Custom software is becoming more of a necessity than a nice-to-have for many businesses. From the legal industry to retail businesses to technology firms, the need for tailored software has become critical to a business’s optimal performance.Unlike out-of-the-box software, custom software can cater to the exact needs of a business, making processes smoother and more efficient.
But before you start developing a custom software solution it’s important that you set you and your vendor up for success.This means creating a proof of concept (PoC) for your product. After all, you wouldn’t build a bridge without making sure it could hold weight.Similarly, you don’t want to move forward with a solution until you have evidence that it will function properly and meet your business’s needs.
What Is a Proof of Concept?
An effective proof of concept helps establish whether a proposed project or solution is viable and will meet established goals.An additional benefit of a good PoC is the opportunity for a project manager or lead to identify any gaps or roadblocks, make adjustments before development begins, and mitigate risk.
In the context of software production, a good PoC lays out the processes with different objects and participant roles to find solutions to technical problems.It can also help answer questions such as “is the idea practical?”“what resources will be needed to build it?” “will the intended users actually use it?” n short, a PoC is a great way to test your idea before you dedicate time and other resources to building a solution that may not work.
The Difference Between a PoC and a Prototype
People often confuse a prototype for a PoC, since they have aligned purposes.A prototype is a visualized version of a product that highlights its potential features, layout, design, and navigation processes. In contrast, a PoC is an assurance of a product’s feasibility and objectives.It breaks down the actual framework a product will use in relation to existing technologies, platforms, devices, and other mediums.
Why You Need a PoC
In addition to testing an idea, an effective PoC can inform business owners, stakeholders, and software developers on the product’s viability as an actual project.It provides the functional parts of a product parallel to the vision of a prototype. Additionally, it presents an opportunity for stakeholders to buy into the need for the custom solution and gives you the green light to move forward with its creation.
And lastly, if you’re going to partner with a vendor to build the custom software solution, a good PoC will be critical in ensuring they understand the requirements of the project to ensure you end up with the solution you envisioned (and paid for).
Steps to Draft a Proof of Concept
Like any business output, developing a PoC has steps to ensure the end product is as helpful as possible.If you want to make an effective PoC, here are five steps to consider:
- Determine the need
If you’re looking to build a custom software solution, odds are you already know it’s a true business need.But to ensure wider buy-in, you’ll want to make sure you’re putting time and money into a product that people really need.It could be your business’s customer service needs have grown and the out-of-the-box solution no longer delivers the best results. Whatever it is, this step in developing a PoC can help you get crystal clear on the pain points you’re experiencing and how this solution will address them.
- Map solutions and get feedback
This is an opportunity to lay out exactly how a proposed solution will solve the problems your current software is causing. Using the list of pain points you created in the first step, you can now list out the solution (s) the custom software must offer to make it a worthwhile investment and ensure that your intended audience uses it. If there are multiple solutions to each pain point, you can compare cost, timeline, and technology challenges to get a clear idea of which ones to include in your project.
From there, you can go back to any stakeholders you talked to in the first step and collect feedback. You can explain your vision for the solution and gain valuable insights from the people who will be using the product.
- Determine Your Resources
Aside from paying in-house or outsourced software developers, you will also need to delegate different team members to perform specialized tasks.This includes project managers, communications and marketing professionals, sales, and others who will have input at different points across development.
In addition to people resources, you’ll also need to determine how much time you can budget for the project to ensure that everyone working on the project is aiming for the same endpoint. Misunderstanding or lack of clarity on due dates and deliverables can result in overspending and a seemingly endless project with no results.
- Set the Right Metrics
A PoC’s primary goal is to determine the feasibility of a product.For this reason, you’ll want to set clear project metrics that tell you whether the project is a success or failure. These metrics will come from the information that you’ve collected so far, including pain points and solutions to those challenges. An example of a success metric could be the ability for a customer service representative to help 10 customers an hour due to automating follow-up emails.If your solution fails to meet that metric, you’ll know that it wasn’t a success and more work is needed.
- Revise, Revise, Revise
The PoC will serve as the blueprint of your custom software’s development, so you shouldn’t rush the process.Remember that it will cost you more to make revisions midway through development than to revise a PoC at the beginning, so it’s important to polish your PoC until virtually all uncertainties and inefficiencies are eliminated.
Include as many stakeholders as you can at this stage of development to ensure you’re including all perspectives and challenges that will inform the end product. Again, it’s much easier to go back and solicit feedback at the early stages than after the product has been built.
While the steps above are a good way to start a PoC, remember that your needs may vary so it’s important to be flexible and know what works for your business.Using custom software is an excellent way for a business’s processes to keep up with its growth, and ensuring you have a clear PoC is a great start.
If your business is looking for help with custom software development, reach out to Everestek. We’re a modern technology services company that helps create, modernize and accelerate digital initiatives and can help your business find the best enterprise technology solutions.