For startups today, if you have a great product idea, and even if nothing has been built yet, NOW is the time to launch.
Since your only goal should be to prove that the product you want to build solves a problem, the best way to get started is by launching a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. Dropbox, Uber, Airbnb, and many others took the MVP route and achieved tremendous success. Yes, there is a chance that your product might be short of your grand vision on this version, but, there is also a chance that if you don’t launch your product now, someone else might. In these competitive times, speed is everything.
The key assumption is that the MVP is a milestone, not the destination. That said, does taking the MVP approach make product development easier or harder? Let’s see both sides of the argument!
Benefits of MVP
Here’s why using the MVP approach makes product development sense; it lets you:
- Focus on the core value proposition: Many products that are built often don’t solve a real problem for anyone. They may look great, they may offer tons of features but may end up becoming solutions in search of problems. With an MVP, you get the chance to clearly and precisely zoom in on ameaningful value proposition. When you have clarity on the goals, the scope becomes manageable, and the product easier to build.
- Design a product with minimum features: Many companies have a distorted image of MVP and tend to overbuild the first release of a product to differentiate themselves. But the real aim of the MVP is to drive all focus on the immediate features that meet a specific need. As needs keep changing and technology keeps evolving, your architecture should support the evolution and not be bound by a rigid philosophy or functionality. Rather than incorporating a plethora of features to meet future needs, with an MVP, you can keep it simple and not overbuild. You can first assess and explore customers’ reaction and use the feedback as a benchmark to improve the chances of success – and pivot early if that’s the need of the hour.
- Build relationships with customers:An MVP allows you to build a strong community of early-adopters orusers. Since these first users of your product will provide you with the feedback needed to design desired changes or additions, gathering requirements becomes easy. You can zoom in on what really matters, rather than make guesses or build too many things in subsequent versions. An MVP lets you build a new version of the product that everyone loves!
- Spend your time and money efficiently:Can you afford to spend several months and millions of dollars in launching a full-featured and complete product? Especially, without really knowing or assessing the market demand? An MVP lets you test your business ideawithout those investment, and in a short time-frame. By placing a nominally-functional MVP into the hands of users, you can test the viability before a full launch and avoid the chances of costly overruns later.
Challenges of MVP
Despite all the benefits of an MVP, there are also several ways in which it makes product development harder.
- Incorporating all the feedback isn’t straightforward: When you launch an MVP into the market, you do so with the aim of receiving balanced and fair feedback. However, if there are many users of your MVP, and each user provides a discrete feedback, incorporating everything into your final product can become a mammoth task. If you want to take your product from good to great, you need to keep pace with technology changes, market dynamics, customer needs, and expectations. But building for the current version may mean each subsequent version may become more difficult to create. Developing 0 is always harder than V1.0. Since the new version needs to be developed in a manner that users feel they will benefit a lot more than from the previous version, the challenge is – how to prioritize? How do you decide which features to include and which to ignore? Also, what will be the cost of change when you decide to incorporate a new feature and get rid of another?
- Scalability might be an issue: Since an MVP is built with minimum features for a limited user-set, scaling your product to meet the actual demand in future versions might become an issue. Most companies get overwhelmed with the user acquisition when the final product is released, and in the melee, forget to incorporate scalability. Keep in mind that whatever problem you have chosen to solve, is scalable to handle full-fledged traffic after the release of your product.
- Testing is harder: The idea behind an MVP is not to see if a product can be built, but whether you should be building it in the first place?Is it is solving a problem that people will pay for?Although your MVP may havebeen received well, there is a fair chance that you’ve not been able to carry out sufficient testing of the new features toensure your final product meets the intended outcome. Testing for MVP products not only involves considering customer feedback, but also assessing how the product has been used, how the features have been received, how changes have been accepted (or rejected), and more. Faced with insufficient testing, would you still go ahead with your product, or would you scrap it? Would you bring a sub-optimalproduct into the market? Or would you rather let all that effort go down the drain?
- It doesn’t work for highly innovative products:It is true thatthe big ideas that are truly disruptive and innovative don’t always succeed with an MVP approach. When you’re trying to build a highly innovative product, customers often need an almost complete product to get a sense of the true value they could get. By offering an MVP with just a handful of immediate features, customers will not be able to experience the real functionality, and therefore might not be able to benefit from it.
Choose what works for your business
An MVP is built to understand the market demand – it is built for learning, not scaling. Since the MVP model encourages basic features versus whole products, the focus must be on building a product to assess the viability, with the least effort and cost. Although an MVP lets you focus on the core value proposition, build a product with minimum features, build relationships with customers, and spend your effort efficiently, incorporating feedback, scaling, and testing are all challenging. Also, the MVP doesn’t work for products that are highly innovative or futuristic. Yet, for startups, the MVP approach seems to have become the norm. If you have a decent product idea and are pretty sure it will solve a realproblem, the MVP approach is all you need to get the results you want -as long as you know the pros and cons!