Proof of Concept vs. Prototype vs. Pilot

Introducing a new tool or framework into your business means revamping existing processes, changing existing integrations, training your users. It requires a lot of hassle. Therefore you want to make sure the new technology is meeting all expectations. How do you ensure that? By creating Proof of Concept (POC), then Prototype, running a Pilot project, and eventually going-life. POC, Prototype, and Pilot mean different things but often are used interchangeably. Let’s investigate different meanings to help us avoid mismatches of expectations in the future. This time there is less text, more drawings.

POC vs. Prototype vs. Pilot vs. Production

Shoaib Ahmed did a fantastic overview of characteristics, differences, a scope of each evaluation method. You can find it here. There is an excellent comparison of Prototype and MVP on [Quora] (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-a-prototype-and-a-minimum-viable-product-MVP).

Below is my understanding of differences on POC, Prototype, Pilot and Production.

Main picture

Bubble sizes represent associated costs. For POC and Prototype, we can use evaluation versions of the associated software. Pilot and Production require huge investments.

Proof of Concept (POC)

A small exercise to test a discrete design idea or assumption. The primary objective is to prove that an idea is viable. An example of a POC is testing whether one technology talks to another. Or is a folded sheet of paper able to fly :)

Prototype

A solution that tries to simulate the full system or at least a material part of it. While a POC shows that a product or feature can be done, a prototype shows how it will be done. A prototype may provide some re-usable components that can be re-used in a pilot or production version. However, it is also possible that it will be more efficient to re-do most or all of the system.

Pilot

Another name for Pilot is MVP (Minimum Viable Product). A Pilot uses the full production system and tests it against a subset of the general intended audience. The reason for doing a pilot is to get a better understanding of how the product will be used in the field and to refine the product.

Summary

These three techniques can be utilized as a quick and less expensive way to validate a technology/framework/product. While working on new technologies, it’s worth to be skeptical about all the promises and features you find in the documentation. Give it a spin by creating a quick POC or a Prototype.

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