What is a Minimum Viable Product?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future development. These customers are the early-adopter of the product you are or will be building. They play a crucial role in validating your product’s business potential and marketability.
What is the Purpose of a Minimum Viable Product?
Eric Ries, the introducer of the concept of MVP as part of his Lean Startup methodology, describes the purpose of an MVP this way: It is the version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort.
You might choose to develop and release an MVP to:
- Release a product to the market as quickly as possible
- Test an idea with real users before committing a large budget to the product’s full development
- Learn what resonates with your target market and what doesn’t
In addition to allowing you to validate an idea for a product without building the entire product, an MVP can also help minimize the time and resources you might otherwise commit to building a product that won’t succeed.
How Do You Define Your Minimum Viable Product?
How do you actually develop a minimum viable product, and how will you know when you have an MVP that’s ready for launch? Here are a few strategic steps to take.
- Make sure your planned MVP aligns with your business objectives.
The first step in developing your MVP - is to make sure the product will align with your strategic goals.
What are those goals? Are you working toward a revenue number in the coming six months? Do you have limited resources? These questions might affect whether now is even the time to start developing a new MVP.
Also, ask what purpose this minimum viable product will serve. Will it attract new users in a market adjacent to the market for your existing products? If that is one of your current business objectives, then this MVP plan might be strategically viable.
But if your current priority is to continue focusing on your core markets, then you might need to shelve this idea and focus instead, perhaps, on an MVP designed to offer new functionality for your existing customers.
- Start identifying specific problems you want to solve or improvements you want to enable for your user persona.
Now that you’ve determined your MVP plans align with your business objectives, you can start thinking through the specific solutions you want your product to offer users. These solutions, which you might write up in the form of user stories, epics, or features, do not represent the product’s overall vision—only subsets of that vision. Remember, you can develop only a small amount of functionality for your MVP.
You will need to be strategic in deciding which limited functionality to include in your MVP. You can base these decisions on several factors, including:
- User research
- Competitive analysis
- How quickly you’ll be able to iterate on certain types of functionality when you receive user feedback
- The relative costs to implement the various user stories or epics
- Translate your MVP functionality into a plan of development action.
Now that you’ve weighed the strategic elements above and settled on the limited functionality you want for your MVP, it’s time to translate this into an action plan for development.
In conclusion, it’s important to keep in mind the V in MVP—the product must be viable. That means it must allow your customers to complete an entire task or journey, and it must provide a high-quality user experience. An MVP cannot be a user interface with many half-built tools and features. It must be a working product that you should be able to sell.