When developing thoughts around your idea it’s easy to start thinking about an enormous amount of features or solutions you want to include, and you can envision several iterations and additions to your concept over time. Creating all of this, however, is mostly likely going to cost more than most of you can afford when starting a new company.

The MVP Benefit

While dreaming about all the problems your solution can solve, it’s full set of features are probably not what you need to make it a product someone wants to buy – not in the beginning, and not even once you have them all built. Besides, as you already might know, it’s really more up to what the customer want than it is about your own vision. “But this is for my own company,” you say. Well, even if you won’t have external clients paying for your solution, you certainly will have staff that will use it, and their opinions are equally as valuable as those of a paying client. So, in order to save yourself time and a lot of money, let’s focus on finding your Minimum Viable Product.

A Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, strips down all your features to the bare necessities. It must be able to complete those functions, but does now have to look all that pretty, and may be a solution thrown together based on a hodge-podge of existing solutions. Most likely you’ll throw it out anyhow and build a more robust solution (more about that later). So why build it? There are several advantages:

  • Time to Market: By creating something quick and dirty you will gain an early market advantage. From there you can concentrate on improvement instead of playing catch-up with competitors. OK, being first to market may not always be best, nor is entering the market at a later stage necessarily a bad thing, but these are separate topics from the MVP and will have to be addressed in another blog post.
  • User Feedback: This is probably the most important reason to build an MVP. You want to get feedback from the type of people that will actually be buying or using your product. They will be able to give you the best insights about your current features as well as functionality and suggestions for new features. You then use that input when evaluating the next phase of product development. Your user insight is valuable, but so is your insight and vision, so you need to figure out the best balance between the two.
  • Cost Reduction: Because the solution has been built with the mindset of “we might have to change it all in the next version” there are costs that can be saved in the architecture of the back end of your software. Most people don’t realize that what tends to take the most time, and therefore have the highest price tag, in software development is all the stuff you don’t see that is going on “under the hood” of your software.

Finding the MVP

So how do you go about finding what the MVP is for your product? In principal it’s not that difficult: Just think of what you are selling! In other words, even though your solution eventually will solve a number of different problems, what is the ONE BIG PROBLEM your solution is designed to solve? (By the way, if you don’t have an answer to this, you need to find the answer to this question before you even start putting a product together. Knowing what problem you solve makes it a lot easier to find out if there is a market for the solution, and also in finding the right message to compel that same market to buy your product.)

Another way to look at what your MVP might be is to define what your core product features are; features that if left out essentially would leave you with out a product. Once you have identified this, or know the answer to what the one big problem your solution solves is, you can start to look at ways to execute the solution in its simplest form. As an example, we worked with a client who envisioned her product as this massive social platform that had both a website with a pretty significant database architecture on the back end, and a mobile companion app. Once we look at what she really wanted to do we noticed that she described the use of her service as something people would mostly do while on the go. It became clear that a mobile first approach was the right way to go, and the build the web platform at a later stage. This would allow our client to build a simplified version she could test first, and use to gain user feedback, before we dove into a larger development project for both the web and mobile. By doing it this way she was able to save significantly both time and money while testing her market.

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