Define And Discuss an MVP

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I could use some guidance with a tough assignment. I’m a sophomore studying business and I’m taking a class all about launching new products, which is probably one of hardest courses I have this semester. Every two weeks, we have to write and present a short research report on a topic assigned to us. The topics always match the theme listed in our syllabus, so at least we know what we’ll have to research well in advance.

This coming week is about MVPs, which I was confused by because I instantly thought about the “most valuable players” in sports – but that’s not what our professor meant. I’m supposed to define what a minimum viable product is, why it’s important, and how it helps businesses. I’d be thankful for any help I can get.

While the topic of minimum viable products (MVPs) might appear challenging on its surface, it’s also probably a lot easier to grasp than you’d expect. More importantly, the topic is extremely relevant to businesses nowadays, especially those with digital products and/or services. Rest assured that having this knowledge could benefit you in unexpected ways.

Consider getting starting by reading what Mary Hurd wrote on Fueled about what MVPs are. She explains that the term “minimum viable product” or MVP was first coined by Eric Ries in his seminal book, Lean StartUp, which explains how entrepreneurs can use these things to experiment with and validate their business ideas. Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean, Scaling Lean, defines an MVP as “the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back).”

You should see clear similarities between what’s being described and the scientific method, which also relies on controlled experimentation to validate or invalidate different hypotheses. This brings us to why using MVPs is important. Jerry Cao at Design Shack explains the importance well in his piece about how and why prototypes are mandatory for good design. He begins with one of the most obvious reasons – the financial one – explaining that “while skipping prototyping might save some time during design, that surplus can be lost many times over in development.” In other words, businesses are liable to lose a lot of money fixing things after a launch that could have been prevented had they decided to experiment beforehand.

Developing MVPs can have clear advantages for businesses and they’re even more appealing because they don’t necessarily have to be sophisticated. One common outsider’s misconception is that prototypes are sophisticated and/or relatively polished entities when, in fact, they can be as simple as color-coordinated Post-It notes pre-configured on a poster board. Writers at Slate even showcase how an iPhone app was prototyped in just an hour! Speed is paramount when it comes to experimentation.

That being said, there are times when you might want a physical prototype. For instance, say you were a startup planning to launch a smartwatch and had a series of designs that you wanted to test with people. That’s a scenario in which you could enlist the aid of a 3d printing service, which would let you get ahold of testable prototypes while avoiding having to invest in any production technologies and/or facilities.

These are all major boons to a business that’s planning to launch something new and remain competitive on a long-term basis. And as you can see, there are very few overt cons associated with the practice, which again makes it extremely appealing.

“When in doubt, simplify.” – Eric Ries

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