Many companies identify with the Agile development approach, but not always they execute it correctly or do it half-heartedly, and this can lead to the confusion of both terms.
From Making Sense we like to join them to help determine if what they need is a Proof of Concept (PoC) or they should think directly about the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
What’s an MVP?
MVP is basically an approach to product development that could be described as “test and learn”. It’s a deliverable that’s quickly developed to have only the core features essential to the end users. It works and it builds stakeholder confidence early on. It seeks to find the minimum version that provides the value and can test the solution to validate that it works and has traction.
Stakeholders should understand that the MVP will change over time and that they should look only at the product at this stage as “good enough”. Good enough to work, that is.
What’s a Proof of Concept (PoC)?
It’s easier to define the PoC by starting with what it’s not. Unlike an MVP, it’s not a deliverable. And unlike the MPV, it’s not a representation of the final product because it’s only a piece of the final puzzle.
PoCs only show partial solutions. These “exercises” may only be relevant to a small number of users. They won’t allow users an overall glimpse but rather only a partial view of a small corner of the final product. A PoC is just a way for developers to test the technological feasibility of an idea. It’s a thought process tool used by developers to prove that an idea will work. If the developer is able to produce a PoC, it’s presented to the stakeholders to support ongoing work. It may also just be used internally to speed up collaboration and encourage innovation.
What’s the Difference Between a PoC and an MVP?
Here’s a recap…
- An MVP is a distinguishable product that allows stakeholders a glimpse of the deliverable early on in the game.
- A PoC is not a distinguishable product.
- The main purpose of an MVP is to ensure that everyone can agree on which direction the product going.
- A PoC’s purpose is to prove that the team can bring a certain idea to life.
- An MVP is developed so that users can give feedback early on in the process rather than later on, when lots of resources have already been poured into the product.
- A PoC is developed to prove technical feasibility, perhaps of a single feature.
- An MVP is a real-life test of the product in a real-life market on real-life end users.
- A PoC is an exercise that’s basically asking, “Should I test this concept?” “Is this going to be viable?
Why is PoC a Tool But MVP is a Product?
It’s hard to understand why some people get POC and MPV confused. Their relevance comes into play at different points in the development process and the people who create them have different motivations.
First, the MVP is a product because it’s a deliverable. It’s ready to use and it can be put into users’ hands to show functionality and act as a basis for user feedback.
The PoC, on the other hand, is only an exercise involving just a piece of the final product. It allows developers to show clients that yes, they can actually take an idea and turn it into part of a product. Based on a PoC, an MVP can then be developed.
What are the Reasons to Adopt One or the Other?
Let’s say that during the Discovery phase of development, when the dev team is meeting with the client, an idea is put on the table for discussion. Nobody knows whether it’s feasible but is seems like a great idea. Maybe it’s a feature… but is it even possible to create such a feature?
The Proof of Concept will answer that question. It takes the proposed idea and shows whether or not it can actually be achieved during development. It’s a process whereby developers can visualize how things will work once they start pouring resources into actual development. There’s no reason to adopt an MVP in this context because you’re not even sure yet if this small portion of the final product is going to work.
But once you’ve proven that you have the technology and capability to bring that idea to life, you may be ready to move on to the MVP.
Again, from another angle, you’d use a PoC to test an assumption. You might also use it to get funding. You’d use an MVP to get feedback about the value of the product, test the solution to validate that it works and confirm if it has traction or not.
When You Should Adopt One Over the Other
Typically, a PoC comes before an MVP in the software development process.
A PoC is a technical exercise. At the PoC stage, usability is not a consideration. It’s not usually something that users will ever see. On the other hand, with an MVP is all about usability. It involves users who just want to know if the product will help them fulfill their needs.
If you’ve already done the necessary PoCs for your product and you know that from a technology standpoint various portions of it can be built, you’re ready to move onto the MVP. Here’s where you’ll actually put some resources into creating the product, although you will only be putting limited resources in and it will be a skeletal product.
Benefits You Earn by Adopting PoC & MVP
By creating a PoC, the benefit is that you’ll be proving to your client (or your team) that an idea will actually work. It grants the official nod to go ahead and start developing an MVP.
By creating an MVP, you’ll avoid wasting time and money on something nobody needs. You’re getting a product to market ASAP so you can get some feedback.
The MVP can be hard for “new-to-agile” stakeholders to grasp. If they’re business leaders, they understandably hate risk and may, as a consequence, hate the MVP. Since it’s just the essentials of the planned product, there’s much that’s simply left up to the imagination. They may see the core value being presented but they may wonder where all the features are. They’ll wonder if the product is going to have flaws (like bugs, for example) once it’s finished.
But one thing they won’t worry about is whether the team is developing a product that nobody needs.
That’s because the MVP is an actual deliverable that’s designed to work right from the get-go. It works and it’s a bare-bones (“good enough for the short term”) product that delivers core functionality even though there are no cool features yet. And the purpose of that? To get the product to market as soon as is humanly possible in order to make sure it’s really what users need.
Either you are in a startup or in a big company, you are probably familiar with both terms, but maybe you are not sure when adopting each one. We hope you have found this post helpful in order to recognize those differences between POC and MVP.