can find in the Entrepreneur online service (available online here External link.), as it quite accurately explains the differences between both of aforementioned models.

“A Proof of Concept (POC) is a small exercise to test the design idea or assumption. The main purpose of developing a POC is to demonstrate the functionality and to verify a certain concept or theory that can be achieved in development. Prototyping is a valuable exercise that allows the innovator to visualize how the product will function, it is a working interactive model of the end product that gives an idea of the design, navigation and layout. While a POC shows that a product or feature CAN be developed, a prototype shows HOW it will be developed. “

You can see it is worth having a longer look down this rabbit hole. There is much more to PoC than just sheer joy of technology scouting and brainstorming, while both being important factors.

Some perceive the PoC as an act of putting the concept into life – no matter if it is just a sketch on a piece of paper or a partially functional solution. This method allows sharing internal knowledge, explore emerging technologies and – as an outcome – deliver evidence for the exigent question: IS IT DOABLE?

The Benefits & the Challenges

The main benefit coming from the PoC method is reducing the risk of rushing head- and budget-forward into the unfeasible project. It is a chance to better understand the idea and to see it in the already existing environment.

But a PoC is far more than just developing a project in a risk-control mode. PoC is – above all – a chance to scout the market not only for already available solutions but also for risks and opportunities.

PoC helps to overcome the familiar and so mundane business risks laying ahead of every digital transformation. The Riverbed’s Digital Performance Survey 2018 External link. reveals the biggest challenges that most of the organizations are facing in the process are: budget constraints (51% of respondents), overly complex or rigid legacy IT infrastructure is the second biggest difficulty (named by 45% of attendees). The rest of top 5 named in the research is the lack of full visibility across the digital or end-user experience (40%), the lack of available or appropriately-skilled employees (39%) and the lack of buy-in from leadership on putting the priority on digitalization (37%).

PoC, being a fast and cost-effective tool, is the answer to all the above factors.

Where does the PoC prove its value / How we do it

Considering my professional experience, when thinking of the principal beneficiaries of PoC solutions, I see a multitude of possible directions:

  • digital transformation
  • new business models
  • product development
  • customer experience

Stakeholders benefiting from PoC way of working can be found on any level – from board members and C-suite, through IT professionals, marketing or innovation teams. That is basically everyone interested in business development.

In one of our PoCs, developed to measure the quality of tap water in urban pipelines, a capable team of enthusiasts gathered in our Innovation Zone searched the emerging technologies for a sensor that could help us meet the goal set for this project.

The target was not only to shorten the time and the workload consumed by manual quality checks but also to deliver the solution that would suit the mass use in public aqueducts. This is important to bear in mind because while there is a startup working on a technology that renders the remote control over the microbiome possible, it is still too young and too expensive to be used in public service.

This showcases two extremely important benefits of developing a proof of concept:

  • fast technological verification of the availability of planned solutions
  • verification of the economic validity of the project

Why do you need a PoC?

I bet you already know the answer. Digital transformation is a fast-paced environment. Building the market advantage equals being fast, and fast is exactly what the Proof of Concept is.

Test the viability and usability of the product (or service) you have in mind. Check if it is compatible with your company’s technical environment. Assess the costs and measure possible ROI.
Make your business grow.

And make sure you will pick the right partner to work with.


Posted by: Aleksander Sokalszczuk

Aleksander Sokalszczuk

Innovation Lead, Poland

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