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What is a minimum viable product (MVP)?

If you are involved in a project or product development, you have likely heard the name Minimum Viable Product (MVP). If you are curious to learn more about exactly what is a minimum viable product (MVP) and why it’s important, keep reading.

What Is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a skeletal version of a product with the least possible number of features to attract early adopters. An MVP is released very early in the software development life cycle (SDLC) so that developers and businesses can confirm if their product idea is suitable and right for the target market.

After a minimum viable product (MVP) is released to the public, the feedback received from the early users/customers will give direction to the future development of the product. The MVP’s customer reception and feedback are used by the business to challenge or confirm the product’s initial assumptions.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, popularized the concept of the minimum viable product (MVP) to the public.

To begin building a minimum viable product, you have to be ready to iterate. Most entrepreneurs envision their minimum viable product (MVP) that is still too big to be an MVP. If you have this problem, take your envisioned MVP and halve the features by two orders of magnitude. By doing so, you make sure you have the least possible minimum viable product (MVP).

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After the development of the MVP, release it to your circle of early adopters who are more likely to share your vision and send user feedback. This feedback is instrumental in building a product optimized for the market using a minimum viable product approach.

In short, an MVP is a tool to gather customer feedback before you begin optimizing your product. Eric Ries best defined it in two separate incidents,

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.”

As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek”

Any work you do on your MVP beyond what is needed to start learning from your customers is a waste!

Why Is a Minimum Viable Product Important?

Businesses use a minimum viable product (MVP) approach for many reasons. First of all, businesses want to be able to test their product idea as soon as possible without using a lot of resources. If the MVP fails, businesses can stop the project early rather than after years of development and costs.

To beat your competition, you must learn faster than them. In both business and life, knowledge is power. Therefore, businesses want to accelerate their learning and gain an edge over their competition. By doing so, their product’s advantages will snowball it crushes its rivals. Benefits like

  • Establishing your brand first
  • Customers using your product first
  • Early capture of the pool of early adopters
  • Improving skillset required for further product development

Make businesses adopt use of MVPs.

Minimum Viable Product Advantages

Cost-Effective

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It’s relatively cost-effective to use an MVP approach as you do not waste time, money, and resources building unnecessary features. An MVP approach will help streamline your product’s development, avoiding tangent features the customers neither need nor want.

Market Testing

Getting a minimum viable product onto the market before you commit a large amount of resources will allow your company to check if its market research was correct. If not, you can quickly realign your product to what the market demands.

Early Delivery

Getting your product into customers’ hands quickly is a huge advantage. Once a user is familiar and used to your product, it will be hard for them to leave your product and switch to an unfamiliar one, unless either your product is very bad or your rivals are very good.

Flexible Product Direction

Because an MVP approach relies heavily on learning from customer and market feedback. The direction of the product is flexible as it is mainly geared at satisfying your customers by solving their evolving problems. A rigid product will become outdated if it does not evolve with its customer base.

MVP Can Be Used to Attract Investors

Because an MVP is a pretty good indicator of a product idea’s feasibility and profitability, it can more easily lure investors than simple words and promises. Not only that, but an MVP can also give better insight to prospective investors/buyers about your product.

Minimum Viable Product Disadvantages

Risk of Theft or Copycats

Because you launch your product after little overall progress on product development, your product is vulnerable to copycats and competition. Competitors can steal your idea and quickly launch rival products that may steal away your target market.

Poor Quality MVP Might Damage Brand

An MVP is a very minimalistic product that does not have all the features that boost user experience. Therefore, users may suffer negative experiences with your product that will ruin your reputation or product’s attractiveness to them. Furthermore, they may share their negative reviews with others dissuading them from ever trying your product.

Relies Too Heavily on Customer Feedback

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Customers don’t always know what they want, and even if they do, they may not know exactly in what manner they want it. Therefore, it’s your job to analyze and filter customer feedback and figure out a way to satisfy their feedback. Blindly building everything according to feedback will likely your product astray.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had this to say about relying too heavily on feedback,

Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Always remember that customer feedback is a learning resource, not a guiding resource.

Conclusion – What is a Minimum Viable Product

That’s all on what is a minimum viable product and what it offers to businesses and developers. There is a reason why leading companies like Spotify, Airbnb, Foursquare, and Dropbox all began with a minimum viable product. Because it works.

Here are a few articles that you might be interested in reading:

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