A minimum viable product, or MVP, is precisely what it sounds like: the most basic set of features that can still be called a product.
MVPs are particularly useful if you’re investing in the development of custom software.
Historically, you’d start with a product idea and do market research. If the results indicated people would buy the product, you’d commit time and money to a lengthy development process and end up with a full-featured application.
Sometimes, you’d end up with a successful product.
Other times, the product would fail. Or user reception would be lukewarm, without the significant return on your investment promised by your market research.
Maybe a competitor beat you to market, or user needs shifted during the long development cycle.
Either way, you were out a boatload of developer time and budget.
With an MVP approach, you can test the temperature of the water before diving into the deep end. As a result, you get to market faster and gain early feedback that helps prevent a belly flop.
To understand how an MVP helps accelerate Agile development, let’s take a closer look at this development approach.
What’s a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
A minimum viable product is a simple but functional version of your product that solves a single, significant problem for your users.
MVPs are highly useful Agile tools. Teams use them early in the development process to identify flaws in product design. They also aid in making critical development decisions.
Does an MVP generate revenue? It depends. A developer might release an MVP to gain feedback from early adopters, but not all MVPs will be marketable. The focus is on making a minimum viable product, not a minimum marketable product.
The Benefits of MVP Development
The main benefit of an MVP approach is that it saves you development time and reduces costs.
MVPs help you identify core user needs early in the development cycle. As a result, you make better decisions about the technology stack to use and the functionalities to focus on.
MVPs also give you a chance to validate your idea with less risk. Feedback from early users can tell you if your product will sink or swim before you invest too much time or money.
User feedback can also guide product features and enhancements. By listening to what your MVP users say or monitoring how they use the prototype, you get valuable insight into the product enhancements your users truly want.
The MVP approach also helps get you to market faster. By focusing on solving one critical problem for your customer, you can quickly bring a new feature to your test users and—if the problem solved is important enough—even take it to market.
Finally, MVPs set the stage for future development iterations and help you clearly see the next steps to take. In some instances, an MVP can prove the merit of your product to internal or external investors to help you secure funding for future development.
Tips for MVP Development
If you’re new to MVP development or you just want to improve your skills, here are a few tips for using MVPs effectively.
Define Your Unique Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition is a direct and concise statement that defines the benefits a customer will get from your product or service. Developing an MVP becomes much easier once you’ve honed your value proposition; you simply cut the features and functionalities that don’t support your value proposition. By clearly defining your product’s benefits to customers, you’ll gain more clarity about what needs to be in your MVP.
Use Low-Code/No-Code Development
One of the newer ways to build your MVP is with low-code or no-code software. Traditional software development is often slow and expensive. It’s also complex and requires hiring additional talent. Low-code/no-code platforms offer you a simpler, faster, and cheaper way to build an MVP.
Keep in mind that “minimally viable” does not mean “perfect.” The goal of an MVP should be to get user feedback that will help you get to perfect. Don’t try to achieve perfection with that first (or second, or third) release because you’ll end up getting stuck on the details. Before you know it, you’ve extended the development process—which is one of the issues you’re trying to avoid by developing an MVP in the first place.
The rationale behind Agile development is to refine as you go. To do that, you need to get feedback. Whether you put your MVP in front of a focus group or release it to market, make sure you gather feedback from people who use your product. User comments will help you accurately identify which parts of your product to refine.
Using an MVP approach helps accelerate Agile development by allowing you to correct course early on. As a result, you’re able to test your product’s viability before sinking too much money into it. You also avoid missteps that lead to costly and time-consuming rework.
By enabling you to gather feedback early in the development process, you can better iterate to make your product better. The less development time and money you spend before releasing it to your users, the less costly rework you’ll have to do if the product sinks.
Don’t create an MVP as a quick way to get your product to the market. That’s not its purpose. An MVP’s value lies in getting something in front of people so that you can begin to get feedback from your audience.
By using MVPs effectively, you can accelerate your Agile development process. As a result, the development cycle is shorter, you get to market faster, and your product wows your users.