This post is about Minimum Viable Product, or MVP. This little acronym gets tossed around a lot here at Name.com, because we like innovation. Innovation is a wonderful thing, but it can be somewhat of an organizational nightmare for product management.
Our process goes like this: We decide that we want to add a new feature to a product or the website, but we’re not entirely sure how it’s going to work. We get a bunch of idea-driven stakeholders in a room, and we brainstorm about the feature. Suddenly we have 26 features that are all totally awesome, and we’re going to fit them all into one scoping document and one sprint to be finished in the next 2 weeks with only one developer working on it.
Oh, and it won’t need any testing either. This is GREAT! All the stakeholders leave the meeting feeling warm and fuzzy about the events that just transpired. We have so many neat ideas, and we can’t wait to see how they turn out.
It’s only once it’s in writing that we realize what is quite obvious to an outsider. All of these ideas are awesome! We can accomplish each and every one of them. It’s just going to take our entire development team 4 months. This is where MVP comes in. What can we push out in the shortest period of time with the minimum amount of development that will still be of value to the user?
We go back and forth until we strike that balance, and when it’s all said and done we have a solid spec that can be completed in one sprint by one developer. The agile process will tackle the testing, and we push the 23 other features to the back burner. They’re not in the sprint, but they’re not forgotten either. They’re hanging out in the development team’s backlog, waiting for iterative development to pick them up.
Analyzing and trying to produce an MVP is not only good for iterative development, it’s a solid business decision as well. We think we know what our customers want and sometimes we do, but sometimes we are way off base. Getting a product out the door and allowing your customers to bang on it allows you to track its desirability and also ask for their feedback on the features they want to see. You might be surprised to find that the features they want are nowhere in your list that landed in the backlog.