Developing a Minimum Viable Product

From Wikpedia: In product development, the Minimum Viable Product or MVP is a strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature, popularized by Eric Ries for web applications.

A Minimum Viable Product has just those features (and no more) that allows the product to be deployed. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent. “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

A MVP is not a minimal product, it is a strategy and process directed toward making and selling a product to customers. It is an iterative process of idea generation, prototyping, presentation, data collection, analysis and learning. One seeks to minimize the total time spent on an iteration. The process is iterated until a desirable product-market fit is obtained, or until the product is deemed to be non-viable.

A Minimum Viable Product may be an entire product or a sub-set of product (such as a feature).

  • Product: (smoke test) The canonical MVP strategy for a web application is to create a mock website for the product and purchase online advertising to direct traffic to the site. The mock website may consist of a marketing landing page with a link for more information or purchase. The link is not connected to a purchasing system, instead clicks are recorded and measure customer interest.
  • Feature: (deploy first, code later) A link to a new feature in a web application may be provided in a prominent location on an existing website. The feature is not implemented, rather an apology, mock-up, or marketing page is provided. Clicks of the link are recorded and provide an indication as to the demand for the feature in the customer base.

Aardvark shares its methods behind creating a minimum viable product and proving it.

What prompted me to re-visit the MVP was the book, Rework authored by the 37signals team. 37 Signals creates simple small business software and their products include Ruby on the Rails and Backpack. Their motto is goodbye to bloat and provide simple, focused software that does just what you need and nothing you don’t. Rework is…

“Inspirational. REWORK is a minimalist manifesto that’s profoundly practical. In a world where we all keep getting asked to do more with less, the authors show us how to do less and create more.”

-Scott Rosenberg, co-Founder of Salon.com and author of DREAMING IN CODE

Rework If you need to buy a book for an “entrepreneur,” in the book they call them “starters”) this is a good book to ground them in the real world. If you are a follower of the Lean Start-up craze this is also a book that coincides with many of the same thoughts.

The MVP is a key term that I think should be considered more in the marketing world than what it is. When I think about some of the best advertisements, they are all geared around one simple thought and message. Look at any Steve Jobs presentations, “The Worlds thinnest Notebook” for example. Who can forget the notebook being slid into a manila folder? Getting rid of the hype and keeping it simple should be part of our marketing mantra.

The other part of the book that really hit home to me was their ability to create products out of what they do. I am always amazed in the consulting world on how few of people practice what they preach, (Myself included at times). How many consultants that preach planning, really plan themselves? How many Six Sigma Consultants, use their own tools? I think it is important to walk your own walk and not just for your customers’ sake. Who better than you to create new products and applications out of what you do, such as 37 Signals has done. Enjoy Rework! I listened to the audio and missed out on many of the cool graphics till I viewed the book’s website.

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