BusinessCan Minimum Valuable Products Work in Project Management?

Can Minimum Valuable Products Work in Project Management?

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Where do you stand on the concept of minimum valuable products? Is MVP, as it is colloquially known, just another buzzword or is it something of value when it comes to project management?

Eric Riese, who was among the first to use the term, said minimum valuable products are “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort,” according to a post at LeanStack.com. The site says the term evolved and became simplified to “the smallest thing you can build that lets you quickly make it around the build/measure/learn loop.”

In effect, as Charles Seybold pointed out in a blog post at Liquid Planner, minimum valuable products have the main goal of putting products out quickly to see if they are on the right track for customer use. Get it done and make them better if need be.

Pawel Brodzinski, writing on his blog, says MVP has become little more than a buzzword. He’s down on the concept. He uses his experience at his company Lunar Logic, which has been in business for a decade, to make this case. Brodzinski says he can recall “one or maybe two ideas that were really minimal in a way that they would validate a hypothesis and yet require least work to build.”

To him, a normal case doesn’t require building even two-thirds of a minimum value product to validate a hypothesis. “With enough understanding of business environment it’s fairly easy to go even further than that, i.e. cut down even more features and still get the idea (in)validated,” Brodzinski writes.

He further elaborates based on experience his company has had developing apps in the last 10 years. He said almost 90 percent of them are no longer being used. That’s not because they were failures. Rather, they have either evolved, been bought by others like Facebook or lost their value. App building has served as project knowledge.

“We learned more about business context. We learned more about real problems of customers and their willingness to pay for solving them. We learned that specific assumptions we’d had were completely wrong and others were right on spot. In short, we acquired information,” he explained.

Christopher Bank has a helpful article for determining if minimum viable products work called “15 Ways to Test Your Minimum Viable Product.” As he observes, “Time and money are valuable resources and wasting them on building a product that doesn’t meet that criteria is out of the question.”

He says good MVP tests explore not only the technical aspects of a products but also the business viability. They should determine if the product is viable for the market it seeks to serve.

Here are some of Bank’s suggestions for testing an MVP. The first is the customer interview, which isn’t a sales pitch, but rather an exploration. The interviews, he determines, “can be a goldmine of actionable information.” Even if the customer doesn’t find the product important, you should have been able to glean input that helps you tailor the offering going forward.

Ad campaigns are another means for testing a minimum viable product. Bank says the campaigns need to be done in the context of a Facebook or Google campaign where the data can be drilled down to specific demographic information. He suggests, “ …  this lets you run a low-fidelity test to see which features or aspects of your product are most appealing.”

Another effective tool is what you are reading here: a blog. Bank says, “The two-way communication from blogs gives an ideal platform to build momentum and gather customer feedback in the MVP development process.” A blog can also be the foundation for a book or other expanded information on your product. Worst-case scenario is it delivers a written record of your product in an easily understood, condensed version.

Finally, Bank puts forth an interesting suggestion for evaluating an MVP: do the project manually as if you had a fully functional, automated product. He cites the founder of Zappos who manually filled orders for shoes at first. “When someone ordered the shoe online, he would come back to the store and buy it. Instead of first investing in infrastructure and inventory, this gave Zappos a chance to answer the question of whether their product would be accepted by the market,” Bank said.

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