Minimum Viable Product Simply Explained

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What if developing MVP was as clear as building a house?

People who are not new to software development believe that they know everything about the industry. The acronym “MVP” does not sound odd to them. However, far from each of them would define it right or tell it apart from discovery or prototyping. I do not want you to feel lost around these terms nor I want to startle you with definitions. Instead, I want to explain these concepts using a metaphor “software as a house”. So let’s see, what is Idea Discovery, PoC development, Wireframing, Prototyping, and finally MVP development.

Software Development and House Construction Compared

Idea Discovery

Imagine that you want a house. What do you start with? You go online and start looking for all the houses that are available on the market. If you find nothing you like or can afford, you decide to build your own one. So you start researching online what types of houses are there, what they are made of and how, which solutions are recommended and which are not. You may even hire an architecture consultant to help you understand the subject better. This is Idea Discovery, also called Project Discovery, Idea Validation, or Research & Development.

Proof of Concept

When you have finally decided what you want, you need to check if it is possible. You call professionals who carry out percolation tests and soil tests to see if a particular piece of land is suitable to be built on. This is Proof of Concept (PoC) development – you check if the solution at all can be implemented.

Wireframing

Once you have a clear picture of your future house in your mind and you know that you can implement it, you start planning. You plan the building in small details and draw house blueprints. This is Wireframing –wireframes are literally blueprints.

Prototyping

Once you finish blueprints and your family or other cohabitants approve of them, you may start building a small house model with paperboard. This model should resemble your future house as much as possible, and it is good if you could make windows and doors openable. This stage is Prototyping. While in the house example it does not look like a necessary one, it is a must in the software development industry.

Minimum Viable Product

When you have all the blueprints and models and you have introduced final changes to your idea, you can start building the house. Almost. If you build an ordinary house for yourself, you lose nothing if you jump straight to the full-scale construction. However, if you decide to introduce an innovative type of housing, which you will later introduce to the market for commercial purposes, you need to make sure that customers will like it. To test if your idea is marketable – build a Minimum Viable Product. It would be a full-size house made of cheaper materials with some facilities not implemented. For instance, you would use plastic instead of expensive wood, and there would be no sewage. In fact, you do not need a sewage because nobody will live there. This house will be just a full-size model that the customers will be able to enter and to look around.


Final Product

Once they see your soon-to-be house and approve of it, you can start building a few of those with all the final materials and facilities. Now, your house is ready to see the market. In software development terms, it would be your Final Product.

Benefits of MVP

Minimum Viable Product has the potential to maximize your business value. Basically, all its benefits can be summed up in a single statement: MVP lets you adjust the project plan before it is too late.

If you skip the MVP phase and jump straight to the final product development, you risk having an imperfect solution or, what is worse, a useless one. Developing something that will not be able to withstand the market pressure equals spending a lot of time and resources on something that will not bring profit.

Besides that, the MVP development is important for the team morale. When the team members know that they are working on something worthy, promising, and potentially profitable, they work more actively and feel more engaged. Moreover, MVP can be a great solution to help you win over the trust of investors.

Cases When Not to Develop MVP

Yet, you should understand that MVP is not a universal solution. If you develop a solution for the internal use in your business – the one which you will not monetize in a classic way, – you can avoid the MVP development stage. Your employees do not have to love the solution, they will be obliged to use it. However, if you decide to test the internal software before implementing it full-scale to make it enjoyable – your employees will appreciate it.

Another case when you do not need MVP is when you develop something typical. For example, if you develop an online store for your clothing brand or a landing page for your hotel, there is nothing you should test with MVP.

To Wrap Up

From the technical point of view, MVP development is barely different from a regular software development. However, from the business perspective, the difference is huge. Unlike final pr0oduct development, MVP development requires a profound understanding of Business Analysis and Research processes. Otherwise, MVP is bound to become not a test flight of your idea but just a poor implementation of it.