In this episode, Amanda Tygart and Jenny Swan help you to find the minimum viable product and use it to identify work that you should deliver first.


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • How to use personas to help with prioritization
  • How to slice work into valuable chunks
  • What minimum viable product (MVP) really means
  • How to identify the MVP for your project
  • What to do after you deliver the MVP

Show Notes

When everything is important, nothing is important.  If we elicit a long list of wants or a requirements backlog, how can we know where to start?  The approach that Amanda and Jenny share will help you to find the first slice you should take to get feedback and ensure you’re building the right solution.


Start with a Goal

To help you prioritize, start with the goal.  If you don’t have clarity about the goal, it’s hard to discover the right priorities.  When a stakeholder starts talking about a solution to implement as a goal, you’re clearly going down the wrong track.


Use Personas

Once everyone has clarity as to the goal, it’s important to understand who the end users are.  There are likely different types of users with different needs.  Understanding your customers should be done before you discuss potential solutions.

One way to get clarity on your customer needs is to create personas for each of your customer types.  Personas are avatars for your customers and help you better understand needs, wants, and constraints.  They also help you focus on a specific person (albeit a fictional person) instead of a vague notion of a customer group.



Another powerful yet underutilized tool to help understand your customers is observation.  You can observe customers interacting with your system or working through the problem you’re trying to solve for them.  This helps you gain empathy and better understand their needs.

Using personas and observation helps you filter the list of wants from stakeholders.  It puts a fact based framework around what’s important to your customers.



The minimum viable product (MVP), may be different things depending on your context and situation.  Minimum means that we’re looking for the simplest thing we can do to get feedback and learn.

Viability is about sustainability and scalability.  The MVP doesn’t necessarily need to be scalable, but you need to consider the viability within your context and what you’re trying to learn.  Be intentional about viability.

When working toward the MVP, you can start with a low fidelity prototype such as a paper prototype.  Starting with the simplest form allows you to learn and adjust without wasting time potentially building a high fidelity prototype of the wrong thing.


Brainstorm to Extract the MVP

To help you identify the MVP, use brainstorming techniques to generate a lot of ideas without judgment.  Once you have all your ideas (or wants), look at it through different lenses such as location or customer segment.

These lenses help you filter the ideas to what applies to a limited area of focus; something that you can build and on which you can get feedback.

Story mapping can also be used as a form of brainstorming to generate ideas and find a slice through the journey that will create an opportunity to learn and adapt.


After the MVP

Sometimes, you’re done after delivering the MVP.  More often, you’ll iterate and build on that MVP to create additional capabilities (minimum marketable features).

It’s important to get feedback and observe how customers are using your MVP and subsequent releases so that you can adapt your strategy going forward.

We often treat backlogs as a to do list.  Instead, think of it as a list of options and consider the diminishing returns as you get to lower value items in your backlog.


Listen to the full episode to understand how to use the MVP and personas to prioritize your project.



Your Homework

Go through the project goals with the team to gain clarity.  Also, remember that you can always build personas; even in the middle of a project.

Use the tactic of observation throughout your project to watch what users are doing and how people go about solving a problem.  This helps you reevaluate your assumptions and assess future work.


Links mentioned in this episode:

  • Link to Amanda and Jenny’s presentation at Agile 2016
Amanda Tygart

Amanda Tygart

Process Engineer-Agile Coach

Amanda is a Business Analyst by heart. She’s passionate about Agile and the BA role within Agile. Amanda loves to teach and spread the gospel about the benefits of Agile and how it can improve programs and domains.

Jenny Swan

Jenny Swan

Agile Coach

Jenny is a Business Analyst turned Agile Coach.  At Agile 2016, Jenny and Amanda gave a presentation entitled “Everything is important RIGHT NOW! How do I determine a Minimum Viable Product?”


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