If you’ve had to lead any digital or product design projects recently, then you’ll probably have come across the term ‘MVP’ or ‘Minimum Viable Product’.
But do you know where the concept came from?
According to Aha!, the term ‘Minimum Viable Product’ was coined by technology CEO Frank Robinson in 2001, born of the idea that product and customer development should happen in parallel. Years later, Eric Reis and Steve Blank further developed the MVP concept as part of the lean startup methodology. Many of us already know that this very much focuses on experimentation, customer feedback and iterative development.
What is a Minimum Viable Product?
So, what exactly is a Minimum Viable Product in today’s world?
According to Gartner, “A minimum viable product (MVP) is the release of a new product (or a major new feature) that is used to validate customer needs and demands prior to developing a more fully featured product. To reduce development time and effort, an MVP includes only the minimum capabilities required to be a viable customer solution.”
So far, so good. This appears to align with Robinson’s original thinking that a product should be developed in parallel with customer feedback and, like the lean startup approach, it should focus on iteration in order to save time and resources.
Interestingly, however, Y Combinator makes an important point that the MVP is not actually a product, but a process. And by testing assumptions and gathering customer feedback in this process, you very often find yourself ‘back at the drawing board’ a number of times before you hit on the right product (as demonstrated in the diagram below).
It’s something we’ll look into in more detail now as we explore how MVPs can be used for digital product development.