The Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Published: 15 July, 2021
The MVP or Minimum Viable Product approach is an idea that was initially mainly used in the UX Design area and has its roots in the Lean Start-Up Movement. But what are we talking about with this approach? And what exactly are the benefits of it? Let’s take a closer look and discuss it in this article.
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Minimum Viable Product Definition
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is one of the most important milestones. At this stage, you can achieve true quantitative customer validation. The UNITE Innovation Approach describes each step in detail: From lining out your customer journey to sketch, wireframe, mockup, and actual prototype.
To begin, let’s look at a definition for Minimum Viable Product or MVP for short. A “Minimum Viable Product” defines a certain development stage for a product or service. At this development stage, it is possible for the first time to test the product/service under realistic conditions at the customer’s site and, above all, with the customer. Only functions that are absolutely necessary for the actual purpose are implemented. This can also be just a single function, as long as it reflects the intended use case of the final product.
This considerably accelerates product development in terms of time and saves valuable resources. The Minimum Viable Product is thus translated as the release of a product/service in its minimum possible functional scope.
Regardless of possible expansion stages, Minimum Viable Product does not describe the development of “minimal” products. Rather, it defines the point in development where minimum effort and qualitative feedback meet.
The idea behind a Minimum Viable Product
Many products are developed by start-ups and fail on the market within a very short time. There are various reasons for this and no company is protected against it. A Minimum Viable Product attacks at this point. We cannot protect products that are simply bad. But we can promote those that follow a really good idea or philosophy but could have disappeared under other approaches due to other possible mistakes.
These errors could look different. They can be of an organizational or entrepreneurial nature, or they can affect the product and the targeted customers. The first source of error can never be excluded and even good products with suitable customer benefits fail because of it. However, all product- and customer-related problems can be countered preventively if a Minimum Viable Product is used well.
The idea is therefore the following: in order not to be displaced by the constantly changing market or simply miss the interest of the users, the MVP method was developed within the framework of the Lean Start-Up idea in order to develop a product quickly, close to the user needs. By entering the market early, initial feedback from the intended target group can be obtained after a short time.
All we need is an initial version with all the functionality needed for basic use and valuable feedback to optimize the product. In the following development cycles, the MVP and the company get closer and closer to the market-ready product version for which customers are willing to pay X amount.
The characteristics of a Minimum Viable Product
However, creating a Minimum Viable Product requires the company to plan accordingly. An MVP can be used in different industries, so there is no one right way. Nevertheless, the approach follows different characteristics as a basic framework across industries.
MVP: Testing and customer feedback
Both testing and customer feedback are the basis of every Minimum Viable Product. They form the basis for any further improvement of the product. At the same time, they are obligatory for the basic idea of the concept. Only when the MVP is extensively tested can the idea unfold its effect. The advantage lies in the simplicity of the MVP itself. A product version is created that is put into the test phase without long planning and detailed preparation.
This test phase represents the heart of the development. Customer feedback replaces detailed planning and market research in advance. If it is carried out incorrectly, or if the user feedback is not adapted appropriately, the MVP approach will fail. The feedback of the customers or users must be obtained permanently and the Minimum Viable Product is adapted piece by piece based on it.
Customer feedback reduces the risk
Exactly this mentioned feedback is important to achieve one of the big goals: Reducing risk. We have already highlighted it at the beginning, a start-up or a product idea always involves a certain risk. An MVP should ensure that at least the risks of lack of customer value or customer acceptance are eliminated.
A Minimum Viable Product reduces costs
The aspect of cost reduction follows a very simple logic: the less initially invested in the development of the basic product, the lower the costs of correction. Likewise, the individual development steps are significantly leaner. Enhancements or improvements take place after and based on customer feedback. This sequence makes it possible to save money for development instead of spending it on corrections.
Some companies invest enormous sums in the first prototype of a product whose market position is not yet foreseeable. Of course, this can work and possible failures can be cushioned or avoided by appropriate market research, but high chances of success are rather reserved for established large companies.
For start-ups, for whom the financial component has a strong influence on the future of the company, working with MVPs is therefore very attractive. A failure in the early phase of a company is significantly more likely to lead to its demise than in the case of a large corporation.
The difference between MVP and prototype
A fact that is often misunderstood is that the development of a prototype is not at the same time the development of an MVP. But what is the difference? In a prototype, a version of a product is developed, which is usually discarded entirely after the testing phase, or gets completely new features. Also, a prototype is not bound to represent the minimum version of the final function, it can also contain only a part of the later functions.
Although there are parallels to the MVP approach here as well, especially in the area of rapid prototyping, these also differ in the further processing of the respective product versions.
The process of launching an MVP
Before launching a Minimum Viable Product, one should follow several process steps. These can also differ in detail again
- Validate and prioritize the problems and needs of your target audience.
- Work out the core benefit of your target group or the value proposition and review
- Development of an initial version of the product. This process is called a “build”.
- Communication of the offering to users, as well as the customer value of users. These are either early adopters or dedicated test customers. Depending on the company’s situation, it makes sense to offer the MVP not to all, but only to some of the users. Especially if the company is dependent on working very cost-efficiently. Another option can be the rotation of the MVP, insofar as it is a physical product.
- Now the product is tested and evaluated by the targeted users. This step marks the “Measure” point in the BML cycle.
- Evaluate the feedback and use the resulting learnings for further steps. For example, you could discard the MVP or develop it further. If you decide to develop it further, it can lead to the adaptation of the original idea and subsequently to a second version of the MVP.
The last step turns out to be very radical. Normally, an MVP is not completely discarded. This would thematically take place more in the area of a prototype, as mentioned before.
In theory, the use of a Minimum Viable Product is suitable for all types of companies. The idea behind it follows a strong customer-centric approach, which is particularly important for modern products, as they are otherwise outperformed by the competition. Customer-centric development offers advantages for large companies all the way to startups. Because regardless of how good your own market research was before development, sometimes it doesn’t show all the details that may be important to customers.
In practice, however, large companies, in particular, have problems or reservations about using a Minimum Viable Product. The reason for this is often a combination of two factors: On the one hand, they enjoy a certain reputation and are afraid that this could be damaged by an unfinished product. On the other hand, they are not necessarily dependent on pushing down costs in the early phase of development. For startups, this aspect is much more relevant, as development costs can determine the life and death of an entire company.
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