What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

How to face the construction of your first Minimum Viable Product

Eric Ries, the author of the book “The Lean Startup”, defined the minimum viable product concept as:

A version of a new product that allows a team to gather the maximum amount of validated knowledge about customers with the least effort.


A minimum viable product is the first version of our product with enough functionalities
for customers to interact with the product and collect validated information for the future development of the product and the business idea.

The principle of the Lean Startup methodology through an iterative process is:

Build-Measure-Learn

And it is in this iterative process where the Minimum Viable Product tool appears.  It allows us to go through the process to obtain that validated information, launching our product to the market at an early stage and through the knowledge we acquired, continue with the development of the product, finding the fit between it and the market.

How does it help us?

A Minimum Viable Product will help us to reduce the failure rate and minimize the negative economic impact when we want to launch our product or service to the market.

Lean Startup methodology and the construction of a Minimum Viable Product, can be applied in any business, product or service launch. But they will help us mainly when we are in environments or projects of great uncertainty because they allow us to launch in a more controlled way and without much risk.

Besides, a good MVP launch experiment can also allow us to test the demand for our product in the market before launching the product with further development.

When should I build a Minimum Viable Product?

One of the most frequent doubts regarding the different innovation methodologies such as Lean Startup, is when we can use it or at what point of the process could be useful.

In the case of Lean Startup, and more specifically, when building a minimum viable product for the first time, there are two specific moments in which it can be of great help:

  • When we have a business idea, but we have not fully defined it.
  • When we have an idea for MVP (Minimum Viable Product), but we haven’t launched it yet and we don’t know how it would fit into the market.

One of the things we have to consider when launching a minimum viable product to the market is that we are looking for a commitment from the customer. And this is one of the greatest difference between a prototype and a Minimum Viable Product or between Lean Startup and Design Thinking.

Example of a minimum viable product of a project from Thinkers Co for a hospital in Madrid

Example:
For instance, we worked on a project about improving the experience of patients with cancer. The most challenging moment of the whole experience is when these patients were on chemotherapy:

  • This is a visual prototype that allowed us to understand and co-create the concept.
  • It is a Minimum Viable Product since it was the first tangible test that allowed us to see if patients were really going to use it.

Through a prototype, we can be looking for feedback, we can see if the customer finds our solution idea interesting. Instead, when we launch our MVP we want to measure and obtain data on whether someone is willing to pay for it or commits to the product or service and if our business model fits the market.

And where do I start?

A common mistake when building the first minimum viable product, is that we want it all and want it now. We struggle to prioritize. And this can be dangerous when deciding what our first minimum viable product should look like. A common question at this moment is:

How am I going to launch my product, if I still can’t build the business idea I have?

Simple! Because we must prioritize. We should not include all the functionalities and features that we had thought about our product. If not, build the minimum expression of our product, which allows us to validate if there is a fit between our business idea and the market. We must stay, especially in an initial phase, with what is essential, and what is not, leave it for later.

This can make our first minimum viable product look very different from the business idea we had in mind. But this should not generate fear as long as it allows us to obtain that validated information that we are looking for from the customer and the market.

Nor does prioritizing mean that we create a single functionality of our product. For example, if we are designing a mobile application, we cannot just stay on the registration screen.

We must include those functionalities that are essential to deliver our value proposition to the customer and also take into account to a certain extent the reliability we transmit, usability and design. It’s about building something simple but not crappy.

Graphic on how to make an MVP. Source from Aarron Waters

 

The first step when we face building our first Minimum Viable Product will be to ask ourselves:

What hypothesis of our business model do we want to validate?

And taking this question as a basis is when we can start to think about what to build to obtain this validated data.Simply put, a Minimum Viable Product is:

  • The least we can build to validate that there is a real market opportunity.
  • It allows us to Validate = Obtain measurable data, a commitment from the client.
  • A minimum viable product can be anything from a sales story to a navigable application with only one functionality. It will depend on what we want to validate and the moment of the project or process in which we are.

When we tackle a newly created project at Thinkers Co. we try to create these MVPs, so that we are not only with the concept but with ideas that we can test if it makes sense in the market.
If you want to know more about this way of working, take a look at our training services to gain agility in the launch of products to the market.

Published at 08/01/2021

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