The concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) isn't just a buzzword; it's a strategy that many startups and established businesses alike adopt. This technique focuses on identifying and catering to the primary needs of a target market with a lean, yet functional product. The main allure of an MVP is its promise to pinpoint product-market fit without draining significant resources in terms of time and money. It’s about launching a product quickly with core features, gauging market reception, and iterating based on feedback.
However, while the MVP strategy has been celebrated for its effectiveness, it's not without potential pitfalls. Here are ten pitfalls we witness in the industry when teams are MVP focused:
Cons of building an MVP
- Limited Functionality: By design, an MVP contains the minimal features required to make the product functional. This limited functionality can sometimes fail to impress users or stakeholders who expect a more comprehensive solution.
- Risk of Misinterpretation: If not executed correctly, an MVP can give stakeholders or users a wrong impression about the final product's direction or capabilities, leading to skepticism or reduced interest.
- Scope Creep: The boundary of what's "minimum" can sometimes get blurred, leading to feature additions that can delay the MVP launch.
- Potential for Subpar User Experience: Due to its minimalistic nature, an MVP might overlook certain user experience enhancements, which can result in a less-than-optimal user journey.
- Reputation Risk: If the market perceives the MVP as the final or near-final product instead of an iterative test, it can lead to reputation damage if the MVP doesn't meet expectations.
- Maintenance Overheads: Post-release, an MVP might require significant revisions or overhauls based on user feedback. The size and difficulty of these changes may not be factored into the business's expectations.
- Feedback Skew: The feedback received from the early adopters of an MVP might not always represent the broader target audience. Designing the full product based on a very small number of initial users (less than 10) can lead to skewed features.
- Short-Term Focus: While MVPs aim to get to market quickly, there's a risk of focusing too much on short-term gains at the expense of long-term viability and scalability.
- Resource Allocation: Even though MVPs are meant to be lean, they still require resources (time, money, talent). If the MVP fails to provide valuable insights or market validation, those resources might feel wasted.
- Overemphasis on Speed: The rush to get an MVP out might lead to a compromise in quality. Leading to technical debt that is costly to unwind.
Pros of building an MVP
- Resource Efficiency: Developing an MVP requires fewer resources than a full-featured product, making it a cost-effective strategy for startups and businesses with limited budgets. This efficient use of resources allows for testing product concepts without significant financial risk.
- Focus on Core Value Proposition: The MVP process forces teams to concentrate on the core value proposition of their product. This focus helps in clearly defining what is most important for the product and its users, ensuring that essential features are developed first.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: Since MVPs are not fully developed products, they offer more flexibility for changes and adaptations based on user feedback. This adaptability can lead to a better final product that is more in line with what the market wants.
- Reduced Time to ROI: By getting a product to market faster and with fewer features, businesses can start generating revenue sooner.
- Attract Investors: A successful MVP can demonstrate the potential of a product idea to investors. It can serve as a proof of concept, increasing the chances of securing additional funding for further development.
- Encourages Innovation: The MVP model encourages innovation by allowing companies to experiment with new ideas without committing extensive resources. Due to lower costs and less stringent performance, security and quality requirements product teams can step further out on the innovation curve.
We have incorporated many MVP process ideas into our product development process. Most notably:
- A focus on building the features with the most user impact first
- Building the smallest set of features possible each iteration to measure user outcomes
- Establishing a user feedback loop
- Building billing and payment features up front, to encourage revenue from day one
- Focusing on the long term vision of the product by acting as if time and money don't exist
- Building with test driven development to avoid technical debt as much as possible