Release that MVP ASAP

Releasing that Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is More Important than Ever Before

When I teach agile planning, I emphasize the importance of defining the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and its influences on the product development lifecycle. Eric Ries best explained how to apply the MVP concept to entrepreneurship in his renowned book The Lean Startup. His definition of the MVP is “that version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

I’m usually hired to consult with clients long after the time to release the MVP has passed. Often, I find myself looking at a poorly designed product with a convoluted user experience. 

I recently worked with a client developing a SaaS product without a well-defined MVP. They churned back-and-forth on design requirements for months to produce a product with a confusing user experience. Because they missed too many MVP deadlines, they decided to call their first release Alpha instead. Sound familiar?

Report Pre-Launch Cost of Redesign to Investors?

Many executives, like my client, find themselves running out of development budget runway and desperate to get their product to market. Even if my client’s product launch is successful, this negative impact to corporate solvency could easily have been avoided.  

If more businesses had to report to their investors dollars lost due to pre-launch rework and redesign, the MVP would be treated with higher priority. In today’s competitive landscape, businesses must get their products into the hands of potential customers faster than ever before. This suggests businesses who continue to haphazardly develop new products have even less chance of survival.  

Most have heard some rendition of the quote: “Fall in love with your customers, not your product.” You read this and nod your head. Yet, somehow many who develop new software products tend to fall in love with the technology first and assume their chosen customers will fall in love with their vision for it too. Technology may be cool, but people pay for transformation. Your product must solve a real or perceived problem, and it must be easy to use.

Why is the MVP so Important?

The MVP process is crucial to identifying what features to release first. Without feedback about whether or not the product developed satisfies customer needs, it’s anyone’s guess whether or not people will purchase the product and recommend it to others.   

The good news is that agile Epics and Stories already focus on the customer viewpoint and experience. 

How Do You Define an MVP and Build a Better Product Backlog?

Stop thinking you are the customer and start looking at your product from the viewpoint of actual customers who need to solve a problem.

Learn about the problem from the customer perspective:

  • What problem(s) do your customers need to solve? 
  • When would customers access your application? At what point in the resolution process?
  • Why do current products miss the mark? 
  • How do customers expect the application to work? 

Define a user experience that makes it quick and easy for the customer to accomplish their goal. The MVP proves the concept; it is not the end product. The most technologically cool method may not get you to market quickly enough. 

Design an MVP that Leads to Continuous Improvements

Organize the MVP features in such a way that the new product can hold its own in the marketplace. The MVP must be a quality product that can stand up to the competition. It must look complete, even if it only includes a fraction of what you plan to include down the road.

  • Design a way to get customer feedback as quickly as possible. 
  • Test your assumptions. 
  • Enhance what works. Pivot when necessary.
  • Release improvements along with new features.

I’d love to hear stories about how your teams have successfully implemented an MVP. Do share!

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Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn

 

Cynthia Kahn
CynthiaK@gsd.guru
503.799.5500