The term “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) is often seen as a buzz word. I read a great post by Scott Riley about why he hates shipping MVPs which helped me to re-think the wording of this phrase to “Smallest Viable Product” (SVP). For the sake of common understanding, I’ll refer to MVP and SVP interchangeably here.
An MVP is the smallest possible product, requiring the smallest amount of initial effort, in order to satisfy the needs of your proposed customer. I often view an MVP as a pretty storefront, with a herd of hamsters frantically spinning their wheels in the back room. Your MVP is largely about showcasing the potential of your product and the need it meets for your customer. Ultimately, your customer doesn’t really mind how you achieve the result, as long as you achieve it to an acceptable standard to meet their need.
Today, I’d like to dive a little bit deeper into the mindset behind crafting your MVP.
Think in abstracts and basics
When crafting your SVP, the thought process should be focussed on finding the shortest path of least resistance. If you’ve got a technical solution in mind, put it to the side. Code should be the last thought on your mind at this point. Lets use an example problem; “My business finds it difficult to find a regular stream of interns to match our highly specialised textiles business”.
The words “pattern matching algorithm” come to mind. We could either now spend several months building out an advanced algorithm, testing it with large datasets and attempting to prove results to the customer. This isn’t a very lean approach.
In this example problem, lets assume we have experts within the team who are well versed in the requirements of the best possible intern for said textiles business. We could have them manually work through the datasets once a month, pick the top 10 interns and send their information to the business’s HR department. This requires no programming, no testing and makes use of an existing resource; the brain of an expert in our field (hello pattern matching algorithm!).
At this stage in the process, we have our MVP! Take note that we haven’t closed off dealings with the customer, as an MVP is not meant to be shipped. An MVP should be of such a small scale that the key stakeholders should have no issue with throwing it away and starting again.
Identifying the next step up
Through applying a lean approach up front, we can quickly find out from the expert doing the matching if there are any common repetitive tasks, major pain points or key data points we should be looking at. These critical feedback items can be rolled into the beginnings of a system to help match the candidates more efficiently. Lets use the example of “all applications are being faxed in, making them difficult to track”.
Adding a Google Form to the company’s website and directing all queries to that page would present all applicants in a trackable, paperless and more efficient means of processing.
At this stage, not a single line of code has been written.
While a topic for another day, continuous improvement is important to note here. Through a regular feedback loop and evaluation of the system, the internal workings of the system can develop and evolve, regularly meeting the ever-changing needs of the customer, while staying true to the original goal.
Keep it small, keep it lean and keep it simple. The needs of the customer are often simpler than the solutions presented.