Less is More – The Minimum Viable Product

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What’s your vision of commercial software? Is it a minimum viable product? Probably not.

Let’s be honest…you’re probably thinking of some big, magical package full of sparkles and rainbows that does everything your customers could possibly want. One that emits loud CHA-CHING! sounds periodically and sets your stock soaring with Wall Street adulation.

Yes, that’s a wonderful vision. And maybe you’ll get there, someday.

But the truth is, you probably won’t want to.

Why not? Because that vision exists only in your imagination. It’s not what the market wants, needs, or would support.

So instead, you’re going to start your development by cutting that vision all the way down to an itty bitty piece of its former glory. We call this smallest possible form of your software the minimum viable product, or MVP.

Why on Earth would you do that?

Because when it comes to building software, starting with less can definitely earn you more.

What is a Minimum Viable Product?

Techopedia defines a minimum viable product as follows:

“A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.”

Instead of launching a product when it’s “done” – fully featured and encompassing everything laid out in a detailed project scope – you launch it as soon as you can. As soon as you can AND get those early adopters to actually buy it, to be precise.

In other words, a minimum viable product is the quickest route toward getting a sellable app to market.

How Small is Small?

Eric Ries, who popularized the term, had this to say:

“Take what you think your minimum viable product is and cut it in half. And then cut it in half two more times.”

That’s just 1/8th the size of the “barebones” version you were considering.

Size alone is not the criteria, however. It still has to provide value. LeanStack tightens the definition by noting: “A Minimum Viable Product is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back).”

Some of our clients have used minimum lovable product to describe this early version, which I think sums it up pretty well!

How Does Starting Small Yield More?

How does starting with an MVP lead to a more successful product?

Think of your software vision as a hypothesis. Your hypothesis is that customers will want the product you’re setting out to build. But that can’t be proven until someone spends money on your product. So when do you want your proof? Early in the process, when you’re flexible enough to change? Or at the very end, when all your cards are played?

Here are five reasons why starting small with a minimum viable product is the best choice:

1. Get to market quicker

With an MVP, you can get to market quicker and start building your customer base sooner. You can scoop up early adopters, forestall competitors with similar ideas, and earn your first slice of market share that much sooner.

2. Start gaining business intelligence

Obtaining good information can help you make good decisions, right? Well, that’s exactly what an MVP does. Publishing an MVP provides you with real purchasing behaviors, customer feedback, usage observations, and more. All of which can be used to fine tune your development to better match your customers’ needs.

3. Always building the next most important thing

With the information you earned from the previous point, you’ll know what to build next. You want to build features that matter most to customers. The good news is, if you follow a Scrum-based development process, you can re-prioritize your product backlog every four to six weeks. That means that whatever your direction du jour is – whether it’s customer or business leadership driven – you can easily start working on that next most important thing.

4. Flexibility to change direction

The winds of business can shift rapidly, and so, too, can the priorities of your management. Market forces, competition, new technologies, and regulations can all play havoc with carefully laid plans.  Starting with a minimum viable product, however, maintains your flexibility. It allows you to pivot with each and every one of those changes, by incorporating new priorities as early as your next production sprint.

5. Reduce project costs

This one’s a “biggie.” Many software developers sink tons of money into features they thinkare important but that customers really don’t care about. Or at least, they’re not willing to pay for. The smaller your minimum viable product is, the less potential for wasted effort. Once you’ve placed a product into customers’ hands, you can follow their lead as to what’s important. Features you might have thought to be important might never land on the priority list – saving you the time and cost of building them.

Less Guesswork, More Value

The MVP process packs the most value possible (ironically, another MVP acronym) into every production sprint. Developing a minimum viable product and evolving your software with Scrum yields more real market value every step of the way – no matter what point in time you choose.

If you’d like to build the minimum viable product for your next software project, Ascendle’s world-class team of specialists is ready to help.

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