Unfortunately “Proof of Concept” (POC), “Prototype”, and “Pilot” are used interchangeably, though I think they mean different things and serve very different functions.
Successful projects should implement all of these consciously/deliberately. There should be a process around how we apply them, how we collect results from them and how we apply the results in the decisions we make.
Proof of Concept (PoC)
A Proof of Concept (POC) is a small exercise to test a discrete design idea or assumption.
For example, If we have two systems which need to communicate with each other through a developer might develop a simple “Hello World” type application to test if this communication works. The focus is not performance, scalability or fault tolerance.
in PoC just test the viability of an idea!
A Prototype is a more fleshed out system that tries to simulate the full system. Prototypes are used to test the viability or usefulness of a system or subsystem. The idea is to provide an experience to the end user to be able to visualize the experience of using the complete system
Depending on what you are testing, you will have prototypes with different level of capabilities.
Key point about building prototypes is that if you have spent time and money building it then you got to use it. Take it to customers, take their feedback, incorporate it!
Pilot, is often a full production system with a goal to see how the product will be used by users and to refine the product before a broad market push. Pilot should be all about Metrics Metris Metrics!!!
Before starting a pilot, you should know why you are doing it, what do you want to measure, how will you measure it, how will you collect the data. A good product manager should have a plan to incorporate enhancement ideas based on the data coming back from the pilot.
POCs, Prototypes, and Pilots are all important part of implementing a good product. With the right process and clear goals a good product manager should incorporate POCs, Prototypes, and Pilots in their product roadmaps.