Did you know that Amazon started as a seller of used college textbooks? Although the company is now selling millions more products (and making billions more dollars), it started with a simple idea of getting books delivered to college kids. This mind-blowing transformation is quite possibly one of the best examples of the Minimum Viable Product principle at work.
What is a minimum viable product (MVP)?
Put in basic terms: the minimum viable product, or MVP, is the simplest version of a product that you need to build to sell it to a market. The concept of the minimum viable product, or MVP, was first introduced by Lean Startup genius Eric Ries. He defines the MVP as:
“The version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”
The importance and benefits of implementing MVPs
The concept of an MVP comes from lean startup methodology, which encourages learning and building with scalability in mind. So with an MVP, you’re building the first small step at a low risk to your wallet and business that you can test, refine, and grow step-by-step. You’ll start with that small step to uncover the market’s interest in your product — this will teach you where you need to make improvements, scale back, or perhaps even add extra features to make the product marketable.
The benefits of focusing on an MVP and scaling it up may vary, but ultimately the purpose is to provide a low-risk testing ground before you invest thousands (or millions!) of dollars into a product before it’s ready to sell. MVP testing can provide cost savings, insights into user-centered design, fast business launches, and even getting early investor buy-in. The insights and investment you’ll reap early on will help you build the dream product you and your customers have been looking for.
Setting up an effective MVP
Getting to your MVP can be one of the trickiest parts of your business strategy, but it’s one of the most important. Your MVP needs to address customer pain points, offer a means of gathering customer insight, and be limited to only a few features. Think of this as the testing ground for your business concept, focused solely on measuring the cost and impact of the key features, while simultaneously proving its value to customers and investors
Defining the MVP comes down to specific ideation and validation that requires agile team collaboration. Here are the common steps to achieving MVP:
1. Identify the customer pain points
What problem are you trying to solve? Let’s get into the minds of Uber founders Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick way back in 2008. Let’s say you are attending a conference in a big city and you notice it can be difficult to hail a cab late at night or in bad weather. So you want to build a solution where you can just use your phone to get a ride home. You talk to potential users and ask them what their preferences are: do they expect to hail a cab at the touch of a button? Would they be comfortable texting a taxi driver to get home? How do they prefer to pay for their ride? This way, you do your market research to get an idea of who would use your solution and what they would expect from it.
Market research to develop an MVP can include:
Take your research and interview results and validate them with data. This will give you a better understanding of your customers’ needs and pain points, identify which features your product needs at a minimum to provide value, and give you some good testimony you can use as proof of concept during the investment stage.
From their preliminary research, Camp and Kalanick developed “UberCab,” the first edition of the popular Uber app we know today. The MVP was a version based entirely within SMS, giving users the ability to call a cab through a simple text. The rest, as they say, is history.
2. Describe the competitive landscape
If the year is 2006, your cab-hailing service probably has few competitors. But in 2023, ride-sharing services are abundant, with plenty of overlap from app to app. What will make your service stand out? What are customers still missing out on? And what’s the monetary value of those pain points to the customer? Come up with a pros and cons list that showcases how your service does it better than the competition.
3. Test the MVP for validity
Identify a beta group or internal testers from your team who can give the basic technology a try, whether it’s a landing page, an SMS line (like early Uber), or a basic one-page app. Stick to deadlines and have your testing team focus on the functionality and the ability to solve pain points. This will help you ideate and understand where you need to improve and refine the product before you launch it to early adopters.
4. Get ready to launch
If your MVP gets past the testing stage, congrats! You’ve got something special. Now it’s time to research, build, test, fix, launch, and continue ideation. Once you’ve solidified the few features you identified from the start, you can launch the MVP to your first customer base and kick off the build-measure-learn (BML) feedback loop.
What are some examples of MVPs?
The MVP isn’t just a testing ground or prototype that gets dismissed in the long run, though. There are plenty of products and services on the market that started off as MVPs and expanded into institutions in their own right.
In the early 90s, Jeff Bezos read that the e-commerce industry would be the next big venture in sales and took the opportunity to discover which markets would be most successful. He eventually landed on a bookstore as the minimum viable product, which he ran from his garage. The success of his bookstore led to the demand for other products, like electronics, clothing, and shoes. It was his first step — using books as the MVP — that gave him the customer insight to take Amazon to the next level. Who would have thought that a small bookstore on a basic webpage would expand to the third-largest enterprise in the world in just 20 short years?
Yes, the ride-sharing app we all know and love didn’t start as a mobile app. In fact, founders Garret Camp and Travis Kalanick took advantage of the idea of an MVP to develop an iPhone-only SMS service called UberCab in San Francisco. They tested the user experience and refined it within the city before they were able to gather venture capital and build the app that services 19 million trips around the world each day.
Uber has gone through various iterations, increasing its scope year by year using the feedback collected from its customer base. While UberCab launched with just taxis, Uber in its second wave incorporated black cars and independent contractors as drivers to build the ridesharing experience we all know and use today. Through various iterations, we’ve seen Uber expand way beyond the MVP to include pooled rideshare, accessible ride options, and in some small markets, even helicopters.
In 2006, streaming services were starting and failing over and over again due to limited and low-quality libraries, high subscription prices, and unstable streaming. So Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon built Spotify as a landing page where they could test their streaming technology to beta users and fund it with on-page ad revenue. Their ultimate goal was to make playback fast and stable so they could convince music labels and investors of the product’s quality. Once they got through market testing, Spotify and its subsequent app was released to the public to become the streaming behemoth we now know.
Evolving beyond MVPs
The MVP isn’t the end-all-be-all for your business. In fact, the concept of the MVP has evolved to more refined solutions, like the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) or Minimum Marketable Product (MMP).
The Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) is a customer-centered product that users love from the start, defined by its features offering the minimum a product needs to be loved. Lovability here hinges on the customer experience, where the product or service directly addresses the problems customers have that they want to be solved. The MLP might have an existing market and competitors, but this is the preferred alternative due to its cost-savings, better solutions, or ease of use. With an MVP, the priority is getting to market as fast and affordably as possible. With an MLP, the priority is delivering the highest value to the customer.
A Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) is the next stage, where your MVP or MLP is ready to be sold to the end user. The MMP is the simplest product that the market will accept before new features are built. With an MMP, you’ve developed your product and proven its value to the customer through testing. Rather than a prototype like the MVP could be, the MMP is ready to hit the market for early adopters. Think of how Spotify developed itself as a landing page as its MVP. Once they were able to develop an app and a subscription service, they launched into the market as the MMP.
Jira Product Discovery can kickstart your MVP journey
Building an MVP is easier said than done. So where do you start? You want to build out a framework that keeps your team aligned and gets them prepared for the sprint to MVP. Enter Jira Product Discovery.
Jira is built with product development in mind. Together, your team can prioritize, collaborate on, and deliver new product ideas all in one place. Create custom product Roadmaps in Jira to visualize your building blocks – scope, people, and time – to help teams plan in real time. You can capture data and insights from your MVP testers like product opportunities, user feedback, and requests. Integrate with Confluence and Trello to incorporate mission briefs, validations, user story mapping, and other visual techniques for product discovery on your journey to MVP.
Utilizing an agile framework will help you visualize all the features your product needs and every step that your team needs to take along the way. Your epics will break these steps down into individual tasks and outline dependencies so your team works in a flow over a set of sprints. You can link your epics to a Confluence page to add insights via design files or user research data so the entire team can remain aligned with a single document.
Once you have moved past the first stage with your MVP, you can return to Jira to collect and analyze feedback. As your team builds features and completes epics, you’ll be able to integrate features into the product and gather further insights. Then you can return to the epic, provide feedback and context, and adjust the scope. This encourages continuous development that everyone on the team is informed on and invested in.
Keep on scaling toward success as you build, measure, and learn. Together, your team can use Jira to take your MVP to the next level and launch a product that will go far (and maybe even transform) the market.