How to Conduct a Proof of Concept
A Proof of Concept (PoC) demonstration is the process by which a company tests out the veracity and achievability of a proposed task or process....
A Proof of Concept (PoC) demonstration is the process by which a company tests out the veracity and achievability of a proposed task or process. They’re often free to the client, except for whatever supportive resources the team needs to perform the task at hand, and are often short in duration. A PoC usually only takes about a week or two of your time before providing you with an actionable result, though exact times will depend on the complexity of the project at hand.
As a software testing company, most of our PoCs are to demonstrate test automation techniques and methodologies to a client, but performance testing sometimes receives the PoC treatment as well. Because last week we explored what goes into a good PoC from the perspective of the organization performing one (especially our fellow software testers), we thought it may be helpful to also provide some insight on the process of requesting and receiving a PoC.
When a PoC is possible, it can provide benefits to both the clients and the company providing it, offering both parties a deeper understanding of the undertaking, its costs, and its benefits.
When should I perform a Proof of Concept?
There are a few concerns that should be considered when determining whether or not to complete a PoC. First of all, have you performed a similar process to what you’re embarking on before? If so, a PoC may not be necessary, or it may be possible to limit the scope of the project using what you learned or gained from the related project. If your organization has not performed one, consider asking the company you are considering if they have any case studies of similar projects that you could look over to gain a better understanding of what will be required first. Secondly, how much of your internal resources are you willing to commit to the PoC? Determining this information beforehand will save a lot of hassle down the road, and we’ll soon cover some examples of resources you may be expected to provide.
These two considerations will determine exactly how much of an investment the PoC will be for both organizations. For example, one PoC we performed for a prospective client meant that we had to devote three of our test engineers to the client, and they had to devote workspace and resources to those testers for two or three weeks while they performed the PoC. This is in stark contrast to those PoCs we performed for clients who were looking to execute a simpler task and which can sometimes only take a day or two of working offsite from our own offices to produce the desired results.
Resources to earmark for your Proof of Concept:
- Time, anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks
- Space in your office, if applicable
- Some amount of access to your system, talent, and company information
- Any necessary technical or physical materials- everything from technical documentation to printer paper
When Requesting or Receiving a PoC:
- Understand what resources you will be expected to provide.
- Determine what the end result/benefit will be for you as well as to those performing the PoC.
- Make sure that you are serious about the necessity of this project; typically PoCs are requested and completed by companies who are already mostly certain that the process will be necessary, and just need to be convinced of the best method to accomplish it. If you’re still in planning phases, it may be better to wait on a PoC until further down the road.
- For some projects, it may be good to ask the company for examples of other times they have performed similar tasks, as mentioned above; while every organization is different and reading case studies certainly won’t negate the necessity of a PoC, it can be insightful and add expedience to the process if you go into it knowing what to expect.
Is a Proof of Concept going to be helpful for your current project? That depends greatly on the details of the project itself. Keep in mind that there are some projects where a PoC just might not be possible; some tasks can’t really be demonstrated or tested without performing the actual task itself, which most companies (testing or otherwise) will probably be resistant to executing for free or at a small cost. However, when a PoC is possible, it can provide benefits to both the clients and the company providing it, offering both parties a deeper understanding of the undertaking, its costs, and its benefits.