Is Minimum Viable Product Dead?

— By Don Stoddard

Minimum Viable Product is a widely accepted concept; so why do so many people hate it? There are an ocean full of articles now about MVP and why it no longer works. Much of the discussion centers around the misuse and confusion of the words “minimum” and “viable.” In many ways, MVP suffers from its own popularity associated with both good and bad products. MVP is not an explanation for bad products! For those who need a refresher, here are the main principles of MVP:

  • Learning: The goal is to learn from the release and validate what customers want. Questions to ask are “what are we trying to learn?” “what is the riskiest part of our idea?”
  • Speed: Because the focus is on learning, getting something to market quickly is critical, allowing teams to learn and pivot to the next version of the release.
  • Viable: At the core of MVP is to deliver something “viable” that has potential for customers to use and buy.
  • Minimum: To achieve the goal of releasing quickly, the least number of features are built that meets the criteria of viability and ability to learn.

MVP Contenders

A number of alternatives to MVP have been proposed. These ideas are born out of a desire to emphasize different aspects of MVP, and to address perceived problems with MVP. Some of the more interesting alternatives include:

  • RAT Risk Assumption Test: Test the riskiest assumption
  • MVE Minimum Viable Experiment: Test the central premise of a business idea
  • MCP Minimum Compelling Product: Build something compelling for users
  • MVI Minimum Viable Investment: Minimize cost while building something viable
  • SLC Simple Lovable and Complete: Create something simple, lovable, and complete
  • MLP Minimum Lovable Product: Create something customers love
  • MMP Minimum Marketable Product: Focus on something marketabl
  • MVPP Minimum Viable Product We’re Proud of: Create something we’re proud of

There are two main concerns with MVP. The first is that MVP fails to focus enough on testing and validating the riskiest part of the proposed product. Speed of learning is perceived as a gap. Here there is more of a desired focus on the validation of an idea vs. creation of a complete product.

On the other end of the scale are people who feel MVP’s are incomplete and not marketable or valued by customers. In this case there is more of an emphasis on a product that is compelling to customers.

Success and MVP

Speed and customer feedback are core principles of MVP. MVP is more than a test or mockup but is less than a mature “feature complete” product. The very nature of MVP is to get feedback and then pivot based on new knowledge learned from the release. This forces teams to think in small steps; to create a big vision, but test that vision with incremental MVP. To see examples of a successful MVPs, check here. New products are hard at best and MVP’s biggest challenge is in the tension to deliver something of value and doing it quickly. For companies who want to quickly find a market need, MVP is a proven concept. Well-funded and established firms may struggle most with MVP because of the perceived risk. For these organizations creating prototypes and quick validation tests can minimize risk exposure if done quickly. The challenge of MVP lies in its execution and managing of expectations around an innovative idea. MVP will likely survive, and its reported death is premature.

I’d be interested in hearing your experience with MVP. Please email me your thoughts at donstoddard9@gmail.com

Product Management Leader