Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Enterprise Minimal Viable Product

'The MVP Paradox' good read, worth the time. In the article the authors define the Minimum Viable Product or MVP as a "reality check for founders so they don't end up wasting tons of time and money building something no one needs or will pay for".  The MVP is at the core of the Lean Startup movement but it's original design, to be customer-driven instead of being product-driven, has been cheated by Product Managers eager to get products out the door.  

The problem with the term Minimum Viable Product is that it doesn't have a hard and fast definition. The MVP has given Product Managers license to build things fast to save money, ship and repeat regardless of whether the product feature set is complete.  The goal of the MVP, to learn from customers to validate the business hypothesis, can't be achieved because customers won't spend time with a product that doesn't have a minimal set of features they need to do their work.  Instead of the sound of early adopters working through the product providing feedback we hear the sound of crickets, no one is using the product.  The next sprint starts and a list of features, unvalidated by the market, are tee'd for implementation in an attempt to provide enough value in the product to attract early adopters. This cycle continues iteration after iteration with little customer feedback, the process is broken.  As the authors state "Over pursuing your MVP this way can be the fastest way for your company to 'go broke saving money'".

The 'MVP Paradox' is particularly important to watch for in the Enterprise Market where product niches are relatively mature.  For example, introducing a new document management (DM) system would require the MVP have a feature set that at least competes with the entry level DM systems on the market, we call this the 'table stakes' to enter the market.  An MVP with anything less than the 'table stakes' would not be viable. After all, why would a customer struggle with your MVP if they could buy the entry level DM and have everything they need? Hopefully your MVP has some innovative feature or process but this would have to be in addition to the minimal feature set. So it's important to remember, especially in the Enterprise Market, that MVP's may take several sprints/iterations before they have the minimal feature set to ship to the market. I agree with the author's of 'The MVP Paradox', it would have served everyone better if we had named the 'Minimum Viable Product', the 'Minimum Awesome Product', than Product Owners would stop misunderstanding it as minimal features, laziness in user research, or unpolished experiences.


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