Minimal Viable Product: The Leaner, Meaner Approach to Digital Product Development
No matter how great your idea, no matter how much you will think it adds to your business or has potential profitability, YOU are not really the final decision maker here, your CUSTOMER is. And as much as you might think you know what your customers want, none of us can ever be sure until the customers themselves have spoken. This is why it is so critical to get product development into the hands of our customers as quickly as possible before we devote great resources and time going down a path that might be wrong. This is where Minimal Viable Product comes in.
Minimal Viable Product (MVP) offers a development technique in which a new product, application or website is developed with the basic features to satisfy early adopters and then feedback is collected from the product's initial users before the final, complete set of features is designed and developed. Minimal Viable Product is a key component of lean methodologies, in part because it creates the build-measure-learn feedback loop that is so helpful in creating responsive applications.
Minimal Viable Product (MVP) Validates Ideas & Products Faster & Cheaper
Even with the best ideas for digital product development, we really can’t know which features and functions will most resonate with users. If we don’t bring users into the process, we risk spending months, even years and so much money designing and building a product or application with a very uncertain future. Conversely, Minimal Viable Product development is quicker (as few as 90 days), cheaper (costs a fraction of standard development to get to MVP), reduces unnecessary risk, and is far more likely to help you develop a product that customers actually want.
The Minimum Viable Product Process
Tomes have been written about MVP, what it accomplishes, what it should look like, how it works, so let’s focus in on the basics. Research tells us that well over 50% of features in software products are rarely or never used. How much money and time are we putting in to areas of product development that no one really cares about? MVP allows us to get a green light from users BEFORE we completely build out an idea.
Through the investigation process we learn about stakeholders. We identify users. We learn about goals and needs. It is here that we ask a LOT of questions. What problems are we solving? What need are we creating? What questions are we answering?
In this step, we generate a lot of ideas and then we sort through them for the best place to start. We prioritize core features that should be included in the MVP. This is one of those instances where not everything can be important. The whole point of MVP is ‘minimal.’ Remember other features and functionality can be added, later. It is here that we decide on architecture and our technology stack. The right technology stack and architecture (our map) will put us on the directionally correct path even if we aren’t 100% certain where we are headed. We uncover the potential issues of the project at hand and possible solutions.
We get started! The only caveat here is to resist the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ style of development. Often developers get started and get a burst of ideas for more and better and we have to write it down for later and rein in the impulse to make it bigger. It is here that we produce something tangible. With our hands firmly in the project, we begin to identify and wrestle with technical constraints. We identify challenges and ways to best move through them.
After initial prototyping, we assess our progress. What problems have been uncovered and what solutions make the most sense. We determine our next steps and make any critical changes. Then we test, test, test.
In the Build-Measure-Learn path of the MVP we must get the product into the hands of your users. Whether you have an existing user group or create a beta version, the idea is to get your MVP into the hands of users who can give you the much needed information about where to go next. We use the MVP build-measure-learn feedback loop to understand how users are interacting with your product and if it is in line with what you expected.
We Use the Information to Get Better
How often do you get something right the first try? Not as often as anyone would like right? So don’t be discouraged if what we learn tells us to alter the path or choose a different route. Minimum Viable Product is a process that by it’s nature is iterative. The whole idea is to make sure we are on the right track BEFORE we devote major resources to something, so it’s normal to take a few wrong turns before we finally hit on the path where we are most likely to find the winning formula.
Do you have an idea or a project you are ready to get started on? Do you have questions about what your next step is? At STATEMENT, we help businesses just like yours turn ideas into products in as little as 90 days. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us here.