A startup that can answer why it is developing a product is more likely to succeed than one that doesn’t have a clear idea. Solving a real problem is at the heart of product success. Correctly solving that problem almost ensures it. A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is an effective tool to ensure that you are doing the right thing the right way as an innovator, a startup founder, or a business leader.
Almost all successful digital era companies tell you the story of launching a minimal version of their products that still address critical problem areas for the customers. Amazon’s first version was a simple website that allowed people to buy only books. Airbnb founders only offered rooms in their own houses to guests. Spotify only focused on the most crucial feature of their service, music streaming. Instagram simply allowed users to upload a photo, apply a filter, and share it with their friends. DropBox and Buffer went one step ahead. Dropbox only released a product video first, and then based on the audience feedback, went on to build the product. Buffer only had a landing page and subscription plan details. They collected feedback from the users who subscribed to their waiting list and collected feedback via email. What they learned from these small beginnings fuelled what they built subsequently. They learned from user feedback, observations, and experimentation. Such feedback, observations, and experimentation represent the crux of the MVPs.
What Is A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
The word minimum can be misleading. By no means does it signify an inferior or incomplete product?
An effective MVP should enable you to release a product that is focused on solving the customer problem effectively and efficiently, yet, at the same time, should give you a competitive advantage. While iPhone 2G had fewer features than later releases, it still brought together telephony, internet browsing, and entertainment to enhance the customer experience in every way imaginable. The market validated the idea, and the rest is history.
Why Do You Need Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
In its simplest form, the MVP provides an opportunity to assess how the customers would respond to your idea. Additionally, they also offer you an unparalleled opportunity to leverage double-loop learning. A single-loop learning style involves using efficient methods, tools, and processes to achieve the desired outcome. Double-loop learning lets you validate the objective and ensure that you are chasing the right goal. It allows you to decide where you should focus and areas of your products that might not provide adequate Returns on Investment (ROI).
When done right, MVPs also allow you to put three of five factors of influence and persuasion outlined by Cialdini, Reciprocity, Social Proof, and Commitment. These factors, put together, plant the seeds of your eventual success.
Characteristics of A Good MVP
1. Aligned With Business
An elevator pitch is a concise and effective way of expressing what you are building, why you are making it, and how you will create it. Therefore, a good MVP aligns with your elevator pitch. Of course, there are other characteristics, but being true to itself is the most critical requirement for a good MVP. It is crucial to avoid the temptation to build as many features as possible before taking your product to customers.
2. Prioritized for Customers
When prioritizing feature sets, identify which ones best address the customer’s needs. Then, focus on building the most valuable features first. Finally, balance the primary customer value criteria with risk, cost, technical capabilities, and other constraints you must have. There are many prioritization techniques and tools that can help you do that, and we might describe those in another article in the future.
3. Iterative and Incremental
While MVP is generally a one-time event before you launch the product, it still involves iterating through customer feedback, implementing it in the product, and then re-evaluating the user response in small batches. Therefore, you will need to consider what features you want to include in the release you bring to the customers every time. Minimum Business Increment (MBI) signifies the smallest amount of value that you can release aligned with the overall business strategy and provides more excellent value than what was available to the customers earlier.
Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are great tools to ensure that you are progressing in the right direction quickly. Speed is paramount, as the early feedback can provide early course correction if needed. This need for speed means that your product architecture and design should support quick modifications and additions. To achieve this, you must learn the art of maximizing the amount of work not done. When you master this art, you reduce waste and optimize your benefits by doing the right things the right way. That is the value of an MVP.