In this episode, Jeff “Cheezy” Morgan helps us to understand why the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept is so important and how to find the MVP for your project.
After listening to this episode, you'll understand:
- The real meaning of Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
- How to use the MVP to ensure you build the right solution
- How to find the MVP – even on legacy projects
Most teams have a misconception about what the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is. The MVP is really the simplest way possible to prove a hypothesis. That hypothesis is often related to the software solution we’re trying to build and our assumption that the solution will meet customer needs.
Finding the Minimum Viable Product allows teams and organizations to create the simplest thing possible to prove or disprove their assumption that their solution is viable by getting customer feedback.
The thought behind the MVP is to rapidly get feedback from customers in the cheapest and fastest way possible without having to build a full, final product that might not meet customer needs.
Some examples of companies that used the MVP concept are Apple, Zappos, and Dropbox.
Zappos, an online shoe retailer, started without have any shoes in stock. When a customer placed an order, they went to a local shoe retailer to purchase the shoes and sent them to the customer. For Zappos, their MVP was a website from which customers could see information about shoes and place an order. They used this MVP approach to prove that customers would be willing to buy shoes online.
When Dropbox started, they weren’t sure that people would be comfortable storing their files on the cloud. Instead of investing to build out their infrastructure before they knew that their product would be viable, they started with a very small MVP; a video. They went live with a website and a three-minute video.
MVP isn’t just for startups and new products
Many organizations don’t use the Minimum Viable Product concept because they don’t think it applies to them. They may be working on legacy systems and established products with existing customers.
The MVP requires a different way of thinking about products and solutions. Any enhancements to existing products or existing systems are unknowns and can be tested using an MVP.
We need to think about shorter release cycles and simple ways to test for some of our hypotheses. MVP allows you to make sure you’re on the right track and course correct when needed very quickly and at lower cost.
The belief that we know what the customers want has been proven wrong again and again. There are hundreds of products in the market with features that are rarely or never used.
Finding the MVP
To discover the MVP, have an experimentation mindset. Start with a hypothesis stating we expect to happen by implementing a solution and how we will measure the outcome. Once you have a hypothesis, think of small ways that you can test that hypothesis to prove (or disprove it).
Question assumptions about what the customer needs and would find valuable and come up with small, cheap experiments to prove
Possible options may include simple prototypes (physical or paper) or anything you can show to customers to get feedback and make adjustments based on that feedback.
One possible way of expressing a hypothesis is:
We believe that by [creating this solution] we will [solve this problem] which will have [these benefits] as measured by [these metrics]
Listen to the full episode to hear all of Cheezy’s tips.
- Understand that just because we believe users will value something doesn’t mean it’s correct. Question that assumption and come up with ways to test that idea.
- Become familiar with continuous delivery as the ultimate form of MVP. This is the essence of putting small things in front of users and getting feedback to make small adjustments.
Jeff "Cheezy" Morgan
Chief Technology Officer of LeanDog
Jeff “Cheezy” Morgan is the Chief Technology Officer and a co-founder of LeanDog. He has been teaching classes and coaching teams on agile and lean techniques since early 2004. Most of his work has focused on the engineering practices used by developers and testers. He has authored several popular Ruby gems used by software testers and the book Cucumber & Cheese – A Testers Workshop.
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