Custom Software Development can often involve many people, sometimes shifting priorities and often new, innovative approaches. The Proof of Concept is essential in crafting new custom solutions. As often a simple demonstration or illustration of a more robust final product can calibrate direction, uncover new requirements or demonstrate unforeseen challenges. The Proof of Concept strategy helps manage these things more easily (and affordably!) than meeting them head-on in the middle of development. Read on as we explore real-world scenarios, the multiple ways to think about a Proof of Concept and how it helps ensure success or minimize the ramifications of any failure in the conceptual portion of for your custom project.
Two Approaches to Proof of Concept
It’s helpful to think of two different approaches and goals for a Proof of Concept.
Proving the Technology
In one kind you’re building something completely new or with a new technical requirement, new tools, new technology or a new business objective. There can be some level of uncertainty of whether it will work, what will be involved, or will it meet expectations. In this Proof of Concept strategy a custom software developer might take a small, well-understood part of the project and develop something to show exactly how it will actually work. This could mean applying some integrations or writing some code that might not ultimately make it to the final project but helps in proving if it’s smart to take the next, more involved steps.
Proving the Company
With another Proof of Concept, you do have an understanding of what needs to be built and you are looking for the right custom software development company to build it. Here you might have a Proof of Concept developed to help you evaluate the company’s approach, talent, capabilities and so on before you make the larger commitment for a fully featured solution to be developed.
In both approaches the benefactor is you, the customer. You are either building a better understanding early on of the technological and functional perspective of a proposed project, or you are better positioning the right partner to help you build it.
Educating the Client with Proof of Concept
We firmly believe that the overall objective, and value, of the Proof of Concept is education and reducing risk. What technology is available? Will it work? Will it work easily and quickly?
For example, at InterSoft Associates we were once working with a client who wanted to make sure certain content was always showing up at a certain place within a website. For the solution to work required involvement from vendors and some others, so we distilled the larger project down to a simple Proof of Concept that basically ensured, if this thing we’re testing out is possible like we think it is, then we can automate later processes to solve the client’s overall objective. The idea was to overcome unknowns and the boundaries of what was possible in this project. In this case the cost was hundreds of dollars for the test, rather than thousands or tens of thousands for a fully developed solution. This, in turn, protected the customer.
Protecting the Customer
Education where the Proof of Concept is concerned is really a protection mechanism for the client – and is one reason why you, the potential customer, should insist on a Proof of Concept from any developer you’re working with on a unique solution or system.
A Proof of Concept helps define and understand the scope of a project, where maybe something will be harder, easier, more or less time consuming than anticipated. It helps realize points of failure. If the Proof of Concept doesn’t, in fact, turn out to work – why not? Often the path forward is made obvious when another, maybe presumed path turns out to be blocked or full of potential obstacles. The Proof of Concept also helps to more easily and quickly make adjustments. A left turn there, a slight shift here and this should work great can be simple and affordable at the Proof of Concept stage, where it might be a significant issue if the same observations are not made until you are deep into development, where changing code or direction can have problematic (and expensive) ramifications.
When is a Proof of Concept not necessary?
There are many commonalities in software development, which means often some existing system or process can be demonstrated to show competency. In this case a Proof of Concept might not be wholly necessary to validate a design. That demonstration, however, serves much the same purpose – to educate you on what’s possible, help you see what’s possible, and start a more informed dialog about what the right custom solution will involve.
A competent, professional custom software development company will do more than tell you, they’ll show you how an idea can be executed upon. A Proof of Concept helps to either answer questions or ask better questions, all in an effort to get to the right business solution. It’s an important part of the design process here at InterSoft Associates, and should be integral to your next custom software project.