Over the past decade MVP (Minimum Viable Version) has proven to be a generally accepted standard of fast and cost-effective custom product development in tech companies and startups. When you are at the point to begin your next big project, MVP will help you do things right - from idea validation to product design and market launch.
This article gives an overview of the idea validation process using MVP to help decision makers explore, build and deliver the market-ready version of a product based on a customer's idea. Here I describe the three steps of building an MVP and how your business can benefit using this development approach.
What makes a good MVP
In Lean startup development, the term "MVP" refers to a basic version of end-user software that comprises core features and functionalities needed to deliver value to target audiences and leave some space for monetization.
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As a process, MVP development aims to create a new product with unique value propositions and competitive advantages that will be improved over time with the help of regular feedback from early adopters. It helps validate a tech idea early and test the market to see what kind of response we receive from users.
Generally speaking, if we get a positive response, we can proceed with developing a full-featured version of the product. If we receive negative feedback, we need to repeat the feedback loop "Build - Measure - Learn" so that we continuously improve and polish the MVP.
The MVP approach enables speed and agility in product development environments and can be leveraged by individual teams and startups, as well as be easily scaled at the enterprise level where multiple remote and co-located teams come to play.
Let’s walk through the three essential steps of the MVP development process.
Step #1. Identify the use case. What are you trying to build?
When you come up with a special idea, be sure it's something worthy of your time and customers’ attention. You need to answer a lot of questions, such as what kind of product you're going to build, who will use it, how it differentiates your business, what problem it solves, how to develop it, and more.
A scoping session is a good way to brainstorm an idea and pack it into something meaningful - a product backlog, for example. During this session, our team explores possible scenarios, user stories and associated risks as well as outlines technical, budget, and time limitations. We hypothesize and predict the must-have stuff that can excite users and make your business stand out in the market.
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The main purpose is to define an MVP, the minimum set of features that offer value to the end-user and have a potential for monetization.
Here are some questions to discuss during a scoping session::
- What business problem is this new product going to help with?
- How will the new product solve the business need? What inputs will it receive?
- What are the alternatives available on the market, if any?
- Is there enough data to predict effectiveness? Is this data suitably clean, accessible, etc.?
- Are there initial experiments that show a promising MVP version to deliver the necessary features?
- How does the MVP application need to integrate (REST, Batch, etc.)?
In the end, we come up with these essentials:
- Backlog covers all the features and functionalities that define an MVP
- Resource estimate, a detailed forecast of time and cost needed for MVP development
- Product roadmap that outlines the development process and what the MVP will look like at the release stage
Step #2. Refine requirements. Interactive prototypes and regular feedback
Many companies fail to turn their ideas into marketable products because there is much uncertainty remaining unsolved in their development projects - due to inaccurate requirements gathered at the beginning of and throughout a project.
Lack of change control and poor communication between the team, client and users snowball into wrong requirements, which in turn causes inappropriate UI/UX, development, test, and so on. Prototyping helps address these issues directly by providing users with tangible product samples and models they can see and try. It removes uncertainty and helps the team validate the idea in the shortest time possible.
MVP development uses prototyping as a fast and cheap way to understand what users really want to see in the future product. Usually we build several or more prototypes to figure out whether an idea gets traction - through detailed wireframes, mockups, animations, interactive demos.
Here below are a few considerations on this matter:
- By combining MVP development with a sprint-based Scrum approach, we can prototype product UX/UI for business users and provide an appealing demo at the end of each sprint (e.g. 1 week).
- Based on a daily feedback loop, we validate what we are building every day of the sprint.
- In around 3-4 sprints we come up with an interactive prototype the business users can touch and play with.
Ultimately, prototyping helps refine the requirements and control ongoing change in any point of the sprint so that the team can validate the idea and move on to developing an MVP version.
For example, we were building a productivity app for Android users. We would decompose ‘to-do list’ use cases into separate actions, behaviours and scenarios for different users and tasks, and land all this data in advance of the sprint. The team would then build a prototype directly from the landed data, concurrently building the back-end/database/API of the app. The main purpose is to get the data into the hands of business users for early validation.
Step #3. Using Kanban for data-driven MVP design
Once MVP features and components have been defined and approved through prototyping, a Kanban-based delivery approach comes into play to help keep the MVP development process on track.
Kanban is an efficient method to manage product development workflows and integrate teams in a single working environment. Unlike separate phases in traditional workflow management practices, Kanban creates an integrated end-to-end cycle of work to test and deploy various parts of the MVP. With DevOps practices in place, Kanban facilitates automating incremental delivery that is within the build cycle.
Here are at least four reasons why a Kanban-based development process makes sense for our teams at Intersog:
- It's transparent. Everyone in the team clearly knows what to focus on next. Kanban visualizes work items and helps prevent wasteful multitasking and duplicates.
- It's scalable. Whatever small or large project we're on, we can expand the development process across co-located and dispersed teams without putting the overall project at risk.
- It commits to self-control and responsibility. Every team member has to pull work items himself - from board to board down to successful completion.
- It offers the ability to analyze the previous jobs at any point. Both the team and the customer are always aware of where the project is and how it keeps moving forward.
We pay special attention to integrating the Kanban method into the customer's existing workflows, budgets and requirements. This way we control changes and match the MVP with the customer's go-to-market strategy, without spending too many resources on that.
Get your custom MVP
Imagine that your new tech idea is so exciting that you (or your client) are likely to invest in new product design and development to bring it into reality.
As you are a smart entrepreneur, first you want to validate the idea to understand its market potential and the value it brings to your or your client’s business. You need the fastest and cheapest way to test the most critical assumptions so that you can figure out whether the idea is feasible enough to push the development process. This is where the concept of MVP comes into play.
The three steps described in this article are digested from tens of use cases and scenarios our team has experienced in client and in-house projects over the past few years. If you are looking for a trusted tech partner to bring your product idea into reality, you just contact our sales to get a free consultation and know the shortest possible path to releasing your product.