- Posted by admin
- On August 6, 2019
One of the key drivers for adopting Agile is that it helps organizations develop solutions more quickly. Agile helps accomplish a lot of other things as well, but for the purpose of this article, I’m focused on the benefits of Agile related to speed to market. Enter Minimum Viable Product, or MVP.
First, let’s establish the purpose of the Minimum Viable Product. It’s generally intended to accomplish one of three things – to confirm product or market fit, to test a hypothesis, or to enter the market and solve a specific need quickly. Regardless of the purpose for your MVP, the one thing each must share in common is that they will have some defined criteria that would allow decision makers an opportunity to pivot on the work and go a different direction or stop the work altogether. An MVP is not intended to be the first chunk of work for a fixed scope effort. If there is no plan to measure the result of the MVP to inform future decisions, then it’s really just a small chunk of work or the first piece of a larger body of work. And that’s not actually an MVP.
Similar to Agile as a mindset, the idea of MVPs is also a mindset, and it does require discipline. The people responsible for defining an MVP must truly challenge themselves to continue trimming down their MVP to the least amount of work possible with a focus on what they plan to learn. To support this, I like to say it’s important to love the learning more than the future product itself. And we can compliment this with the 10th principle of the Agile Manifesto, which is “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential”. So the challenge becomes – how can we determine what we need to learn by doing little to no development.
THE MANUAL MVP
The manual MVP is more or less a prototype that can be put in front of the customer, but the customer doesn’t actually drive the functionality. In this case, the product manager or product owner could physically carry out the functions or demonstrate the purpose of the MVP. This model is not particularly scalable. However, it can be a sufficient experiment to determine if their is demand for the product and can help to validate the hypothesis with a minimal amount of development and far less cost.
WIZARD OF OZ MVP
This MVP is where you essentially put up a front that gives your potential customers the impression you have a real working product and they’re experiencing the real thing. This MVP requires a lot more time and effort but it’s a very effective way of checking if you have a desirable product or service, before you build it. With this approach, you use a human resource to replicate what your proposed technology will do. This helps you prove the interest in your product while keeping technical costs low.
THE CONCIERGE MVP
The concierge MVP requires no actual product development. But it does require time and energy. The purpose of this type of MVP is to validate your idea by first providing services manually. The time and energy part is that you’ll need to find people willing to test your service such that you can start analyzing data and selecting samples by hand. Once you’ve validated your idea, you can then build an application that collects people’s responses, analyzes the data, and selects matching products automatically.
Not only does the Concierge MVP save you a huge amount of time by skipping the product building, it also puts you directly in touch with your early customers. By being at their beck and call, you’ll start to understand their needs deeply, driving toward your fundamental question: “do people actually want what I’m offering?”
THE PIECEMEAL MVP
This MVP falls in-between the “Concierge” MVP and the “Wizard of Oz” MVP. With a Piecemeal MVP, you use existing tools and services to deliver a functioning product to your customers. Typically, you use a number of existing technologies (that don’t always integrate so well together) and again human involvement is required to manage the process. Using existing services will save you the time and money of building your own technology and infrastructure.
Those are four types of MVPs that require little to no development, but allow you to begin gathering customer feedback on your idea. As you learn more from your MVP, you can begin to plan on what would actually be required to solve the problem or differentiate your solution in the market. This is why developing an MVP requires discipline, because more often than not the focus will be on what needs to be built instead of what needs to be learned. So love the learning as much as, or more than the future product you are planning to develop.