July 13

Minimum Viable Products — How to Apply in Larger Companies

The origin of the Minimum Viable Product. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a crucial component of the Lean Startup principles. But the practice can also be immensely impactful in more established companies. An MVP can be defined as a version of a solution that contains the minimum feature set that satisfies the needs of the customer. Importantly, an MVP must also establish that a customer would pay for the solution, assuming that this is part of the business model. An MVP is a step within a routine known as Build, Measure, Learn. First, an MVP is built, then reactions are measured and then learnings are accounted for, before repeating the process, refining the MVP each time. For more on the origin of MVPs, check out the official Lean Startup manifesto.

How to maximize your minimum viable product. There are plenty of good reasons to employ MVPs. As the HUGE team note, good product teams do so because they understand that you can’t assume you know what your customers want and that you should “focus your MVP on validating your assumptions about users, and listen to their reactions closely.” MVPs will also help your team focus on what’s important — testing key features as opposed to all of them and reacting iteratively based on what is learned.

Why enterprise product managers should choose MVEs over MVPs. Startups will find it easy to throw caution to the wind and release iterations of a product to a live audience, even if there are serious flaws present. This approach is much more difficult for larger companies. Giving the example of a financial institution working on an MVP for a payment application, Michael Bamberger illustrates how unwieldy the process would be to get legal approval for each iteration. His suggestion is that you reframe your MVPs as MVEs (MV Experiments). Beyond altering some of the ways you approach the process, this seems to be mostly nomenclature. But it could make it a more digestible process for all levels of the business. Bonus: HBR has four other tips for launching MVPs in big companies

The four types of MVPs. An MVP can take different forms, including Concierge. With this method, you are replacing automated services with unscaleable manual work. Ryan Law gives us an example — meal planning service Food on the Table dealt directly with their first customers, understanding specific requirements and then giving meal recommendations. This would later be replaced with sophisticated software once the product was validated. You could also simply create a landing page that sufficiently illustrates the value proposition and presents this to potential customers online or in person.

Paul McAvinchey

About the author

For over 20 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on in the exclusive Member Hub, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Interviews and get a weekly newsletters that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.


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