In the Agile space, one of the most common terms you hear is the minimum viable product (MVP). What exactly is the MVP and what is the best path to reach this state? It is vital to define your MVP as early in the process as possible, but constantly refining it will be pivotal. Let us dig a bit deeper into exactly what the MVP is all about, how to attain it, and also how to sell it once complete.
Defining the Minimum Viable Product
The pure definition of the minimum viable product (MVP) is the minimum functionality necessary in a state that brings meaningful value to your customers. Think about a car manufacturer; what is the bare minimum in terms of features that a car needs to get out on the open road and be valuable to your target customer? It needs wheels, an axle, seat, and steering wheel. Does it need brakes, probably? Does it need a radio, probably not?
The Product Owner will begin by working with business stakeholders to define the product. This initial product definition will include a product vision and a list of the high level product features that satisfy the product vision. Those product features will, in turn, be broken down by the Product Owner into smaller units of work (product backlog items (PBIs)) that a Scrum team can, after refinement by the whole team, pull into a sprint backlog. But each PBI must be subservient to a product feature or epic, that is, in turn, subservient to the overall product vision. This product backlog, coupled with the team's average velocity, can then be turned into a viable product roadmap.
Refine the MVP Over Time
However, as the product begins to take shape and feedback is received from actual customers - even if only an alpha or beta subset of users - the MVP may need to be refined to more effectively meet end user needs. The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the work of the development team, which includes incorporating customer feedback into the product backlog and prioritizing it accordingly. This continual refinement of the MVP is essential for ensuring that the end product delivers the most value possible to its target audience.
Selling the MVP in the Market
Once the MVP has reached a state where it meets or exceeds the product vision and known customer needs, it will be time to take it to the open market. Including even a subset of customers in early product definition and development will help ensure that the product, even in its MVP state, will bring meaningful value to its target audience. And incorporating early customer feedback into the MVP will extend the product log, likely far beyond the goals of the initial MVP. Translating that into a public product roadmap will let early adopters know where the product is headed.
End-users should see the MVP not just as a product that provides value today, but also as one that will deliver increasing value over time as product development continues. The MVP is the minimum of what a user will pay for in terms of the product, but they also should understand what’s coming down the feature pipeline. The value will exist today, in the MVP, but the perception of value to come in future releases can help lure them in early and provide extra incentive for potential customers to adopt the product as well.
The minimum viable product (MVP) is the goal of every product development team. No matter the category of product you create, you want that bare minimum set of features that delivers meaningful value to your customers while allowing you to continue to add value from one release to the next. Your MVP should deliver immediate value to your customers, giving them what they need now while ensuring that they understand that there is much more value to come.