MVP: The Most Valuable Player in product development
Digital product development leverages a number of different tools and strategies to ensure good product-market fit. One of the most essential ones is the minimum viable product (MVP), an effective prototyping technique very closely in line with agile principles. In this article, we’ll tell you more about it and how it benefits the product development process.
1. What is an MVP?
The minimum viable product is a vital part of the modern product development process that fits perfectly the iterative approach of Agile as an almost indispensable prototyping tool.
In its essence, an MVP is a functional prototype (whatever “functional” means for the specific use case and/or audience) which is able to deliver some value to the user. As such, it could also be called “Minimum Usable Product”, or “Minimum Valuable Product”.
If a wireframe is the first key tangible milestone in designing and developing digital products, then an MVP is the next, likely even more important one, as we’ll show throughout this article. Sometimes even just a clickable wireframe can serve as an adequate MVP itself for less complex products.
2. Key features of MVP
As we’ve just pointed out, a minimum viable product should showcase at least the most essential functionality and/or deliver a perceptible amount of value to the user. It needs to have the bare necessities that still show the originally conceptualized product for what it is.
I.e. you don’t need every single feature completely fleshed out, but you do need the core functionality developed thoroughly enough so that users testing it are able to get some value out of it and/or have their pain solved. At the very least, users should be able to easily perceive how a finished version of the product would bring them value and/or solve their pain.
The first case in the paragraph above would be classified as a “high-fidelity MVP”, which is typically more complex but actually provides some kind of solution. The second case, on the other hand, would be a “low-fidelity MVP”, which is more exploratory and intended to uncover user pains and expectations.
3. Why is the MVP such an important part of product development?
In a fast-paced, innovation-driven economy, speed in new product development is of the absolute essence. This is exactly why agile practices are such a great fit for times like these; and the minimum viable product is one of the most useful tools at product managers’ disposal, as it allows them to:
- Move fast and optimally iterate. Product teams are able to build a low-fidelity version of the product, then iterate on it and (if necessary) pivot based on users’ feedback. This way they can quickly and efficiently validate ideas, assumptions, and insights obtained from data analytics.
- Save precious time and resources which might otherwise get wasted on building the wrong thing and/or solving the wrong problem. As one of the core tenets of agile goes, “fail fast and optimize” – in uncertain times, occasional failure is pretty much inevitable, and an MVP allows you to transform such failures into future successes.
- Get concrete rather than abstract feedback from (real) users, as well as usage data to back it up. Leveraging both qualitative and quantitative data will enable you to better meet users’ expectations and/or more easily solve their pain points.
- Uncover actual pains and needs of your users – not just those they reveal through (guided) user research. As we’ve seen with many groundbreaking products throughout history, people often don’t even know themselves what we really want until we get it, as we tend to think very much inside the box. Through an MVP, you can help your target users step outside of this box and reveal their true motivations.
- Easily and quickly spot key issues you’ve missed as a stakeholder that is too involved. When creating new, innovative products, it’s possible to get so swept up in all the desired functionality that you completely forget about essential features which are actually a prerequisite for this shiny desired functionality. An MVP acts like a buffer which ensures that such issues never make it into the final product.
This article has provided a basic overview of the minimum viable product and its role in the product development process. If you’re interested in learning more, we had a great conversation about it on episode 56 of our podcast “Elad Simon - Is product management a key to agile digital transformation?” – we highly recommend giving it a listen.
If you’re in need of some extra development capacity for your digital product, check out how Agiledrop works with product development teams, and feel free to reach out to us to learn how we can help.