The basic idea of a “minimum viable product” – popularized by Eric Ries and the Lean Startup movement – is good: Create just enough to validate that what you’re making meets a customer need. And it’s led to many hugely successful companies, like Dropbox and Zappos (more here by Vladimir Blagojevic).
The problem we’ve seen is that “minimum viable product” can also lead to a product-centric mindset in which value to the customer takes a back seat to minimizing features. The dominant thinking is how little can we put in this product to be viable.
What’s the alternative? The intersection of “minimum viable product” and a different MVP we call “maximum value product” (others call it that too, like in this solid prezo by from Liquid Reality’s CEO Adam Smith).
“Maximum valuable product” is not about how many features you can pack into a new product. It is about how well can you solve whatever problem you’re addressing. That’s how you maximize value. The dominant thinking is not about how little, but how much; specifically how much of that particular problem you can solve for the customer.
The order and integration of the MVPs is critical. Here’s the 5 step sequence we recommend:
1) Maximum value: Start with the “maximum value product” perspective. Identify how much you value you can provide customers on a particular problem. Specify in details what aspects of the problem you’re solving, what benefit is created, and how important each is to customers.
2) Value validation: Validate with customers the meaningfulness of the problem you’re solving and have them rank order the importance of the benefits your product can provide.
3) Features: Make a list of what technology or features are needed for customers to experience each benefit and its value. Be sure to include low tech and high tech possibilities. Align features with the ranked benefits.
4) Minimum viability: Now bring in the Minimum Viable Product approach to decide what it will take to provide the required features. Start with the features needed to deliver the most highly ranked benefit, then continue down the list. Think about trade-offs like this:
Option A: Do a good job at providing for the most important benefit, so that you’ll have enough resources to also provide for the second most important benefit.
Option B: Do a great job at providing for the most important benefit. Pour all your resources into that, and come back to the second most important benefit later.
5) Viability validation: Use lean and agile research techniques to get customer feedback on option A vs. Option B. Now you’re ready to take something to early adopters that has the optimal balance of providing value to customers and being viable to make.
Please share your experience with MVP vs. MVP!