POC vs Prototype vs MVP: Which one to choose?

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Establishing a proper business approach is one of the most important tasks you can accomplish – the choice will heavily influence how your company operates in the future.

As you try to shape your company into the ideal image you have in mind, you will first need to confirm your product’s viability in order to attract sponsors and investors. To do this, company owners often use one of three tools: Proof of Concept (POC), a Prototype, or a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP is one of the oldest dilemmas in many industries – which approach is the best one? While there is no definitive answer to that question, there are pros and cons for each one, depending on your needs, type of product, and target audience.

Which one will be the best for you? Keep reading to find out!

Software product viability - why is it so important to establish?

Almost 90% of all startups fail, even if they had a groundbreaking idea. The key to achieving success is assessing product viability – and sharing that viability with potential investors. But what exactly is viability?

Software product viability can be broken down into three components:

  • Is my product profitable?
  • Is my product implementable?
  • Is my product scalable?

Profitability, implementability, and scalability are three of the most important features of any new software product. In order for the development process to even make sense, you’ll need your potential product to be profitable first. The difficulty of implementation will significantly influence the speed of dissemination and user-base growth. Finally, a good software product needs to be scalable in order to allow for future growth opportunities.

Now we know the components of a viable product, but how can we check how viable a given product actually is? This is where POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP comes in.

POC, Prototype, MVP - what are the three renowned approaches to establishing viability?

Proof of concept (POC) is probably the simplest and most common of the three approaches, often chosen by fresh startups as a way of turning an idea into a product. A POC showcases a part of your product, validating a crucial feature that might raise concerns among investors. With a POC, you show them why your product is a solution to a given problem, and how exactly it works. A proof of concept should contain at least a partially laid-out design concept and working methods – it saves time, gives you crucial information about your product, and can be of great help when attracting investments.

When prototyping, you’re trying to create an accurate representation of a product – a schematic, wireframe, or a working implementation of a specific feature of your software. Building a prototype might give you and your investors a better understanding of how the final product will look and function, shedding light on user experience and UI. Wireframing is one of the most common practices used to create prototypes – it allows you to create a high-quality visual representation of your product that’s easy to understand and is especially popular in the mobile app market.

The last approach, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP for short), requires a bit more effort – it is all about creating an actual functioning product with a minimum number of working features that allow an end user to actually experience the software. Creating an MVP can provide you with valuable feedback and can be tested by actual users, letting you know what they like and what they expect your product to turn into. It’s a useful tool for attracting your first users, even before your product is finished.

POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP - when to choose each approach?

Depending on the state of your product’s development, different approaches might suit you better. Also, it’s worth noting that POC, Prototype, and MVP should not be considered a definitive choice of one over the others – it can be more beneficial to use all of them in a certain order.

If you haven’t started the development process yet, the best idea might be to start with a POC, proceed with a prototype, and finish with an MVP. One of the most important benefits of such an approach is the complex verification of your application’s viability. Testing your product through all three stages gives it more reliable approval, reassuring your investors that there is nothing to worry about.

Proof of concept

If you’ve already entered the idea validation stage, your best choice might depend on several factors. If you’re in need of immediate funding, viable product assessment, and technical-side verification, creating a Proof of Concept first might be your best bet. If you want to create a schematic that will show exactly how your product will function, but you have limited resources and lack technical expertise at your company at the moment, creating a simple wireframe prototype might be a better idea. Finally, if you want to show your product to end users, want immediate profits, and want to depend on user perception to improve your app, going with a Minimum Viable Product should do the trick.

One of the factors to consider when deciding on a given approach is cost. The prototype can be expensive, and is usually thrown away. PoC, on the other hand, is already a good foundation on which you can build an MVP, for example.

POC vs. Prototype vs. MVP debate - quick summary

The concept of viability and how to test it might seem a little complicated, especially with the tools to confirm it being so similar to each other. Let’s go over a couple of key points:

  • A POC is not the same as a prototype. In fact, they’re fundamentally different. A POC is a simple design or programming concept, with little or no actual software to show, while a prototype needs to at least contain a skeleton of your future app.
  • While a POC is a simple concept, an MVP is a functional app – albeit with a very limited set of features.
  • Finally, while a prototype and an MVP might look similar, the former is designed for internal testing and showcasing, while the latter is ready to be published for a limited number of end users.

Still can’t decide which approach is the best one for you? Leave your contact details and we’ll be happy to provide a free consultation with our experts. Together, we’ll establish the best course of action for you and prepare your product to enter the market.

Wojciech Czujowski - Scalo

Wojciech Czujowski
Head of Program and Project Management
An expert in the field of project management, with software engineering background, working according to Agile values. His portfolio includes R&D projects of embedded systems and software for industries such as consumer electronics, mobile and financial services. Vice-chairman of the Council of the Lower Silesian Regional Group of the International Project Management Association (IPMA). At Scalo, shares the responsibility of the company’s technological development and project management standards.

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