What is an 'MVP'?

MARCO NESPECA

Understand the minimum

So… what do we mean by ‘MVP’?

The ‘Minimum viable product’ or ‘MVP’ can mean different things to different organisations and people but here is the definition of MVPs based on my personal experience.

Working “agile” to deliver modern digital products is essential because everybody wants to give the user something they will love and something that will give the user value.  To do this we must define an MVP during the earliest set of the product stage and plan a roll-out with the focus being the MVP and it’s goals as this will help us learn if what we are doing is what the user actually needs and if what we are doing is actually working.  This puts us a “learning” opportunity at an early stage so that we can improve the direction and methods at the earliest stage quickly and effectively reducing costs and waste.

The first question I ask myself when defining an MVP is “What is the users problem”?, then I try to build a use-case & experiment around this definition.  I am not talking about a huge concept or long term plan but “something”, a small thing that can easily be identified and tested directly with the user.   We should decide what our MVP is based on what we “believe” users & customers will appreciate as valuable, we basically put ourselves in their shoes and use our intuition & of course any data we have to define and release our MVP then move forward using feedback we collect from the actual users to continue building.  It’s essential that we be informed about the quality of what we are doing by the actual user, a real person and qualitative data.  Remember, our MVP isn’t anything near what our final product will be, we are “pinging” our user-base with the minimum and then moving forward fixing and iterating.

So how do we define this "thing"?

 

I like to approach it by looking at the end goal and then imaging how we can get there by building something small that resembles the “huge” idea we have and build it in a way that allows us to get valuable feedback.  This means that we must build a digital product that is real so that users can experiment and understand it as this is the only way we will ever be able to get to the next stage and integrate the best features in a way that the user will love.  Releasing something complex will only make it difficult for us to figure out what features are actually useful.  We do this everyday in our personal lives so why wouldn’t you apply this approach to your products and business?

I will super-simplify this… I like to cook and I love pasta and when I make a pasta dinner I go through different steps to get it perfect. 

  • I need to get the ingredients at the supermarket – I shop around, I squeeze and sniff the tomatoes, choose the best looking beef, etc..
  • I make the sauce – I add the ingredients one at a time, taste it at the various stages and adjust it.
Of course it is a little more complicated but we can simply say that an MVP needs to allow us to do the least and learn the most.
 

Simple concept delivery, observe, improve

 

Build your dreammap, break it down, identify the MVP and get something small infront of the user as fast as you can so that you can see how they use it, ask what they think of it, track their behavior and analyse all this stuff as quickly as you can at every iteration.  Identifying what proves or disproves your concept is the key to making sure your efforts are bringing value and reducing the risk of costly failure.

Remember to do this by releasing with a set of defined KPI’s and understand what metrics will be used to measure your success.