The Minimum Viable Product approach (MVP)

An MVP approach to product development is an ongoing, iterative development process. It is important to understand the concept of MVP as you are defining your product, as this will define both your first release and the ongoing product development.

What is an MVP?

An MVP is the minimum level of functionality required to deliver enough value for customers to adopt the product. It stands alone as a solution and delivers value to the customer.

The image below is a great, simple example of how an MVP approach works. The customer is articulating a pain in that it takes too long to get from A to B. The “how not to build an MVP” shows small parts of a long term product being delivered, but these never deliver value to the customer until the car is delivered in full. The “how to build a MVP” shows a series of differing products that solve the user pain point at every stage with iterative improvements.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Why take an MVP approach?

Taking an MVP approach to development is about managing risk and getting market fit; it helps to manage the challenge of building the right product for your customer. You might build a 4X4 when your customers wants a Smart car.

The overarching benefits of an MVP are:

1. The value gained from the application is realised earlier and across the product development process.

The customer can start to get around as soon as the skateboard is made, they can get from  A to B faster than they could. 

2. Focuses the definition of the base solution to meet the core customer pains and needs first.

You are not trying to define the whole car but concentrating on how a user can get from A to B.

3. Validates that the product you are building resonates with your customers while keeping the “at risk” capital to a minimum.

You are not building a whole car to find your customers never leave their house; you would have learnt this with the skateboard.

4. Allows subsequent versions of the product to keep up with the fast paced digital market and the corresponding user expectations.

The mode of transport is not important, the user just wants to get from A to B. Your product needs to adapt to changes in available technology.

5. User feedback can be used to continue to evolve the product over the subsequent releases.

I don’t feel stable on the scooter” , “ I am not going quickly enough and I want to sit down”, “I want to travel further, but I get too tired”, ”This is great but I get wet when it rains.” Every step the feedback can be used to define the next phase of your MVP.

The aim of adopting a MVP approach to development of a mobile product is to move the product quickly into market and continually assess product market fit; ensuring the right product is being built. Understanding exactly what will drive value to the user, as well as which features drive the most value or are used the most often is important. It is also essential to understand the prioritisation of functionality to help define the MVP and then to ensure that additional functionality is surfaced in the right way and in the right iteration of the product.

Alongside the development of a MVP, a Product Roadmap should be created to guide the direction of the product, setting out the long term goal of the product and the releases that are required to achieve this. It also allows you to capture ideas for future development without losing focus on the current product iteration. It is important to understand that each release is required to meet the needs of the user outlined in the product definition, or it will not achieve adoption.

by Marcus Carter, Mobile Strategy Consultant

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