A minimum viable product (MVP) is essentially the most basic version of the product. It allows a business to release their concept and collect validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort. When a business innovates there aren't many (if any) test cases which they can build on. The business' product may be the first of its kind. As a result the business will have no idea how the product will be received " will customers love it or hate it?
This uncertainty in the innovation process has seen the emergence of MVP's. Developing an MVP is crucial in facilitating a successful product release. The MVP should be small enough to facilitate a build-measure-learn feedback loop. Learning early about the users true needs increases the likelihood of a successful product. It's also essential that an MVP can fail, as long as it is facilitating a learning process for a future improvement.
It's a great concept, but an MVP goes beyond the product itself, it's a process
. You're essentially experimenting with a concept, gathering results and making modifications. This experimentation process is conducted to validate or invalidate assumptions you have made about the product. The most important assumption is that consumers will like your product. However it does not end there, businesses often make many more assumptions. How will the design work? What marketing strategy is best? Which laws do I have to comply with? At times your answers to these questions won't be correct.
This was eluded to earlier but the only way to know if these assumptions are correct is to measure them using the market. This ties back into the build-measure-learn feedback loop. If you can measure and learn from each assumption, your end product becomes the best possible version.
MVP's also have the advantage of being quite cost effective. Because the minimum viable product is focusing on the products bare bones, the cost of developing it will be significantly lower than releasing a polished version. It is key that that MVP is achieved within the first 1 or 2 development milestones. To remain agile, we recommend a fixed time, variable scope approach when building an MVP. A milestone is made of development iterations that have specific goals and are usually between 5-15 days. The MVP might be achieved in 1 iteration or many. It depends on the quality and complexity of the problems the MVP is aiming to solve. If it is many, it is essential that the software is released each and every iteration. If there are many iteration to a milestone and scope is flexible these learnings can inform the requirements of subsequent iterations.
At WorkingMouse we have created a leading edge innovation process called the Way of Working
. It is a project management framework that de-risks the software development process. A key part of this process is the Scoping stage. During scoping the product designer and software developer work to build a low-fi MVP pre-development. This is usually in the form of a clickable prototype. The team test the prototype with the end users to validate or overcome an assumptions. This ensures the MVP will achieve its goals by resolving the customers problems before developing.