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Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product with basic features which is launched to gain users and shape the future features based on user feedback. This enables companies to bring in new products regularly.
Traditionally, products were built as complete products with all the features and launched in the market. Product launches did not happen as often as it does today. This might not be the best way to build products today, considering the pace at which the companies launch new products and the competition that is prevalent today.
This can again be best explained by looking at the Internet scale companies.
For example, let’s look at WhatsApp, an application used by millions of users across the world. WhatsApp consists of multiple components such as chat, photo/video sharing, video calling, location sharing, payments etc., But did WhatsApp have all of these components right from the beginning?
How about Facebook? The product that we use today is much more than what it was, when they started close to a decade back. Facebook’s first product release did not have a facebook wall or news feed.
The idea is to roll out a basic version of the final product, get customer feedback and shape the features according to the feedback.
Thus minimum viable product or MVP is that version of the product with basic features, just enough to get the attention of the customers. The final product will be shaped and released after getting sufficient feedback from the initial set of users. Definition of MVP as proposed by Eric Ryes, the author of Lean Startup, is given above.
For example, imagine a company who is building a recruitment software. As MVP, they might just release a job board, where all the jobs are listed and applicants can send resumes through email. Upon getting sufficient feedback from customers, they can introduce features like applicant tracking systems, job recommendation engine, job assessments, live interviews, etc. as different versions of the product. Eventually, the company will add more and more features to the product. By releasing the MVP, they will get to know the customer mindset, the demand and reception for the product and more importantly they get the early mover advantage. They will be able to establish themselves as a brand that people prefer.
Businesses should also be careful while adding features to the MVP. In the process of building the perfect product, some organizations, lose focus and load the MVP with large number of irrelevant features. Customers will start losing interest and eventually, the business will fail.
Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Process
MVP is not just a product with half the features of the original product. It’s a process that is repeated over and over again.
The five necessary steps in building the MVP are:
Idea: The first step of a successful MVP is evaluating the business idea. This is done by asking two important questions. What is the need for the product? How will the product solve the problem? These two questions will help in understanding the goal of the product and the future customer’s needs.
Product Definition: Once your idea has taken shape, define the product, its vision and the value, it offers. Creating a clear product definition is important in charting the journey of MVP.
Prototyping: Once the product is defined, we create a prototype of it with minimal features, yet offering an insight into the value the product offers to its users.
Presentation: One the prototype is created, a channel for product launch is identified and launched for customers to use and offer feedback.
Data collection and Analysis: This is the last phase of an MVP where data such as customer feedback, pain points is collated and analysed. These insights validate the product first hand and also determine the product journey going forward.
Although it is a minimalized version of your product, an MVP requires a careful planning and execution. An MVP is a head-start to a product’s journey. Many startups begin their journey with an MVP, primarily to launch and gain feedback from users. This feedback is very critical since it gives insights into how your product is perceived. The early adopters offer criticise, embrace and offer suggestions on what
could be better or in other words, what they expect to see.
Hence an MVP is critical for the company and ensures that it creates the right MVP with the right set of features.
In short, an MVP is not a subset of your actual product. Rather it is a fully functional product by itself with a minimal set of features, that is a representative of your final product. An MVP is a miniature of a final product that has scope for more features and can scale to grow into a fully functional complete product. MVP needs to be frequently and iteratively deployed before the final product is rolled out to the market.
Benefits of MVP
MVP offers numerous benefits such as:
In today’s day and age, where different companies large and small build great products, the cost of failure is very high. Having said that, it is important for the companies to gain feedback and insights at every product phase to ensure they are on the right track and offer value to the customer.
Building an MVP and following an iterative approach to product development helps companies achieve that. Right from the first release, the customers offer feedback and point out what they would like to see. This approach minimizes the Capital investment and allows room for mistakes. By constantly interacting with users, there is continuous learning about the market, it’s needs and expectations which is critical to the success of a product. In the long-term, this approach helps the teams, save time and money.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of building minimum viable product.
Produce valid market stores: MVP is a tool to identify customer intentions. Doing so much market research to build the complete product may produce disastrous results. Rolling out an MVP and validating the results is the best way to understand what customer demands are.
Strengthen the focus on value proposition: It is the value proposition that differentiates one product from the other product. With MVP a business can clearly define its value propositions, in spite of building so many features that are of no use to the customer.
A shortcut to customer’s feedback: Until the product is rolled out, a business will not be able to understand the customers’ mindset. MVP is a tool to gather real-world data on customer feedback. It will give a clear picture on the ways customers will use the product. This will help in improving the final result. Using MVP, a business can make use of the customer feedback, well before the product is rolled out in the market, in other terms building what the customer wants.
First to market: Early mover certainly has advantages and the chances of the product becoming a hit is twice as that of the one that arrives late in the market. Customers will certainly show interest in an innovative idea that solves an obvious problem. If there is only one solution available in the market, chances of the product becoming a hit doubles. MVP is a way to set the foot first in the market.
Try other areas of business: The product needs to be released in the market to well understand customer behavior. MVP gives you a clue about customer behavior, even before the final product is built and made available.
Empowers business spirit: In case of businesses that want to try out multiple ideas, MVP gets them closer to the target, which will give them more cushion in terms of time and options to try out.
With this, you have the complete knowledge of Minimum Viable Product in DevOps.