What an MVP really is and how you can benefit from it.
The term MVP was coined and defined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries. A popular definition is the following:
“… the minimum viable product (MVP) is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback for future development…”
If you analyse this definition, you will see three major components there:
1. An MVP provides ‘Just enough features’
Assuming you have a product backlog — a list of all the features you want to build in your product — you have to decide the order to build them and when to release your product. The idea is to prioritize the features and release a smaller instance of my product, faster. But what would be the criteria for the prioritization? And how many of the top prioritized features are enough to deliver value to your early customers?
The criteria for ranking your features could be [a] value for the users and [b] feasibility of execution: you need to identify the best subset of the features in your complete product backlog, the ones delivering the most value for your users — and which are also feasible for your to build, launch and operate.
To identify the ‘red line’ — that is, after which feature to release your MVP — you need to think both as a user and also as an entrepreneur: apply business and product sense to find the minimum set of those top-ranked features which solves the problem for your customers. This is your MVP — and this justifies the Minimum in the MVP.
2. An MVP ‘satisfies early customers’
This first instance of your product, must be good enough to solve the problem for your customers — they should get value out of it from day one. Your MVP must be usable and effective so users engage with it and potentially pay for it.
Your early customers should be so happy with your product, to act as promoters — to recommend it to others and publicly share their satisfaction (if not excitement).
3. An MVP ‘enables feedback for future development’
As a product manager, it is critical to deeply understand what your users want and reflect it to your product strategy. You need the right mechanisms and processes to capture the level of user engagement and measure how users interact with your product — across platforms, channels and markets.
Telemetry systems and the right reporting and analysis tools can cover these analytical needs — along with specialized product performance dashboards, which present KPIs in the right context to enable quick comparisons and decisions.
In many cases, it is a great idea to collect additional qualitative feedback — for example by organizing focus groups to evaluate the UX of your MVP; or by hosting user interviews, analysing unstructured feedback etc. Qualitative data will help you understand how you are delivering value to the users and what can be improved.
You could also consider using customer satisfaction mechanisms such as the NPS — Net Promoter Score — as a way to capture user satisfaction in a standardized way.
All the above define a product performance measurement framework, with the insights required to make better, informed decisions and explore further investment areas.