How does a minimum viable product (MVP) reduce software development risks?
Your customer’s point of view is incredibly important. Knowing what people want, how they act, and the factors that drive their decision-making is some of the most business-critical data companies can possess.
Using insights from the people you expect to buy and use your offering will improve your offering. It helps ensure the products, solutions and experiences you create deliver real value—in other words, something your users actually want.
For startup founders and other businesses with software development projects in mind, being customer-centric is key to successfully realising your idea. Learning from customers and shaping a valuable product that you can make profitable quickly is best achieved by delivering a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Overconfidence in unvalidated ideas sinks software projects
There are many reasons why startups fail, but some of the biggest mistakes that software entrepreneurs make include:
- Putting too much confidence in their untested and unvalidated idea.
- Delayed launch through overbuilding or over-investing in their initial product.
- Lacking the direction and flexibility to pivot.
If you can’t address a genuine need in the market and do it quickly, your startup is on shaky ground.
In fact, you risk investing a significant amount of time and money developing software that:
- Does not solve a problem for any potential customers/users.
- Customers/users do not understand how to use or enjoy using.
- Includes (costly) features that customers/users will never use.
- Takes too long to complete and achieve revenue.
How do founders and product owners avoid these mistakes?
Any one of the above consequences can sink a product-based business before it even gets to the operational phase. In terms of causes, the common denominator tends to be a lack of customer/user involvement in the development of the product.
Before embarking on a software project, entrepreneurs and product owners must do due diligence by defining the problem they’re attempting to solve, the size of the market that needs the problem solved, and competitor solutions.
But knowing that a problem and a potential market exists is not enough. The next hurdle your company or startup faces is knowing whether the software you’re building is a viable solution to the problem?
Essentially its a ‘chicken-egg’ dilemma. Only the people who will use your product can tell you whether it’s what they want, yet until you’ve built the product you won’t have any users.
To truly understand product-market fit, you need to test your idea in the market. The ‘market’ is real people—people whose problems you believe you are solving.
An MVP gets your product into customer hands faster
A Minimal Viable Product (MVP) makes it possible to collect learnings from users by building a minimum set of valuable features, developed with minimal effort. Bringing an MVP to market allows you to engage users and test your assumptions.
A software startup or any company that offers software products should have the goal of getting an MVP into production and into the hands of real customers as fast as possible.
Doing so helps your business answer these questions:
- Is this actually a solution to a problem facing my customers?
- Is this the most effective and desirable way to solve the problem?
- Do customers care enough about the value on offer to pay for it?
Regardless of the maturity of your business, if you plan to build successful software, you need to be invested in continually obtaining, analysing and acting on feedback from current and potential users of your product.
What is involved in the MVP approach?
The MVP approach is not about rushing a product to market.
It’s about carefully determining and efficiently producing the core features that need to be validated, gathering feedback from early adopters, then applying what you learn to build improvements (iterations) or pivot.
- Prioritise features and build only what is initially required to deliver customer value.
- Take your MVP to market and validate through beta tests, analysis, focus groups and interviews.
- Take customer insights on what does/doesn’t work and review product requirements.
- Release improvements quickly and cost-effectively as you refine product-market fit.
Once you’ve successfully executed your MVP and released it to your users, your software development team must continuously be assessing your customers’ feedback and acting on it in short iterations.
Build a solution your customers can’t live without
When you have a big idea, it’s tempting to forge ahead until your vision is fully formed. The concept of gradually building and refining multiple versions of your software or app through a back and forth dialogue with customers can seem messy and time-consuming.
But consider this: customers don’t care about products. They care about the results and feelings that a product makes possible. They care about their problems being solved, feeling more capable, having more time, money, or prestige, and so on.
Building software or an app without customer involvement is a big risk. Convoluted, non-intuitive and unfocused solutions don’t solve problems—if anything, they create new ones.
Customers don’t clamour to use products with the most features. They get excited if and when solutions make their lives better in a specific, desirable way. The only people who can tell you when you’ve nailed it are your customers.
An MVP and iterative development of your software helps to bring ‘your vision’ and ‘what customers want’ together. The MVP approach increases the likelihood you’ll solve the right problem in the right way, to generate sustainable revenue.
The goal is to build the product your users genuinely need and are eager to pay for, not the product you think they want.