Minimum viable products (MVPs) are a useful tool for any organization looking to get a new product or a significant feature set to market. Organizations focused on measurable customer success understand that an MVP does one thing exceptionally well: provides positive customer outcomes that can be quantified.
Building a valuable minimum viable product should not only benefit your target customers but should also benefit your organization in terms of growth and differentiation. Plus, it will enable you to create a more helpful and robust product down the road with customer outcomes always in the crosshairs. In this guide, we’ll take a granular look at what makes a great MVP and list some steps you can take to build your own.
What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A minimum viable product (MVP) is an initial version of your product that helps customers get a highly valuable outcome with a minimal feature set required to eliminate the biggest obstacles to that outcome. MVPs don’t include any bells or whistles.
Creating an MVP doesn’t start with a list of features–it ends with them. An MVP should focus on one or more customer outcomes that add value to the users as well as the customer organization. Their value should be defined in a way that can be easily quantified or measured.
The intention of an MVP is to help customers get their desired outcome with a minimal feature set. This approach allows you to collect customer feedback from a broader set of customers as they use this basic product. As a result, you can add more eloquent features and functionality after the fact with a stronger knowledge of how customers actually use the product and the things they most want to accomplish.
When Should You Create an MVP
So, when is an MVP helpful? Any company can create an MVP, from startups to fully developed organizations with large portfolios. When you are developing a new product or adding a significant piece of functionality to an existing product, you need to develop a minimum viable product and get it in front of customers.
An MVP is perfect when you want to get the basic version of a product to market so you can start gaining customer feedback and turning a profit. But remember: the MVP has to deliver measurable value to the customer.
Why Create an MVP
For some, creating a minimum viable product might seem like an unnecessary step in the development process. Why not just develop the entire product, features and all?
By creating an MVP and presenting it to customers, you’re able to discover whether the product delivers measurable strategic value to the customer and maximizes the product’s contribution to your company’s strategic and financial goals.
If customers are willing and excited to adopt your product without flashy features, you’ve got all the justifiable data you need to undergo the rest of development to enrich their experience. On the other hand, if customers aren’t interested in your product or it doesn’t quite deliver their desired outcomes, you won’t waste time developing a product that no one needs.
How to Use Customer Outcomes to Build a Better MVP
The point of defining an MVP is to make sure your new product or feature set improves the job performance of your users and does so in a way that also improves the performance of the departments in which those users work. Measurable customer outcomes are the goal.
Before you start defining your MVP, let’s make five key assumptions:
- You understand the ideal outcomes your users want by improving these workflows or job tasks.
- You understand the value of those outcomes in quantifiable terms to the users and the departments they work in.
- You have a clear understanding of the obstacles to these outcomes and why those obstacles exist.
- You understand what happens, i.e. the consequences of not improving these job tasks or workflows.
- You understand how success will be measured following the improvements.
Now that you have full value context, you’re ready to start defining your MVP. It will be much easier than negotiating a feature list without any context.
Start by creating a detailed step-by-step diagram of each workflow or job task. Once you’ve completed the visual diagram, identify the steps where the biggest obstacles (#3 above) exist. Those steps are the foundation of your MVP. Here’s why.
By calling out specific steps in the workflow, you’re essentially saying that if we don’t “eliminate the obstacles” to successfully completing these steps, our product or feature set will not have enough value to create a viable solution — the customer outcomes.
Before you start creating your feature list, be sure to validate the workflows with a representative sampling of customers to be sure your assumptions are on the mark.
Now it’s time for features and there are two approaches. You can eliminate the obstacles more eloquently with a broader feature set or you can eliminate them more basically with a narrower feature set.
In most cases, it’s a combination of the two. Aim for a more eloquent feature set on the big obstacles, as these can be the things that differentiate your solution. Implement more basic features for the smaller obstacles that don’t have as big an impact on the outcome.
Be sure to embark on one last customer validation point, and that’s the implementation of your features into the user workflow.
This approach requires you to invest a little more time upfront before you start designing and building the product, but it will save you exponentially more time on the back end by eliminating all the stops and starts you’d normally experience along the way.
Benefits of An MVP that Focuses on Customer Outcomes
Building a minimum viable product that focuses on customer outcomes has a host of benefits for your organization and your customers.
- Grants peace of mind and instills confidence that you’re delivering guaranteed value to the customer and to your own organization.
- Gives you a very clear product roadmap for the next stages of development.
- Identifies and secures early adopters of your product.
- Sales teams can practice sales demos and onboarding so this process can be streamlined and polished once the complete product is ready.
Make Your MVP the MVP
Knowing what tools to use and when to use them can simplify the product development journey dramatically–it’s also a sign of a smart, professional product manager. For more ways to level up your product management skills, enroll in either our Basic or Advanced Product Management Courses and become an invaluable asset to your organization.
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