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MVP, Prototype, or POC?: A Complex Choice of Strategy Made Simple

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MVP, Prototype, or POC?: A Complex Choice of Strategy Made Simple

Take a look at how different these three choices of ideation implementation can differ based on your company's needs.

· Agile Zone ·
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While implementing new ideas or new features in an existing system, most organizations are unable to decide what strategy to adopt for developing their product or evaluating the idea and its feasibility. The results every organization expects are a satisfied customer, the right transformation of ideas into an actual product, and better ROI.

The three fundamental strategies that organizations go for to achieve this in an initial stage are Proof-of-Concept (PoC), Prototype, and Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The dilemma when choosing an MVP, PoC, or Prototype can at times lead towards an incorrect selection. By doing so, an organization may end up leaking their finances, wasting their effort and time, and it may affect business growth overall.

Each of these can be used independently or together depending on the project roadmap. All three of these approaches have their shades of features, objectives, operations, and benefits. Let us first understand each of them and then move towards comparing them with each other.

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MVP, Prototype, PoC – An Overview

Proof of Concept (PoC)

“Proof of Concept (PoC) is a realization of a certain method or idea in order to demonstrate its feasibility or a demonstration in principle with the aim of verifying that some concept or theory has practical potential” – Wikipedia

As its name suggests, this can be the best approach to verify the uncertain idea or the concept’s feasibility for the practical implementation. It is used before the actual development of the product and before the product is launched in the market.

For developing a PoC, a small project is implemented to verify whether certain concepts can be implemented (both in terms of business models and technical capabilities).

A PoC is usually not shown publicly or to the customer. It may not be usable at all since its major focus is to verify if the fundamental idea is operationally workable or not. Building a PoC needs a good amount of time and effort for the development. It helps you assess whether the project will run flawlessly or not, based on the initial study. PoC is all about testing whether the concept will work further or not. If not, it might as well be aborted at the start.

A PoC usually is made to depict an area of the system, so certain projects may need multiple POCs to showcase different components. If the PoC is successful, the project may move ahead, take a different route or may even stop. In the case of a positive PoC, there are higher chances of getting initial buy-in from stakeholders with further financial help build prototypes. A PoC may or may not be reusable, fully secure and scalable as it is used to validate the idea and its feasibility.

Key Features of PoC

  • Demonstrates feasibility and confirms potential.

  • Exposes a realistic implementation of a small portion of the whole system.

  • Less cost and time for feature validation compared to a full-scale project.

  • Gives ways to innovative ideas right in the initial stage.

  • Discloses errors, bugs, and risks involved at an early stage.

  • Gives a "yes" or "no" instantly to the viability of your project.

When Do You Need a PoC?

PoC is needed when you are not sure or are uncertain about the acceptance of the idea. It might be because you are trying to implement an original and fresh idea or you are trying to provide some cost-effective product which was earlier done with high investment. Whatever the reason is, a PoC will provide you a clear picture about whether your idea is viable or not.


“A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from” – Wikipedia

A prototype focuses on determining how the product will be done, its look and user flow. It is an important aspect of the project as it helps in understanding the fundamental project workflows, their usability, and special features to be included. It is an interactive model of the system that allows users to visualize the experience in a better manner. Though it may not be a standalone system, it does give a clear idea of how the product would look. Initial errors in study and designing can be pointed out to keep them from being in the in the final product.

Prototyping is an appreciated method of visualizing how your product will function and how it will be received by the end-user and business users. It describes the flow and gives an inclusive idea of the design and layout of your desired system. A prototype usually includes wireframes (paper, interactive), design layouts, mock-ups, and user flows. It could be a working prototype, visual prototype, user experience prototype, and functional prototype.

Key Features of a Prototype

  • Early feedback on the product.

  • Identification of mistakes in the design and development phases.

  • Increased acceptance by users owing to the visual effect.

  • Less expensive and lucrative and faster.

  • Simplifies complex ideas into an understandable format.

  • Application/System flow validation by business users.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

“A minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future product development” – Wikipedia

An MVP is a functional product that has enough features for it to be shipped to its initial set of users. Starting from a basic concept to reality, an MVP is a standalone and primary system on its own. It represents the fundamental version of your system catering to a small set of users and is offered to them for further usage and comments.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, defines an MVP as "that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."

Implementing an MVP has its own set of benefits, like sensible pricing, faster time to market, reduced risks, immediate value, minimal development costs, and augmented flexibility. The MVP process helps you verify product feasibility, team assumptions about the product, usability, and market demand. It facilitates in building a product that has minimal features and iteratively helps in building a better version of the product by leveraging end-user feedback and come up with the best decisions. Stagewise, the product evolves and offers maximum ROI with increased maturity. Here are two of the known examples that have seen success based on this model:

  • Dropbox is one of the most successful organizations, which started its venture at a small scale with an objective to establish a service all can use. They did face their own set of challenges in terms of integration with different environments, but they caught the attention of Steve Jobs and garnered a lot of funding, popularity, and success soon.

  • Uber is one of the most-used taxi apps today, all over the globe. When they started, they didn’t have most of the features that are available today. There were just bare minimum features that were offered. Gradually, they built extensive features one after the other, observing the success or failure of the previous one. That gave them a live effect of the app that their users were happy with and feedback on improvements that were needed to make it a better experience.

Key Features of MVP

  • Increased production readiness.

  • Offers right subset of features to keep users satisfied.

  • Creates value for users with continuous feedback and improvement.

  • A minimal form of your complete product.

  • Gives valuable insights to grow gradually keeping customers in mind.

  • Garners high retention with a small investment.

  • Helps in preventing wastage of time, money and efforts.

  • Set the path for increased feasibility and value.

When Do You Need An MVP?

Generally, an MVP is the right choice if you want to check the demand of your product, analyze the behavior and preference of your target audience and want to release the product in a short time with minimal features.

Key Considerations Prior to Developing an MVP, Prototype or POC

Prior to deciding whether you need to develop a prototype, PoC, or MVP, there are certain questions which need to be clearly answered and perceived. Once the answers to these questions are well understood, the decision to choose from these three is surely a correct one.

  • Who is your target audience for this product? And what is the value addition?

  • What are your validation criteria?

  • What do you want to verify?

  • What does your business really need?

  • What is your budget, time and effort estimation?

  • What is your target output in terms of functionality and production readiness?

  • Is your terminology for the project defined and discussed?

MVP, Prototype, or PoC – A Scaled Comparison

Comparison Parameters
  • Market Validation
“This should be built and will be viable” “This is how we will build it and will be used” “This is a feasible solution”
  • Cost Effectiveness
Good for projects with well-defined budgets and looking for investment Needs least budget to build a prototype Needs less budget and is apt for garnering internal funding
  • Key Objective
Gives a basic working model that can be implemented and deployed into production Offers the first look and feel of the project and can be presented to stakeholders Identifies operational feasibility of the concept and is for internal use
  • Technical Resource Involvement
Needs technical expertise since it is just like a development project in totality Needs less technical resources since there is almost no development Needs some technical expertise to the extent of developing the basic concept
  • User Interaction and Satisfaction
MVP would be best to offer a detailed insight into certain selected areas of the system The prototype would offer an overall look of the system, making the user and end-user understand how the project will proceed further Does not have much of user interaction since its mostly internally used but can develop into an MVP later
  • Target Audiences
Sizable customer groups Small audiences usually stakeholders Internal groups
  • Reusability and Legacy
The first version of a complete solution UI design (if done) can be used during development Can be worked on to make an MVP
  • Revenue Generation
Sold to early adopters Not for sale Not for sale
  • Risk Factors Associated
Minimal risks since it’s a workable product developed With limited/core features Less risk since the UI and flow is validated by client/user Risks are known and not that important as it is not for client use

When to Choose Which Method

When it comes to choosing among these three becomes quite tricky. Here is a list of certain parameters, pre-conditions, questions that can help choose which one would fit the bill.

List of Parameters / Preconditions
Which Strategy to Choose?
  • Do you need to show the customer a working product with inbuilt features?
Choose MVP
  • Do you have a plan to make money out of the product instantly?
Choose MVP
  • Do you need a perfect, bug-free product to be released for use?
Choose MVP
  • Are you keen to understand market perception and improvise your product based on that?
Choose MVP
  • Do you need high retention in a small investment?
Choose MVP
  • Do you need the seed-stage funding at an initial stage?
Choose PoC or Prototype
  • Do you want to check if an idea technically will work or not?
Choose POC
  • Is your project small and needs funding along with feasibility approval?
Choose POC
  • Are you aiming to share internal knowledge among the team, explore emerging technologies, and prove a concept to the client for their product?
Choose POC
  • Do you want to assess project or feature success before jumping into development?
Choose POC
  • Do you need to attract investors?
Each of these can be used independently or together depending on the project plan/roadmap
  • Do you want to create a visualization of how your product will function, even if there are errors permissible?
Choose Prototype
  • Do you have a limited budget and time for your project, to be shown to the stakeholders or end-user?
Choose Prototype
  • Is there limited technical resource availability?
Choose Prototype
  • Do you need an instant look and feel of your system to be able to decide how to proceed further?
Choose Prototype

The above checklist is designed to cover most possible conditions, but some organizations may feel the need for a combination of the above. In such cases, a mechanism can be worked out that can take two of them and implement them one after the other, as the situation demands.

startup ,mvb ,prototype ,poc ,agile ,enterprise ,testing

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