What is a minimum viable product(MVP)?
What is the purpose of an MVP? When is it used? The concept of a minimum product will allow you to save money and to quickly collect feedback on whether your users are interested in your product.
Where does the concept of MVP come from?
The term MVP (Minimum Viable Product) was first used in 2001 by Frank Robinson, co-founder and president of the company SyncDev. The term was later made popular by Eric Ries (American entrepreneur and author of the bestseller The Lean Startup) and Steve Blank.
At the time, Frank Robinson noted that his teams tended to report that they had added hundreds of new features to the product during development. In this case, the team considered that adding and accumulating features was an indisputable mark of success. However, developing and adding new features to a software product does not necessarily represent an improvement in the product’s profitability. On the contrary, the frenetic accumulation can make the product less and less functional and ultimately constitute a risk for its maintenance and its evolutivity in the long term.
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Thus, the need for the MVP concept was born out of this realization. Indeed, the MVP provides a solution to a type of behavior that is not necessarily profitable. This is how Frank Robinson created this new concept in 2001: the MVP embodies a product that is the right “size” for the end consumer.
The product must be both large enough to have the basic functionality required to be adopted by the end consumer and to be sold by sales people. On the other hand, the product should not contain too many features, be too big or too complex. This would represent a risk. The return on investment (ROI) of the product should normally be maximum. The features chosen for inclusion in an MVP are those that will bring in the most money, not all the features requested by the client and by the end customers.
Indeed, let’s take for example a product that would be a home shopping delivery application. Rather than wanting to add all the secondary functionality in the application (filters, multiple payment methods, advanced search, promotions, sponsorship, etc.), the most important thing is that the consumer can place an order via the application. To do this, focus only on the fact that the user can order. Add later on the functionalities that are considered more secondary and not essential. The fact that the user can order is essential, the fact that the stores can be sorted from the most expensive to the least expensive, or the fact that the stores can put forward seasonal promotions is not essential to the functioning of the application.
What is the definition of an MVP?
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the most minimalist version of a product that can exist. One could think of it as a beta version for example. The MVP symbolizes the aggregation of features that are minimally acceptable to the users who will test the application. Let’s go back to our example of a home shopping delivery application. If you test this application and the user cannot even get a shopping cart delivered to his home, then the test will have failed. This is the essence of the existence of this application. What is also very interesting is that the team will be able to get feedback from the test users and thanks to this feedback, the team will be able to improve the next developments of the application. The application will then be perfected and transformed until the final product is achieved. The goal is always to collect the maximum amount of information with the least amount of effort.
The MVP concept and method is used extensively in teams working with agile methods, such as the Scrum method, where product development takes place over a series of development sprints called iterations.
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When should an MVP be developed?
As you can see, the MVP is very useful for sensing and testing the market. By launching a product with minimal functionality, you take little risk and invest minimal effort. You can see how the market reacts and then adapt the construction of your final product accordingly. The MVP can therefore be a good choice for product development in the following cases:
- Test the market reaction before investing in the development of a complete product.
- Reduce time to market.
- Build a successful product where you can be sure that the end-users will like it because they will have tested it beforehand and given you feedback early in the product design.
- Create a user base (a community) before launching your product.
- Avoid wasting time and money on unsuccessful ideas.
Examples of MVPs implemented in large tech companies
Discover examples of MVPs implemented in well-known companies. This will give you an idea of what can be done in terms of MVPs in companies.
Drew Houston, one of the co-founders of Dropbox, chose to create a simple 3 minute video that demonstrates how DropBox technology works. The creation of this video was chosen over months of development. The video touted the ease of use of the upcoming file sharing platform. This video garnered over 75,000 people who then volunteered to beta test the software.
Uber also used the MVP concept in its early days in 2009. At that time, Uber only worked on iPhones or by SMS and was only available in the city of San Francisco. This MVP was more than enough to prove that there was a demand in this market. Today, Uber is used in 80 countries around the world.
The release of an MVP is not always a success. Of course, it can happen that the MVP is not liked by the users and is uninstalled, or that the development of a much better version is stopped because of negative feedback from users. The market may simply not be ready and mature enough for the new product or service.