Minimum Viable Product

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DEFINITION:

Minimum Viable Product

A Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) is a product that can be commercialised (released to the market) with just enough features to satisfy early customers (early adopters), and to provide feedback and insights for future product development. Gathering feedback and insights from an MVP is often less expensive than developing a product with more features, which increases costs and risk if the product fails, for example, due to incorrect assumptions. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback and insights from the product’s initial users.

MVP is a popular concept in the digital business space, where a website and app are launched with basic features to find out how consumers respond. The idea is to start small and then take cues from the users as to what exactly they are expecting from the product (The Economic Times, 2018)

BACKGROUND

The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson about 2001, then Eric Ries (a consultant and writer on startups) and Steve Blank (a Silicon Valley entrepreneur) are some of those of who popularised the concept. Some of Eric Ries’ books relevant to the subject:

Eric Ries’ book – The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses:

Steve Blank’s book – The Four Steps to the Epiphany:

Since the rapid development of new technologies, demands from customers and changing economic conditions led to the growing pace of transformation in the business environment. Business are facing new challenges for market entry and create competitive advantage.

There was a growing need for a new way to launch a product into the market which would speed up the process as much as possible while still cutting related costs to an absolute minimum.

The idea of Minimum Viable Product was developed as an important part of “Lean Startups” (add an Amazon affiliate link) as something that helped businesses to “make better, faster business decisions, while being less wasteful and still doing things that are big”.

This type of product comes with only the most necessary features to get money and feedback from early adopters. Minimum Viable Product is thus a new alternative to a standard product launch process in which a company already starts to charge money for a product still in the test mode launch stage instead of doing so in the commercial launch stage.

“Instead of spending years perfecting our technology, we build a minimum viable product, an early product that is terrible, full of bugs, and crash-your-computer-yes-really stability problems. Then we ship it to customers way before it’s ready. And we charge money for it. After securing initial customers, we change the product constantly—much too fast by traditional standards—shipping a new version of our product dozens of times every single day.” Eric Ries (Entrepreneur Hanbook, 2018)

CHARACTERISTICS

A Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) has four key characteristics:

  • It has enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially.
  • It demonstrates enough future benefit to retain early adopters.
  • It has enough to make a solution unique.
  • It provides a feedback loop to guide future development.

The catch to this development technique is that it assumes that early adopters can see the vision or promise of the final product and provide the valuable feedback needed to guide developers forward.

This suggests that technically orientated products used by technical users may not be the most appropriate for this type of development technique (Forbes, 2018). 

PURPOSES

  • Test the REAL demand for a product – before releasing a full-fledged product.
  • Be able to test a product hypothesis with minimal resources.
  • Accelerate learning.
  • Reduce wasted engineering hours.
  • Get the product to early customers as soon as possible.
  • Base for other product developments.
  • To establish a builder’s abilities in crafting the product required.
  • Release a product to market in the shortest time.
  • Gain valuable insight on what works and what doesn’t work.
  • Work directly with your clients and analyse their behaviours and preferences.
  • Gather and enhance your user base.
  • Make money while developing a product

THINGS TO WATCH

  • Even though the concept of a minimum valuable product might seem simple, some entrepreneurs still misunderstand its idea. In their chase for the perfect product, some companies lose focus on the core value and try to include every single feature. An MVP becomes overloaded with features and a company loses its money and fails to succeed.
  • Another mistake is to overdo filtering the product features and to cut out product key and/or unique functions. It’s important to understand that “a basic set of features” doesn’t mean releasing a crude product. The idea is to provide users with a valuable and working product that will allow customers to complete the whole journey and achieve their goals. Then more features can gradually be added to it.
  • Moving from “Minimum Viable Product” to “Minimum Valuable Product”. A Minimum Viable Product in a product development is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. This concept promises real value with minimal financial risk. But often the concept is misused and used interchangeably with Minimum Valuable Product. A Minimum Viable Product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The result is a skewed attention on features rather than value and a focus on technological capabilities rather than user needs. And without a focus on what users actually need, how can the Minimum Viable Product deliver any value?

“Usability should not be confused with ‘functionality’, however, as this is purely concerned with the functions and features of the product and has no bearing on whether users are able to use them or not. Increased functionality does not mean improved usability.”(Fransgaard, 15).

The risk of focusing too heavily on features is a pilot solution that isn’t relevant to the users. Not only is it a waste of effort, it returns little valuable insight to inform the next iteration of the product.

… it has to be a valuable product:

  • Valuable to the User
  • Valuable to the Project
  • Valuable to the Business

(Fransgaard, 15)

“The golden rule here is that each extra features or each new release of your MVP should offer a better solution for your customers: solve their problems faster and better.” (Forbes, 2018). 

REFERENCES:

  • Entrepreneur Handbook (2018) Start a business, What is a minimum viable product (MVP)? [Online Available: https://entrepreneurhandbook.co.uk/minimum-viable-product/ [Accessed: 28 November 2018].

  • Fransgaard, R., (2015) From Minimum Viable Product to Minimum Valuable Product [Online] Available:
    https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2015/07/minimum-viable-to-minimum-valuable-product.html [Accessed: 1 December 2018]
  • Forbes (2018) What Is A Minimum Viable Product, And Why Do Companies Need Them? [Online] Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/02/27/what-is-a-minimum-viable-product-and-why-do-companies-need-them/#6e7b2a7a382c [Accessed: 29 November 2018].

  • The Economics Times (2018) salesforce. Definition of ‘Minimum Viable Product [Online] Available: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/minimum-viable-product [Accessed: 20 November2018].

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NB: The rapid changes that comes from digital technologies, marketing and business mean definitions are forever changing. Please feel free to join the conversation.« Back to Glossary Index

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