Saturday, June 16, 2018

The MVP test of (Business) Agility

What does MVP — Minimum Viable Product — mean to you?
  • A. A barely functioning prototype, possibly just a mock-up, designed to test key hypotheses for a potential future product, that — depending on the customer feedback — may or may not go ahead.
  • B. The very first version of a new product, designed to solicit useful feedback from early-adopters that will be used to shape subsequent iterations.
  • C. An almost complete product that we can confidently release to market once the project delivers, with all the "fat" trimmed.
  • D. A substandard product that leaves out essential features, but is all we're going to be able to deliver, given budget and tight timelines.
An answer of A or B bodes well, C or D poorly.

The key idea behind an MVP is to maximise learning with a quick, early version. Practitioners of real MVP leave time and budget in the kitty to change course based on customer feedback and development team insights.

As a bonus, by releasing early you establish that your development team are capable of delivering something (which also helps their confidence, especially for a new team). And you slash technical risk by forcing early resolution of issues with your production process early on, while the product is still small.

Answer A leans towards mock-ups, design sprints, or concierge MVP to test assumptions, but doesn't prove development capability per answer B.

Answers C and D are problematic. They hint at a mindset or culture with a low tolerance for ambiguity and complexity: this leads back to the old-fashioned desire to reduce anxiety through over-control by nailing down scope up-front. It's also highly likely that you need to start listening more to your customers, not the HiPPO (highest paid person in the office) [pdf].

Another test: if your MVP is around 80% of what you think you'll need, you've missed the point. MVP should be more like 5 to 20%, the smaller you can get away with the better.

Nowadays, most everyone claims to be Agile. But can you pass the MVP test?

Passing the MVP test is a necessary, but not sufficient test of Agility. It's a good indicator, but not the whole story. Let's talk about other aspects another time.

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