MVP or minimum viable product is the new buzz word of the digital product manager. The theory is that it is the launch product that gives the highest return on investment versus the risk. The term was defined by Frank Robinson and is used mainly in web applications.
As Seth Godin puts it in Linchpin “The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship”
The key to MVP is to ship and iterate, ship and iterate.
MVP works a number of reasons
- You get the product in market – you ship it
- In the first month uptake is early adopters and they are used to living in beta
- You can iterate and evolve your product based on actual usage
- You can get direct customer feedback on the product and from your early adopters and advocates
This is great for a start up, dedicated business unit or singly minded company. Where I have seen it come unstuck is in corporates that have multiple priorities and MVP has crept into the vocabulary and culturally the business is not focused on MVP and ship and iterate model, they operate in a fire and forget or fire and move on.
What tends to happen in larger organisations is everyone focuses on the MVP product, it is shipped and then the resources and budget are moved on to the next priority and product and therefore the product isn’t iterated. It is launched and left. In extreme cases after the launch the product manager needs to go through the whole approval round and prioritisation and the iteration does not happen for months or in one instance over a year.
MVP is a viable strategy to ensuring speed to market and your proposition is shipped and If you are planning on using MVP to you need to ensure you have resources booked and lined up for further enhancements. This will may take great discipline from the sponsor and is also likely to need cultural change to make sure the product is continually iterated and enhanced.