January 18, 2022
Minimum Viable Product Strategy Toolkit
We’ve discussed in detail key concepts to consider and pitfalls to avoid when you’re planning and building your MVP. But where do you begin when it comes to crafting your big picture strategy?
Remember, an MVP is only truly a failure if you don’t learn anything related to product feasibility and a path towards maturity while providing value to the customer at the same time. Before you begin to build, lay the right groundwork and set yourself up to learn. In practice, that means you need a data-driven strategy that considers key success metrics and goals.
As Angel Almada, Director of Solutions Engineering at 3Pillar Global, explains, “If you don’t know where you want to go, you don’t have a way to measure success. Having a roadmap in the very early stages as you develop a product is key. That roadmap will evolve over time, but we cannot start producing value if we don’t know what the end goal looks like.”
Put differently, if your product is a house, think of your strategy as the blueprints and the MVP as the foundation. This article will discuss the main elements of your MVP strategy to set you up for success.
Make Data-Driven Decisions
Everyone knows the phrase: “Go with your gut.” According to one study, more than half of Americans rely on their intuition to tell them what’s true. When it comes to your MVP, that approach can lead you astray unless your gut feeling is supported by data, facts, and research. And this Harvard Business School Blog agrees: “While intuition can provide a hunch or spark that starts you down a particular path, it’s through data that you verify, understand, and quantify.”
Additionally, the Northeastern University Blog notes, “Without the data-driven approach to decision making, Netflix would still be mailing you an outdated mode of movie content, and Amazon would be a simple online bookstore.” An important way to ensure your decisions are, in fact, data-driven is prototyping combined with rigorous user testing to inform scope and roadmap before building your MVP.
Part of being data-driven means ensuring there is a robust way to collect customer feedback and monitor behavior. Plan to implement a system to analyze both behavioral and voice-of-the-customer data. This should involve some combination of:
- Collecting feedback: Gain first-hand insights via surveys, questionnaires, and in-app questions that are triggered by certain key behaviors
- Performing user interviews: Understand where users are getting value (and where they aren’t), as well as identify areas for improvement
- Implementing instrumentation: Collect data on how a user interacts with the MVP. For example, data should be collected if users uninstall your app or abandon the product at a key stage
- Your own feedback ecosystem: Gather feedback data if you have the resources or are using a third-party analytics and feedback stack
Define Your Scope
Michael Rabjohns, UX Practice Leader at 3Pillar Global, stresses, “An MVP must focus on what’s most important for the end user.” But how can you know what’s important and what’s not? And how do you balance which features to include against other considerations, such as budget? Defining your MVP scope is about making data-based decisions that account for several areas.
The state of the industry: How crowded is the space? Who are your competitors, and how do they solve problems for your target market? What does your main competitor’s pricing model look like? This type of analysis can help you uncover gaps in the market as well as competitors’ weaknesses to capitalize upon. This, in turn, can inform your feature prioritization. Are there “no-fly zones” due to competitors’ intellectual property?
Market segment: Understanding your market segment and distribution channel helps you identify underserved needs your MVP can address. It may even show ways to consolidate distribution layers and capture more profit–think what Dell did with PC customization. Looking at your market segment can also help you prioritize features.
User interviews: Before you can perform meaningful user interviews that will help you solve for a need, define the job to be done or the problem your product will solve, your user personas, and the ideal user journey. Next, use this knowledge to inform your user interviews to better understand their primary pain points and main frustrations. With this knowledge, you can address the most pressing issues users face and map to your ideal user journey on a “must-have/could-have/nice-to-have” matrix.
Technical feasibility and complexity: Answer any doubts about feasibility with a PoC before beginning to build anything. Map out the range of complexity of the proposed features and assess where they fall on the “must-have/could-have/nice-to-have” spectrum to help prioritize inclusion. If there is any fear over technical feasibility (Can I make it work?) or financial feasibility (Can I offer it at a competitive price?)—a PoC is advised. It’s best to get all of those issues sorted out with a focused, lower-expense event.
Cost: Establish business-critical metrics to help guide the MVP implementation, including your budget and net and gross profit margin.
Define Your Measure(s) of Success
To arrive at your measure of success, clearly articulate what you’re setting out to test with your MVP. Ask yourself: What is your riskiest assumption? Generally, it’s whether or not people will actually want to pay for your product to solve their problem.
While you can–and should–set out to measure multiple metrics with your MVP—conversions, clicks, views, etc.—clearly define measure(s) of success to guide future actions.
What specific metric(s) will give you the most insight about whether or not your product is viable? This will be specific to your product and how you define success—it could be the number of downloads, purchases, or conversions.
Define Your Next Steps
The feedback and behavioral data, metrics, and measure of success you’ve collected will guide your next post-MVP steps: Do you buy, build, partner, or kill? In addition, define your roadmap with the next set of features to evaluate.
Whether or not you buy or build requires a cost- and trade-off analysis. Consider partnering if you discover you need to add features that require skills or capabilities you don’t have. Partnering can also help accelerate development on a tight deadline. Deciding to kill your MVP can feel painful, but it’s critical to be realistic: “Have the courage to kill products that are no longer core to your strategy and may be replaced by new products you build,” advises Bernie Doone, Director of Information Services at 3Pillar Global.
There are a lot of moving parts to think about when creating your strategy. A product vision or lean canvas is very helpful at this stage, even if it is a draft or hypothesis. Remember that you can revise the specific elements based on data gleaned from research once you’ve gathered that information.
Defining your goals and crafting your strategy before beginning to build your MVP is a critical ingredient for success. But keep in mind, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” MVP. In fact, with MVPs, perfect is the enemy of done.
According to Kathryn Rosaaen, Global Manager, Product Development at 3Pillar Global, “One of the biggest issues with MVP failures is that we waited too long to launch to production, thereby postponing our learning. So one really needs to quickly and precisely identify what we think the true need is, be disciplined in selecting ‘just-right’ set of features with an end goal of getting the product out in the market, so we can learn even more and refine our product for it to eventually evolve towards the ‘big hit’ we envision.”
And above all else, make sure that your decisions are driven by data, not by gut feelings alone.
To learn more about 3Pillar Global’s services and how we can help you create a minimum viable product to test and validate your assumptions with real customers, contact an expert today.
Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.
FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.