Reduce Costs and Risks While Innovating with MVPs (Part 2)

  • By
    Jessica Massinelli
    January 21, 2022
    March 2, 2022

Whenever you or your team are moving into a certain degree of uncertainty it is advisable to do it in a safe way by running experiments or launching MVPs instead of a full product proposition.

In the first part of our series, we explored what an MVP is, how it works, how you can build an MVP using the ‘Build-Measure-Learn’ feedback loop and the benefits it can bring to your business.

In part two, we take a closer look at when to build an MVP for your business and what tools and best practices you should keep in mind when doing so.

When is an MVP necessary?

Here’s a list of a few examples that could match most of the cases.

Launch a new product, Innovate.

As an entrepreneur, strategic manager, UX designer, developer, are you able to affirm today that the idea you have in mind, the one that you’ve been shaping with your closest colleagues for weeks or months, is going to be noticed and appreciated by your target audience, the way you expect it to? Would you invest 100% of your budget and stick to a development plan to launch it, let's say, in 6 months?

When launching a new product, as an entrepreneur, your primary focus should be mitigating risks as best as possible; an MVP is your insurance against bankruptcy.

Penetrate a new market.

You may be the ideator of one of those products that can be called “a true success” in a specific region or for a specific niche. Your effort to acquire new clients is basically close to zero and your marketing team is currently on vacation since the product sells itself.

If you are deciding to copy and paste your solution to expand into another market you should be considering this strategy twice or decide to go with an MVP first.

Launching a few experiments in your target market can help you to ascertain if the market is ready to receive your new product and understand the user’s feedback about the product.

Fight the “unreasonable” decreased adoption.

Your business is not the first one. Many before you have experienced a sales decrease or lower conversion rates, often synonymous with a love story that is going to end soon. Don’t consider your product dead until you run experiments to identify and understand the issues that users may have faced.

These examples are just some of the many occasions when an MVP is required. Whenever you or your team are moving into a certain degree of uncertainty it is advisable to do it in a safe way by running experiments or launching MVPs instead of a full product proposition.

Define the strategy with the MVP Experiment Canvas

Now that we have a clear vision of what the methodology behind it is and which are the occasions that may require an empirical approach, let’s see how to define the strategy behind your next MVP and which tools can come in hand.

Many of you are already familiar with a canvas as a design thinking methodology tool. One of the most famous strategic assets is the “Business Model Canvas (BMC)”, shaped by Alexander Osterwalder, the aim of which is to provide a synthetic and visual representation of the business' main aspects. While inspiring innovation, the BMC is focused on shaping a business structure and delivering a product to users in the most efficient way, making sure to answer their needs with a specific and detailed value proposition.

As we mentioned at the beginning, situations with a high degree of uncertainty start with formulated hypotheses of some kinds in order to build a minimum value proposition that will be delivered through the MVP (and not with a clear vision of the business) revealing the BMC as an inappropriate tool to use.

The MVP Canvas, designed by Bram Kanstein on the other hand, is developed for the purpose of helping teams experiment with solutions and propositions while innovating. It’s a structured approach to define the perfect MVP strategy and communicate it to stakeholders in the most efficient way possible as the must-adopt framework in different situations.

This canvas is about:

MVP Experiment Canvas, by Bram Kanstein

Let’s take a quick look at the framework. The MVP Canvas is made up of 12 different areas that altogether orchestrate the strategy of your MVP.

These 12 areas to consider when developing your MVP are:

  1. Customer segment - Who are you providing value for? Who’s problems does your MVP want to solve?
  2. Value proposition - What value does the MVP deliver to the intended users? 
  3. Channels - On which channels the proposition will be delivered to the users?
  4. Customer engagement - How will the business gather feedback from the users?
  5. Riskiest assumptions - Which one from your initial hypotheses brings the highest risk if not validated?
  6. Experiment format - What kind of experiment do you plan to run?
  7. Scenario/workflow - What is the user flow for your experiment? Do your users have to follow specific steps, and if so, which ones?
  8. Metrics - Which metrics will you measure? Are those metrics understandable and actionable?
  9. Success criteria - Between all of the metrics, which is the one that indisputably will measure your experiment success? 
  10. Results - How will you gather quantitative and qualitative results from the experiment?
  11. Learning & insights - Are your initial hypotheses confirmed by the experiment? What did the results tell you about the riskiest assumptions?
  12. Next steps - Make a data-based decision. Pivot or Persevere with your idea.

Like the BMC mode, the MVP Canvas is not market-related and can be adopted by startups, companies, small or big teams in as many forms as a valid support in the early stages of an idea.

Keys to a good MVP!

Now to the final step, a few principles to respect to build your MVP faster and better.

Illustration about incremental product development, by Henrik Kniberg

To make an example with one of the best explicate graphics regarding MVPs and more in general about incremental and iterative product development, the image above describes perfectly what an MVP should be and what it shouldn’t be.

This example is about creating an MVP for “transportation”, the user in this case needs an efficient transport method to commute. In the first row, step 1, the development team has delivered a single car tyre. Is it of any use to the user to commute in the city? Most probably not. 

The user will have to wait for 3 more releases before they get to use the car, nudging them to switch to another product.

In the second example, the development team's first release included a skateboard, far different from the original idea of a car, which suggests the user movement, albeit reducing fatigue and lag time, however solves the user’s main problem at hand: commute somewhere. 

This second approach, even though may require some additional work before launching the “final” version of the product, demonstrates two main advantages:

  1. The user’s problem will be solved from the first release
  2. It avoids the business wasting copious amounts of money if the problem the MVP was originally trying to solve was not an actual issue for the user. What about if the business found out just at the last release of the first  approach, that the user prefers to walk?

Make a meaningful product. Identify core functionalities, the ones strictly required to deliver value to the user. Make sure that those at the core of your product are the ones answering the “job to be done”.

Jussi Pasanen MVP Pyramid model. Author/Copyright holder: Jussi Pasanen. With acknowledgements to Aarron Walter, Ben Tollady, Ben Rowe, Lexi Thorn and Senthil Kugalur.

Jussi Pasanen’s MVP Pyramid model defines the qualities for a meaningful MVP.

On the pyramid on the left, the MVP includes a lot of functionalities, many of which may even not concern the user at all when focused on solving their primary issue. In this case, the MVP requires high development efforts, however doesn’t add more value to the user.

Although the functional aspect of the product is fully finalised, other important aspects such as the reliability, usability and pleasure that the product offers to the user is ignored. Adding more features to the product will not make it meaningful.

On the second pyramid on the right, the MVP includes a few, only core functionalities, as well as other elements that define the overall experience with the product as a pleasant one, in terms of usability, reliability and convenience, ensuring also a faster adoption rate.

In conclusion

A great MVP should solve a particular set of problems and deliver value to the user at the most convenient time, as its main purpose is to validate business assumptions directly with its final users. A good MVP doesn't distract the user with non-essential features.

It should instead represent a meaningful solution to facilitate desired tasks of the user and motivate the user with a delightful user experience.

Applying design thinking and lean methodologies can guide you to the development of the best strategy for your MVP as well as designing the perfect user experience and interface on any digital device.



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