If you’re building web or mobile apps for an enterprise, it’s beneficial to release the minimum viable product (MVP) into the hands of your customers as quickly as possible. However, that’s easier said than done, with so many dependencies and stakeholders involved, and so many dollars at risk. As a business or technology leader, product owner, or software architect, you might fear the consequences of working with an MVP approach your company is unfamiliar with, or you may have heard about costly mistakes for those who dared to try. However, there is a way to avoid all that pain and instead use a highly effective MVP process.
You may not know this, but the proven MVP approach that’s often used by startups to build software can actually do the following:
- Bring focus to your product’s core value proposition
- Lower the cost of development
- Establish relationships and trust with customers in a timely manner
- Capture actionable feedback to create more desirable products
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Ensure all aspects of your business are performing well before scaling.
Companies like Google, Uber, Zappos, Aldo, Airbnb, Spotify and many more use the MVP process to consistently create industry-leading apps. First introduced more than 15 years ago, the MVP method continues to outperform other processes and has proven to be the most effective way to build software.
However, while widely used and accepted in the technology industry, employees at traditional larger enterprises often associate MVP as one of the most dangerous acronyms in software development. Horror stories of unfinished and glitchy products released under disguise of an MVP drive fear into the minds of developers, designers and managers across all industries.
However, when done properly, the power and benefits of building an MVP greatly outweigh any risk. Here’s how to eliminate the fear of product failure and replace it with professional praise, rave reviews, and larger market share as you create your company’s next successful app using the optimal MVP model.
1) Define and Document Your Company’s Understanding of MVP
An MVP is one of the most important Lean software development techniques, but its power is matched by the confusion it often causes. This confusion is rooted in a multitude of inconsistent and varying definitions of an MVP.
The most widely used and prominent definition, according to Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, is that an MVP is "the version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort."
This definition is spot-on as the primary purpose of an MVP is to find out which of your assumptions are wrong by quickly getting feedback on your product from real users.
Using a project discovery process like Rangle’s Clarity Canvas, take some time to research and conceptualize a definition of MVP that best aligns with your company’s goals and objectives.
By Henrik Kniberg
This analogy of inventing a car demonstrates why the Minimum Viable Product approach is most effective.
2) Involve Key Stakeholders Early and Share MVP Ownership
The success of any MVP project hinges on getting early buy-in and support from key stakeholders. To accomplish this, first identify and list all possible stakeholders by evaluating the scope of your project to assess which people and departments might be affected by the MVP and its outcome.
Next, share your definition of MVP with each stakeholder and explain what you’re planning to achieve, how it will impact the business and how your company will benefit from building software using the MVP process.
Some stakeholder education will likely be required as the common misconception of MVP projects is that software will look incomplete and could tarnish the company’s reputation. This thinking likely stems from past software development experiences or uninformed articles that push stakeholders to mistakenly believe an MVP approach leads to substandard quality and poor performance.
To mitigate any fears and misunderstandings, openly and transparently communicate with your stakeholders. Socialize your message about the MVP and how it’s meant to work. Clearly explain why an MVP approach is the best choice for building software and helping to achieve the company’s long term visionary contributions and farther-reaching business goals.
Above all, it’s crucial for stakeholders to feel their comments and suggestions are valued and seriously considered. Actively listen, communicate and provide feedback as needed while keeping everyone up-to-date throughout the entire MVP process.
The more involved stakeholders feel, the more they will invest and take shared ownership of each success and failure throughout the project. Secure stakeholder buy-in early to avoid future headaches and misunderstandings.
3) Follow an Agile Development Process
To build the best software, an Agile development process must be used in tandem with the MVP approach. Agile development is a project management methodology that enables teams to effectively function and respond to the unpredictability of constructing software by using incremental, iterative work sequences – commonly known as sprints.
The benefits of using Agile development to build your MVP include faster time-to-market, improved quality, reduced risks, increased flexibility, more cost control, higher customer satisfaction, and the ability to embrace change with the appropriate trade-offs for maximum results.
In contrast, other less flexible software development processes often take years to complete, only to discover at the end of the project that customer expectations and needs do not align with how the product was built. Continuous delivery, experimentation and ongoing testing through Agile development, on the other hand, mitigate risks to ensure the most effective and highest quality MVPs are consistently delivered to customers in weeks instead of years.
Similarly to building a MVP, Agile development is only effective if properly executed. It’s best to partner with a trusted software development and design firm especially if your company does not have much experience building software using Agile and MVP processes. Learn more about the benefits of Agile development here.
4) Determine the Minimum and Most Important Functionality
It’s important to stop trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ because simply replicating your competitors’ features does not ensure success. In fact, copying competitors will likely be detrimental to your business as most companies don’t yet offer the best or most optimal software solutions.
It’s also very common, even in a mobile first world, for your competitor’s apps to be bare bones or even non-existent. Instead of being a follower, differentiate your offerings by using an MVP process to build better software that solves your customer’s specific challenges and enhances your business opportunities.
To determine the minimum and most important functionality required in your MVP, first create a high-level snapshot of the overall requirements before starting any development. Use visual tools including whiteboarding and storyboards to illustrate sequences of screenshots, visuals, sketches and/or wireframes.
Cross-departmental team workshops work well to capture these high-level requirements in a short period of time. This collaborative approach also enables everyone to contribute to, challenge and understand what’s needed and why.
Once agreed upon by team members, each high-level requirement is broken down into small bite-size pieces of work called User Stories. These visual and tangible User Stories serve as your minimum and most important functionalities required.
Note that if MVP priorities change, User Stories can easily be moved around and adjusted in accordance with Agile development methodology.
5) Capture Analytics from Day One
A common mistake when creating an MVP is failing to prioritize and incorporate data capture and analytics into the start of your project. Without data-driven insights, your team is left guessing as to what is working well or needs to change.
Instead, use robust data and analysis techniques from user interactions and feedback starting on day one. This ensures that you’re equipped with the knowledge and facts needed to make informed decisions on what to build, when to build it, and whether or not existing features and user interfaces should be left untouched, altered or scrapped.
6) Quickly Get Your MVP into User’s Hands
Once your team has decided on the minimum and most important features and you’ve built a working version complete with data and analytics, it’s time to send your MVP into the wild.
Quickly capturing continuous feedback from how customers interact with your MVP is critical to developing great software. In fact, even the most successful technology companies building MVPs never get everything right the first time and heavily rely on customer interactions with their software to dictate the project’s roadmap.
A good example to illustrate this is Apple’s launch of the first iPhone in 2007. The look, feel and functionality of iOS has transformed numerous times since then to achieve the user experience we all know and love today. Try using every version of iOS from the original iPhone OS to iOS 8 and you’ll quickly see how and why the MVP process is so effective.
As Apple and many other companies have proven, success starts by mastering the basics, quickly getting the MVP into the hands of your customers, and then iteratively improving your software based on customer interactions and feedback.
7) Build, Learn and Adapt
When you build software using the MVP process, the learnings and improvements never stop. Sprint after sprint, week after week, month after month, year after year… just when you think you’ve figured out and optimized every possible feature, your team will come up with innovations and enhancements to push your business to new levels of success.
In this digital era, companies must continue to build, learn and adapt to survive and thrive. Companies not using Agile and MVP processes will most likely be swallowed up by competitors in the near future. Don’t believe that statement? Just take a look at what has already happened to competitors of companies like Amazon, Uber, Netflix, Airbnb and Slack.
This digital disruption has just begun and many more companies will lose business or be wiped out in the relatively near future. But your company can instead take advantage of the constantly changing business landscape by becoming one of the disruptors – it all starts with your first MVP project.
8) Celebrate Successes and Failures
Teams that build amazing software often forget one simple yet very important task - taking time to celebrate! Reward your hardworking colleagues after launching new features or reaching notable milestones. Things like team luncheons or a fun offsite event to celebrate team accomplishments will reap dividends in even more productivity and results during future sprints.
And most importantly, don’t forget to also celebrate failures! With the MVP process, failure is a key component of building incredible software as lessons learned from things that didn’t work are often more valuable than insights gained through success.
Whether you work for a large enterprise or small startup, you’re now ready to use the MVP process to advance your career by building amazing software so your company can compete and thrive in a digital world. For additional information, contact our product development experts to help with your MVP projects.