What is a MVP. Minimum viable product

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to attract early customers and validate a product idea early in the product development cycle. In industries like software, an MVP can help the product team receive user feedback as quickly as possible to iterate and improve the product.

Since agile methodology is about validating and iterating products based on user input, the MVP plays a central role in agile development.

The Purpose of a Minimum Viable Product

Eric Ries, who introduced the MVP concept as part of his Lean Startup methodology, describes the purpose of an MVP as follows: It’s the version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

MVPs can help to:

  • Validate product idea hypotheses with real-world data.
  • Reduce time to market for new feature releases.
  • Quickly deliver value to early adopters. The MVP is the shortest path that delivers the most value to your early customers while generating learnings for you.
  • Test your product’s market fit before building a complete product.
  • Gather viable data on user behavior to shape future product initiatives and market strategies. MVPs can be used as a leading component in your product prioritization process to help make data-driven decisions.
  • Grow a pre-launch user base.
  • Eliminate waste, save money, and time that would otherwise be spent on unfruitful ideas.

Expected Benefits

The primary benefit of an MVP is that you can understand your customers’ interest in your product without fully developing the product. The sooner you can discover whether your product will attract customers, the less effort and expense you’ll spend on a product that may not succeed in the market.

Common Challenges

Teams often use the term MVP but don’t fully understand its intended use or meaning. This misunderstanding can manifest as the belief that an MVP is the least amount of functionality they can deliver, without the additional criterion of being enough to learn about the business viability of the product.

Teams may also confuse an MVP – which focuses on learning – with a Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF) or Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) – which focuses on profit. There isn’t too much harm in this unless the team becomes too focused on delivering something without considering if it’s the right thing that meets the customer’s needs.

Teams emphasize the “minimum” part of MVP at the expense of the “viable” part. The delivered product doesn’t have enough quality to provide an accurate assessment of whether customers will use the product.

Teams deliver what they consider an MVP, and then make no further changes to that product, regardless of the feedback they receive about it.

Potential Cost

Proper use of an MVP means that a team might drastically change a product they deliver to their customers or abandon the product altogether based on the feedback they receive from their customers. The minimal aspect of the MVP encourages teams to do the least amount of work necessary to obtain useful feedback (Eric Ries refers to this as validated learning), which helps them avoid working on a product that nobody wants.

Defining a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

1. Ensure Your Planned MVP Aligns with Your Business Goals

Before considering which features to build, the first step in MVP development is ensuring the product aligns with your team’s or company’s strategic objectives. This involves understanding your goals, such as revenue targets or resource limitations, which might affect whether it’s the right time to start developing a new MVP. Also, consider the purpose of the MVP – for instance, attracting new users in a market adjacent to your existing products. If this aligns with your current business objectives, the MVP plan could be strategically viable.

2. Identify Specific Problems You Want to Solve or Improvements You Want to Enable for Your User

After aligning your MVP plans with your business goals, start thinking about the specific solutions your product should offer users. These solutions should be broken down into user stories, epics, or features. Remember, you can only develop a limited amount of functionality for your MVP. Be strategic in deciding which limited functionalities to include, based on factors like user research, competitor analysis, how quickly you can iterate on certain types of functionalities, and the relative costs of implementing various user stories or epics.

3. Turn Your MVP Functionality into a Development Action Plan

With the above strategic elements considered and your limited functionality decided, it’s time to translate this into an action plan for development. Remember, the “V” in MVP stands for viable. It means the product should enable your customers to complete a full task or project and provide a high-quality user experience. An MVP should not be a user interface with many half-built tools and features; it should be a functioning product that your company could potentially sell.

Examples of MVP

Certainly! Let’s delve a bit deeper into these examples of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) to understand how they started and evolved:

1. Airbnb

  • Origin: The concept for Airbnb emerged when its founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, rented out air mattresses in their apartment to attendees of a big conference in San Francisco when hotels were overbooked.
  • MVP: They created a basic website that listed their apartment with photos and information. This simple platform allowed them to test their idea – whether people would book a private residence for short-term stays.
  • Evolution: The success with their initial offering led to the expansion of the platform, eventually turning Airbnb into a global marketplace for rental accommodations.

2. Foursquare:

  • Origin: Foursquare was developed to turn location-based check-ins into a game.
  • MVP: The MVP consisted of just the core functionality – allowing users to check into locations via their mobile phones and earn rewards or badges.
  • Evolution: As the user base grew, Foursquare expanded its features to include city guides, recommendations, and more social networking features, leveraging the data they collected from check-ins.

3. Dropbox:

  • Origin: Drew Houston, the co-founder of Dropbox, was frustrated by frequently forgetting his USB drive and saw the need for an easy-to-use file-sharing solution.
  • MVP: Instead of building the complete product, Houston produced a simple but effective video demonstrating how Dropbox works. This video was targeted at tech-savvy users who immediately understood the product’s value.
  • Evolution: The video generated significant interest, leading to thousands signing up for the beta version. Dropbox has since grown into a comprehensive cloud storage solution used globally.

4. Facebook:

  • Origin: Mark Zuckerberg initially created Facebook (then called Thefacebook) to connect Harvard University students.
  • MVP: The MVP was a simple social networking site exclusively for Harvard students, allowing them to post messages and connect with fellow students.
  • Evolution: Facebook’s popularity quickly spread to other universities and eventually to the general public, evolving into the world’s largest social network with various features like News Feed, Marketplace, and Groups.

5. Uber:

  • Origin: Uber was conceived to solve the problem of getting a ride in busy metropolitan areas.
  • MVP: Initially named UberCab, the MVP was a simple mobile app allowing users in San Francisco to book a ride from their phone. It worked only on iPhones or via SMS.
  • Evolution: After proving the model worked in San Francisco, Uber expanded to other cities and countries, evolving into a comprehensive ride-sharing and logistics platform.

6. Credituti:

  • Origin: Created for one of Dazzet’s clients, Credituti was aimed at validating the market for specific microloans.
  • MVP: A basic WordPress site with a contact form was set up to see if there was a market for microloans specifically for small retail businesses.
  • Evolution: The response from this simple setup provided valuable insights into the demand and potential of the idea, helping shape future development.

These examples show that MVPs are not about launching perfect or complete products; they are about learning, validating ideas, and iterative development based on user feedback and market demand.

Creating an MVP is a strategic process that involves aligning the product with business goals, identifying specific user problems or improvements, and translating functionality into a viable product. If you need assistance in creating your MVP, consider reaching out for professional help.

Juan Esteban Yepes

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