Minimum Viable Product in practice
I assume you understand the term MVP and the value of putting the minimal set of functionality in front of customers in order to get as much feedback as possible. If not, please have a look at this presentation and come back once you’re done.
Most people don’t argue with MVP principles, however some people find it hard to follow in practice.
In my experience, defining the following is all that you need to make your first MVP step:
- Define a viable vision
- Define the go-no-go criteria
- Define the minimal customer commitment level
- Choose appropriate media
These four concepts are all that you need to take your first stab at MVP:
Define a Viable Vision
Before starting any process of MVP validation, you Â need to have a properly articulated product vision. The product vision should include: problem definition, target market, high-level definition of the offering, buyers/influencers, channels to the market and pricing.
Actually, this isn’t exactly part of MVP, however, MVP is a means to an end, and the objective is to get to a product/market fit. The basic assumptions you think will get you to product/market fit, are the ones you’re trying to validate with the MVP approach.
Alistair Croll, calls this Minimum Viable Vision (MVV), and you can read about it here. I call it, viable vision – are you building something which someone really cares about.
Define Go-No-Go Criteria
Before even doing anything, make sure you understand the validation you’re trying to get, and how will you know you’re there. You can be in a very problematic state if you’ve implemented something, and you don’t know how to analyze the feedback you’re getting. So, make sure you define in advance a positive scenario (Go) and negative scenarios (No Go).
For example, we’ve defined a positive scenario that once we show our product demo (minimal) to potential customers, a positive out-come is that they request username and password to experiment on their own, and a negative outcome is if this doesn’t happen. Luckily for us, most potential customers wanted to continue forward, hence validated for us the value provided by the product demo.
The quality of potential customer’s feedback is directly related to their level of commitment. Simply put, a paying customer is the absolute truth that your product is valuable to someone. This is the truth we’re trying to get by running MVP. Each validation step should also be validated by the level of commitment by customers.
For example, if you present your product idea to a potential customer and hear from the customer that, yes, they have this problem your product solves and it’s very critical for them to solve it. You should ask this potential customer to be an early user of your product, however, if they refuse to do so (“not now”, “we have other burning issues at this point”…), you should weight their positive response accordingly. The fact that their not willing to commit, puts a different weight on their verbal feedback. For this reason, it’s important to make sure customers are acting in their feedback – clicking a link, putting their email, filling a form, using a product etc.
Ask yourself what would be the best media to put infront of potential customer to get the feedback you’re looking for. In Eric Ries examples, are all web related: web pages, links, banner ads and so forth. In other cases this could very well be a Power Point presentation, mockup screen shots, single use-case demo of an application, etc.
The trade-off is between the time it takes to get a clear answer on theÂ questionÂ at hand and the richness of the media. For example, a presentation would work very well at a conceptual level. You can present the problem you’re trying to address in a very clear way and get feedback from potential customers. However, in a presentation it would be very difficult to verify whether the way you’re proposing to solve the problem appeals to potential customers. If you hear ‘no’, we don’t have this problem, or ‘yes we do have this problem, but it’s not a burning one’, you know where you stand.
So, make sure to carefully select the media which provides you richer feedback to minimal investment.
If you have additional ideas on how to make MVP even more practical, please be sure to comment and share.