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MVP: do you need it?

MVP – a good idea “in battle”

Nearly 90% of startups fail, and about half of those failures are due to a lack of demand for the product or service. To test hypotheses with minimal risk, use MVP – a minimum viable product with

What is an MVP – on the example of Uber

MVP, or minimum viable product, is the term. In plain English, this is an imperfect product that already exists and serves its intended purpose. The main concept behind an MVP is to quickly develop a product, make it available to customers, and then refine it.

For example, an application with which you can see public transport routes, but with a primitive design and no additional features.

Frank Robinson, the co-founder, and president of the consultancy company SyncDev, came up with the word in 2001. Although the acronym MVP is used in many different industries, software development and digital services are where you’ll most frequently see it.

Robinson himself defined MVP as the result of “synchronous development” – the simultaneous development of the product and research of the target audience.

MVP is part of the Lean Startup and Customer Development concepts. The Lean concept is aimed at reducing the cost of launching business projects. Customer Development is a consumer research technique, including with the help of MVP.

One of the most famous examples of MVPs is Uber. At first, the application could only connect customers with drivers. When the founders were convinced of the viability of the idea, they began to add additional features.

What is CustDev: methodology principles

Customer Development (CustDev) means the development of customers, but it would be more accurate to define it as the development of relationships with customers. The concept was conceived by Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur. After watching dozens of start-ups fail, he realized that the classic MBA tricks are not suitable for new technology companies.

Startup funding is often limited, so it’s important for them to get their first customers as quickly as possible. To help these companies, Blank created the Lean Startup technology, of which Customer Development is a part.

CustDev Principles:

  • Saving time. The technology is based on a series of short interviews, the purpose of which is to get insights from customers.
  • Agile approach. The work is divided into cycles, each of which brings a mini-result to the company.
  • The philosophy of the method: “we do exactly what people need right now, and what they are willing to pay for.”

The Customer Development process can be roughly divided into three stages:

  • Customer Discovery. At this stage, you are trying to imagine who can become a client of the company. Search for data about the audience, draw up its portrait and analyze the product market.
  • Conducting interviews – look for potential buyers, communicate with them, and find information that will help strengthen the product.
  • Creation of an MVP. MVP is an acronym from English that means a minimum viable product. This is a test version of the service – with a minimum set of functions, which, however, already allow you to compete in the market.

As a result of Customer Development, the entrepreneur has a backlog in his hands and a clear set of actions. By completing them, the startup will make its product useful for users.

How does MVP differ from PoC?

MVP is sometimes confused with PoC – Proof of Concept. These concepts are related, but not interchangeable. The two methods solve different problems.

PoC is everything that proves the viability of an idea: pre-orders, investments on crowdfunding platforms, and market research. The founders of Dropbox showed the audience a video about the functionality of a non-existent service and received 75 thousand subscribers. This served as a proof of concept.

The method of The Wizard of Oz, or Flintstone’s MVP, is like a concierge. All work is done by hand, but for the consumer, they create the illusion of a full-fledged product. The founder of the online shoe store Zappos, Nick Swinmern, photographed shoes in local stores and posted pictures on the site. When an order came in, he would buy a pair and send it to the customer. In the eyes of buyers, the process was already automated, but a full-fledged online store was created later.

How long does the process take to develop an MVP?

Depending on the market, team, and niche, the order of the steps may alter. Work is often broken into eight stages:

  • a description of the issue the solution will address. This clarifies what the user will anticipate from the MVP.
  • identifying the group of potential customers for whom the product is being developed. Experts agree that targeting a large audience is a mistake and that it is preferable to concentrate on a smaller group of customers.
  • examination of rivals. The research is done to see whether there are similar products on the market and whether the MVP can be enhanced with something special to differentiate it from rivals.
  • SWOT evaluation. The express analysis is a tool for evaluating an idea’s potential. More information on how to accomplish it is available here.
  • creating a path map for the client, showing the steps he must take to use the MVP.
  • choosing the MVP’s primary functions. The remainder will be added later; these are just the features that assist in resolving the user’s issue.
  • development of an MVP. MVPs leverage Lean, Scrum, Kanban, or Extreme Programming approaches in the development space.
  • An MVP test. Real users are given access to the product, feedback is gathered, and the MVP is then polished while taking user feedback into consideration.

Depending on the product, there may be an equal number of testing and improvement cycles before a complete solution is reached.

When the MVP is fully developed and all the planned features have been added to it, it is already a product. Then it is maintained or continues to be improved.



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