Eric Ries and Steven Blank popularized the concept of lean startup. They recommend ditching the long and bulky business plans and recommend creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Startups are no stranger to tight budgets and limited access to development talent.
There is a lot of talk about MVP and lean startups but how does one really go about developing a Minimum Viable Product which truly helps the actual product and does not let the “minimum” win over “viable”? Building a MVP can be tricky – it does not necessarily be a fully coded product – it can just be a landing page or an ad! The main objective of a MVP should be to get true feedback from the early adopters.
This post tries to enlist some key points about Minimum Viable Products which we have captured through our interactions with hundreds of worldwide entrepreneurs we work with:
1. Focus on Core Functionalities -
The first and foremost thing to remember is to keep the focus on the core functionalities and not on building too many features. Blame it on passion or the deep knowledge and understanding of the industry, entrepreneurs often tend to believe that all features are important and will be needed by the end users. In reality, the innovation lies in deletion. Remove all the unnecessary or ‘good to have’ features and quickly launch the product with absolute core functionality which is the fundamental idea of your product.
2. Need over affordability –
MVP does not mean building the features which you can ‘afford’. Lot of time needs to be spent on ‘deciding’ on the features to be built. Think of it as one core module of the complete product functionality. The need of the end user should win over the affordability of the feature.
3. Beyond the Code –
MVP is not about a coded product - think of MVP as a communication channel which you can use to convey your idea on how you are trying to solve a particular problem and what is the direction of your product. Even after the product is completely built, you can apply the MVP methodology for every new major feature. Brining in MVP in your organization culture helps you effectively manage the time and resource constraints without compromising on the quality of the final product.
4. Failure of MVP does not define the failure of product –
The initial product feedback is not always 100% right or wrong. Some initial feedback may appear to be valid, but may take product into wrong direction while in some other cases, initial feedback may make the product appear as 100% failure. The idea of MVP enforces entrepreneurs to keep changing the direction as per the feedback – not once, but multiple times. The idea lies in quickly understanding the feedback, incorporating changes, rechecking and keeping on building until you get it right.
5. Scalable and Robust Architecture -
Robust software architecture is at the heart of the product. Business owners could consider Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) which is independent of business model and helps in keeping the MVP flexible and extensible. It makes different layers of architecture, decoupled from each other thus allowing to be independently changed or replaced based on the review of customer feedback and usage.
6. Prioritization is key –
MVP teaches prioritization. Prioritize on where to start, what to build, when to launch, when to change direction. Prioritization helps in keeping the focus on the core.
7. Speed wins over perfection –
MVP does not have to be the perfect product. The idea is to build something which will be able to communicate the problem you are trying to solve and how the product is going to get built in solving that problem. MVP, by definition,is rough and not perfect but it is functional. But yes, a Minimum Viable Product does not mean that the product will look bad or will be erroneous.With the MVP, you should be able to quickly convey the idea to your customers, get their feedback and tweak the product.
8. Choice of technology –
While making the technology decision, keep the big picture in mind. Many a times, a particular technology which is very apt for building a MVP might not be able to scale up for the final product. As an entrepreneur who has the complete vision about the product, needs to be clear about all the aspects while making the technology decision.
9. The right team –
Depending on the industry vertical, you might require expertise in variety of areas in your team. To translate your idea into a working product, be ready to keep changing the directions and deliver world-class results requires excellent talent in the team. Choosing the right team is one of the key decisions for building a successful MVP and a super successful product.
10. Check! Is MVP right approach for your product? –
While there are many benefits of MVPs, know that MVPs just may not be the right approach for every product. There can be certain products where MVP is NOT the way to do it – and that does not mean that those products cannot be successful. A lot depends on the product functionality, the target audience and also for that matter, the personality of the entrepreneur who is building it!