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Demystifying the Minimal Viable Product process

December 8, 2017

Lately I’m involved in meetings where people are battling with describing a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). For this, I blame Eric Ries as even he says it is hard 🙂

Maybe we should be focusing on the “why” we should build MVPs versus the “what”.

My trick to understanding MVPs, is that it is a process, as well as being the actual solution you are designing. The MVP process forms a part of product management from startups to enterprises, in how they perform solution or product lifecycle management. If you are building an MVP, then it should be focused through the following human centred design lenses of Desirability, Viability & Feasibility.

IDEO HCD Toolkit – Desirable Feasible Viable lens –

I believe that for an MVP exist, it must have these three things:

  1. Early adopter customers = a subset of customers of your overall addressable market. Hopefully an identifiable group that has a clear delineation of the problem(s) you are solving for. Validated means that you’ve interviewed them & they have revealed the problem to you (3rd party research is a sign post here, it is not the final destination).
  2. A value exchange – for your product to be viable, both you & the customer should receive value. If your company is looking to receive revenue, then that equates to that the customer must pay. Asking your customers “will you buy this?” is not a true value exchange.
  3. The product – with a validated & prioritised feature set for early adopters, not a product for your whole addressable market. If the solution is not aligned closely to that early adopter group, then your adding complexity and therefore possible delays in getting to market quickly. Keep focused on just those features that the early adopters perceive are the greatest value to them.

An MVP should be looked is being the 1.0 version of your product you are taking to market. Not just a test, beta or a prototype (these should be used as part of the process to validate the assumptions around your solution).

“A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back i.e. gets you paid).” – Ash Maurya

Human Centred Design is all about understanding the humans who will end up receiving value from your solution. If you haven’t worked out who your early adopters are, or you are building without consulting them regularly, then its probably not an MVP.

Design for value versus only building for revenue.

Shane Williamson


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