If you think an MVP is the most valuable player in the Super Bowl, you haven't been introduced to the Minimum Viable Product in relation to a software system. Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is the most basic version of a product that has only enough of the essential features to be marketed. Through this early marketing, the company can glean valuable insight from early adopters, which then guides the development of the fully-featured product. Inevitably, the final product is far better because of that input.
There are several reasons that software developers opt to use the MVP method of product development. First, it allows them to test out their hypothesis, with only minimal investments of time and expense. Developing a Minimal Viable Product also allows developers to learn more about the market, to begin profiting from their ideas more quickly, and establishes proof that a market for such a software project actually exists before investing time and money into it. Furthermore, it allows developers to craft a product that is exactly in tune with what the market calls for.
So, what are the essential steps for developing an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product?
1. Explain How the Product Meets a Specific Need
Every product that the market supports meets a need (or fulfills a desire) for its buyers. Before the first line of code is written, and even before you outline your development process, you must identify and articulate what need this specific piece of software meets. If it does virtually the same thing as other software products out there, how is this one different? Is it higher quality? Cheaper? Easier to use? There has to be a distinguishing characteristic that makes this project better than the alternatives in some way.
2. Test How Your Hypothesis Holds Up in the Marketplace
This is the step in which you take your idea from #1 and introduce it to the market. You can do this using surveys or interviews, or some other means. The point is to visit the people who will actually become your customers and ask them what they think about the concept. This step either proves there is a place in the market for your MVP or determines that there isn't, sending you back to the drawing board.
3. Establish a Process for Delivering Your Product
This is the point at which you outline your process for delivering your product to the end customers. It involves mapping out each activity, from beginning to end. A flow chart is an ideal way to conduct your mapping activities. This step also helps you hone and refine your MVP idea so that you know exactly how to market it to your target customers.
4. List All the Essential Features of the Finished Software Product
This list includes all essential features, but none of the "maybe" or "nice to have" features. The feedback from your initial customers or beta testers will guide you further along in the development. For now, you're outlining the basic essentials that make your product what it is. That may include a single feature or just a handful of features, but only the basic essentials to make the MVP what it's supposed to be.
5. Develop & Distribute Your MVP
Now that you've done all the preparation, you can quickly crank out the code necessary for your MVP and distribute it to your initial target customers. Be sure to offer them easy, seamless, fast ways to provide you with feedback. After all, that's the primary reason for using the Minimum Viable Product method of development. Also, listen closely and carefully to what your users have to say. In many cases, their input will steer you in radically different directions than you originally thought the project would go. But if you pay attention and follow their lead, you'll produce a proven software product that is well received in the marketplace.
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