A lot has been written on the use and effectiveness of the Minimum Viable Product in business. For those who have not heard the term before, this is the lean version of an ‘early prototype’. This ‘prototype’ may be applied in all kind of businesses, outside strict engineering.
So, the MVP is build in order to validate a significant aspect of the business model; the aspect that is connected to the product itself. Does the product solve the problem? Are the customers ready to buy it? How much should we be charging? An MVP is always a good way to get answers to these questions.
Accepted forms of MVP are:
- A simple landing page with a Unique Value Proposition
- A landing page with a Unique Value Proposition and a short video
- The front end of a website (like an e-shop without stock)
- A concierge MVP (where the service is not yet automated)
- One-feature only MVP
All of the above types are acceptable and they serve the purpose of reducing the waste of time and money. The entrepreneur needs to build it fast with the minimal of the available resources, so that s/he may be able to test it as soon as possible.
Some entrepreneurs are very proud of the fact that they have been able to create an MVP within the space of a few hours, before they launched it. Some pre-accelerators declare that the participants in their events could build an MVP in 48 hours (or less)! I am sure this is feasible but is it always realistic?
Anyone could create a mini product or pretend s/he has something tangible to sell. Many entrepreneurs, though, disregard the fact that the MVP should reflect closely the end product they have in mind. After all, they will need to test all the features/ angles/ perspectives of the product (as well as the business), as they imagine it will become. Hence, the MVP should be a micrography of the end result.
A very good example is the architectural model of a skyscraper. The architect may not have to build deep foundations or take care of the myriad of the decorative features. However, s/he should still construct a model that closely resembles the future building. It should have the right proportions in all three dimensions, it should convey the ideals behind its erection and it should have the right appeal to the investors who will fund it. If the model is irrelevant to the final product, it will just be another form of dangerous distraction.
Similarly in the business world, the MVP should resemble the end result. So, the aims and goals should be set out from the beginning and no effort should be spared in that very important planning session. The entrepreneur should be clear about the steps s/he would ideally take to achieve the final goal. At the same time, s/he should be flexible enough to change direction and review the original plans, as it is deemed necessary.
The quality of the product does not have to be exceptional, since it will change over and over again. The features should be kept minimal, so that they are individually tested. And yet, this does not mean that the MVP should be completed in the space of a few hours or a few days. On the contrary, there should be no set time for the completion of all MVPs. Only the nature of the business and the skills of the team may define the time and money that will be spent in this crucial phase.
For more information on lean startup methodology, you could take a look at my other blog posts.