What, Why, How - Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Explained
By Megan Young | 5/12/2023
As a business owner, building a custom software solution can seem overwhelming. The temptation to include all the features and functionality you've ever dreamed of can be difficult to resist. However, it's important to remember that building everything at once can be costly, time-consuming, and may not even be necessary.
That's where the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) comes in. It is crucial to understand what an MVP is and how it can help you achieve your business goals. Along with this, budgeting and prioritizing technology needs are important considerations that can help you build an MVP that addresses the biggest gaps in your business.
In this post, we'll guide you through the MVP thought process and provide insights into the key things you should consider. This will help you develop a clear understanding of the steps involved in building a solution that fits within your budget and timeline while also delivering maximum value to your business and other stakeholders.
Understanding Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product is a product or solution development strategy focusing on creating only essential features. The purpose of launching a product with the minimum features as quickly as possible is to gather feedback from users, and have a testing ground for ideas before investing a lot of time and money into the development process. The MVP does not have to be perfect or finished, but it should be sufficient to test assumptions and become more informed about what really matters.
Benefits of a Minimum Viable Product
Time and Cost Savings:
Building an MVP can save you time and money by focusing on essential features and functionality, rather than trying to build everything at once. Going through this process is a great way to get feedback from customers and users at the start of development. This feedback can help you make improvements and avoid wasting resources on unnecessary features. You should approach this with the mindset of what things can be removed to lighten the user experience vs. what features users feel they can’t live without - think about things that make or break someone’s ability to get their job done, that would render the system almost useless if not included. An MVP identifies the most critical features to get you closer to achieving your business goals.
Faster Time to Market:
By launching an MVP quickly, you can get your solution into the hands of customers and start meeting your goals much sooner than if you waited until the product was fully developed. An MVP is a version of a product that has just enough features to satisfy early users and give feedback for future product development. This allows you to test your ideas quickly, gather feedback, and make any necessary improvements before fully launching the product. Launching an MVP can also help to reduce time-to-market and minimize risks associated with launching a product on a larger scale. When companies face workflow stoppage issues or have pains that are being felt across the organization, the idea of getting a new custom solution is exciting. Taking too long to get something in the hands of users can be frustrating and dampen what could be a great energy boost to team morale and productivity.
Building an MVP is a way to protect against investing too much into a product that may not be successful. It allows you to test your assumptions and pivot if needed before investing more resources into development. Going through this process also means that your development team can deliver a subset of functionality, with full awareness of what is being built and why. It reduces unnecessary noise that can be created when you try and take on too many things at once. Working in phases tends to be the most successful since each phase informs the next by prompting you to consider issues your team may not have known if you had tried to design it all at once.
Creating a Technology Roadmap
Before starting to build an MVP, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the technology needed to achieve your goals. A technology roadmap is a visual representation of your technology needs and the steps needed to hit key milestones. It helps you identify your needs, prioritize features and functionality, and communicate with your development team. To create a technology roadmap, you need to consider the following:
Identify your goals and objectives:
Determine what you want to achieve with your custom solution.
What problems are you trying to solve? What metrics will you use to measure success?
Define your features and functionality, in order of priority:
Based on your goals and objectives, determine what features and functionality are essential to achieve them. Consider what features can be added later and what is necessary to build your MVP. Prioritizing your features helps you stay within your budget and timeline.
Estimate development time and cost:
Based on your features and prioritization, estimate the time and cost needed to build your MVP. This will help you determine if your project is feasible and how to allocate resources effectively.
By following these steps, you can create a solid development plan that meets your goals, fits within your budget, and addresses the gaps in your business.
Budgeting for Custom Solutions
Building custom solutions can be expensive, and it's essential to budget not only for development costs but also for ongoing maintenance, user training and support, and unexpected expenses. Here are some key considerations:
Determine the cost of hiring a development team, including developers, designers, project managers, and quality assurance personnel.
Estimate the cost of hardware and software required for development, such as development tools and hosting.
Consider any third-party integrations or licenses needed to build the solution, such as payment gateways, APIs, or libraries.
Ongoing Maintenance Costs:
Hosting costs, including server maintenance and software updates.
Security costs, including regular vulnerability assessments and monitoring.
Cost of software updates and bug fixes.
User Training and Support Costs:
The cost of creating and delivering training materials, such as user guides, tutorials, or in-person training.
The cost of providing ongoing support to users, such as help desk services, etc.
Include a contingency budget to cover unexpected expenses, such as additional development time, hardware or software failure, or changes in business requirements.
By budgeting for these costs, you can ensure that your custom solution is sustainable in the long term, delivering ongoing value to your business and users.
Prioritize Technology Needs
When prioritizing technology needs for your MVP, you need to carefully consider which features and functionalities are essential and which can wait until later. To do this, you should take into account several factors:
Essential vs Nice-to-Have Features:
Start by identifying the must-have features that are essential to building your MVP and achieving your goals. These are the core functionalities that your solution needs, and they should be given the highest priority. After you've identified the essential features, you can then look at “wish list” items that can be included in a later phase. Think of building a house - it needs a foundation, studs, drywall, and flooring. It doesn’t need to have coffered ceilings and iron railings to be a house, those things can be added later as they are non-essential. You will find that your wish list will continue to grow. Later, once your MVP has been tested and launched, your wish list will shift and be reprioritized!
Gathering feedback from potential users and customers is immensely important whether you are building a tool for internal or external consumption. If your goal is to build what is essential, you have to fully understand how it will be used and ensure that the users themselves have buy-in, otherwise, you will waste resources and ultimately have low user adoption. Your MVP may never get off the ground. Just remember, as much as you think you know about your business, there is always more to learn from people who are in the trenches.
Development Time and Cost:
When prioritizing features, you should also consider the development timeline and budget. If your list of essential features appears to be too costly or is going to take longer than is reasonable, consider delaying features that would require additional time or resources. You may have to make choices you don’t want to make, but remember that the point of this is to make choices and remove things that can wait.
Building an MVP can be a complex and costly process but you can approach it in a smart and methodical manner. Prioritize technology needs, focus on the user experience, listen to your customer feedback, and assess the value being added to further your goals. This will help you build an MVP that fits your budget and timeline. It will also address the gaps in your business. The benefits of implementing an MVP are many, including cost-effectiveness, risk reduction, and ultimately building something that stands a better chance of being successful in a world full of technology options.
In the words of Steve Jobs, “Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they're really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don't put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.”
If you're ready to explore building a custom software solution with an experienced partner, we're here to help! Please reach out and let's discuss your vision. https://gearboxgo.com/#contact-form