We generally get people using these terms interchangeably but they all refer to very different things.
We'll look at a fictional concept of an equipment lifter for an ambulance. A load of 100kg must be lifted on and off an ambulance (separate from the stretcher).
POC or Proof-of-Concept
A POC is meant to answer, "Can it be built?"
Whatever you build in this phase will be very crude and consists of the main ingredients needed to show that the idea can be built. You will be neglecting user experience, connectivity and security issues.
It's important to define success and set measurable deliverables.
You will also be able to gain more clarity on the problem and your chosen solution. Be prepared to change your approach.
For our equipment lifter, some research shows similar concepts have been built and are used in various other (similar) areas. Additional research must be done to show that the necessary equipment will be able to fit within the small confines of an ambulance. Most of the parts identified are standard components that have been used in industry for many years.
We built a Computer-Aided Design Model on Autodesk Fusion 360 to work out if there was enough space to fit the necessary components. We also have to ensure the ambulance has the enough power to run the equipment lifter.
A prototype is meant to answer, "How do we build it? and How will it work?"
You can choose to built fully functional or visual prototypes.
Prototypes are very important to help you secure your first customers (and get user feedback) and first investors. It will also help you to identity gaps in the user experience.
In the case of our equipment lifter, we will create a semi-functional prototype consisting of some of the large moving components. This allowed us to improve on the user experience and also do live demonstrations (if necessary).
Minimum Viable Product or MVP
With a MVP, you are trying to answer the question "Will people buy it?" Once you have early adopters, you can then improve on the product as you go along.
MVPs must take into account core functionality and usage. If you are going to build an IOT device but it was not secure, this would create more problems down the road. The MVP, in this case, must have a basic level of connectivity and security.
In the case of our ambulance equipment lifter, it was sufficient to draw up concepts and make some videos. We could then use this information to contact various hospitals (and the transport departments) to gauge their interest in such a product.
POC, Prototype or MVP? - Which do I build?
Start with a PoC when:
You want to create a unique, revolutionary product
You need to verify if the idea is technically possible
You need to decide which technology is more suitable for your product
You want to share technical knowledge within the team
Start with a prototype when:
You want to visualize the flow
You need to secure seed-stage funding
You want to get preliminary feedback from focus groups
You have a tight deadline to showcase your idea
Start with an MVP when:
You want early users to help you assess market reception
You need to start quickly at a reasonable development cost
You want to monetize your idea rapidly
You want to mitigate the risk of failure
The above is a direct quote from Techmagic's article on POC, Prototype and MVP.
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