Navigating Proof Of Concepts And Minimal Viable Products: Insights From Leighton's On:tech Event

Issue 101

Featuring: Steve Morland (CTO at Leighton), Manila McLean (CIO at Newcastle Building Society), Peter Wilson (Vault Engineer at HashiCorp), Naomi Allen-Seales, (Investment Manager at Northstar Ventures) and Mark Saunders (Technical Lead at Greggs).

Leighton’s most recent on:tech event explored the intricacies of navigating proof of concepts (POCs) and minimum viable products (MVPs). The panel discussion, moderated by Steve Morland, CTO at Leighton, shed light on the challenges, strategies, and insights crucial for successful product development.

POCs versus MVPs: what’s the difference?

In our experience at Leighton, the terms POC and MVP are used interchangeably depending on the stakeholders and the situation. As Steve explained: “Sometimes a POC will actually bean MVP, and an MVP will end up in production very quickly.” The difference, Mark explained, is the scope of activity: “A POC tends to have a smaller scope and aims to see if new technology, a new piece of hardware or a new approach to something is worth it.

Essentially is the juice worth the squeeze? An MVP is more about getting something ready for full production and getting something in the hands of the user.”

But as Manila explained, a POC or MVP doesn’t just have to be about technology: “It can be a service, an operating model or a piece of technology.”

Beyond POCs and MVPs

When it comes to developing POCs or MVPs, Manila explained there’s a difference between ‘project’ and ‘product’ mentality which can be heavily influenced by the culture of the business you’re in and can impact the success of the product. She said: “I think there needs to be a mindset shift – a lot of business stakeholders are cautious about launching with MVPs. They need to trust the concept of launching MVPs with a plan for continuous improvement behind them. It can often feel like you’re like right, that’s done, let’s move on to the next big project, but you need to have support and investment for continuous evolution, or your MVP is going to fail.”

Peter added that it’s important to think about the level of support you’re going to put into the product: “How are you going to support the product? How are you going to market it? Is the MVP enough to sell to a user group? It’s all well and good getting an engineering team to build a POC, but beyond that, you need to make sure your product team, support team and marketing team are all behind it too if you want to take it from POC to MVP.”

Investment perspective: it’s all about proof of value

When developing a product, although it can be easy to get caught between proof of concepts or minimal viable products, Naomi suggested that perhaps businesses, especially start-ups or scale-ups, should be thinking about proof of value. She explained: “If you’re looking for investment, the most important thing to investors is that you have a strong potential user base for your product. We’re probably more likely to invest at that typical ‘MVP’ stage, but really, we’re looking at your potential customer base and revenue streams to understand how much value the product is going to provide and how it is going to be paid for as well as your product roadmap and scalability to determine if we’ll get a return on investment.”

Balancing innovation with technical debt

When it comes to balancing innovation with technical debt, our panellists explored the trade-offs involved in making compromises during product development to ensure scalability, security and maintainability whilst navigating the complexities of technical debt.

As Naomi explains: “Some of the issues you might see at that early stage of innovation is over-engineering and not listening to the feedback. The point of the MVP is to get something out quickly at the lowest possible cost and to ensure it is viable and scalable.”

Mark added: “You’re going to have to make some compromises. You’re going to have to cut corners. The POC gives you the opportunity to find out what you can and can’t compromise on technically, but don’t compromise on the things that can ensure scalability.”

To end, Naomi added: “Balance the resource needed with the pay off at the end. If it looks like it won’t have return, leave it alone” or in Manila’s words: “Fail fast and move on.”

Navigating POCs and MVPs requires a balance of innovation, strategic planning, and continuous iteration. As our panellists demonstrated at on:tech, by understanding the nuances between POCs and MVPs, embracing a product mindset, aligning investment strategies with proof of value, and carefully managing technical debt, businesses can pave the way for successful product development.

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