Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Minimum Viable Product

For those not familiar with this subject here is a link.

There has been, a lot talked about the minimum viable product (MVP). There are a lot of articles discussing it's pros and cons. In this post I want to do a different take on this subject. The opinions expressed here are my own. I am writing all this based on my experience.

Quoting from an article on Apple designer Jonathan Ive from Time.

“Objects and their manufacture are inseparable. You understand a product if you understand how it’s made,”

He was talking about hardware. But this can also be applied to web based products and services. And also other areas too, I think. Here, we will only look at web based products and services.

So let us rewrite the above quote for web based products.

A value proposition and it's MVP are inseparable. You understand a MVP if you understand how it is made.

Sounds so simple. Then, why do we go wrong over and over again? To answer this question let us look at some examples.

Let's say we have a value proposition. We can build a better search engine than Google and Bing. These search engines have a problem. We will call it Problem X. We have the solution to problem X. And here is our plan of action to build our MVP.

First we build a search engine that works like Google and Bing. Next we add our solution to Problem X, to it. And we have a better search engine. Wrong! This is the wrong way to go about it.

The right way to go about it is, to solve Problem X first. And build a search engine around it. In fact this is exactly what Google did. A lot has been written about it, so I will not go into that here. When Google first launched, they did not try to emulate the other search engines of the time. Instead they started with their solution to Problem X and built the search engine around it. And this is also the reason why Bing is not better than Google. Bing simply did not have a Problem X to start with.

The example above was an extreme case. Let us look at a real life scenario. There is a marketing person. He knows for sure people have a certain problem. Problem X. He has a value proposition. But no solution to Problem X. He knows this is a problem worth pursuing. And he needs a software engineer to build the MVP.

If the software engineer builds the MVP without the solution to Problem X, with the hope that he can add the solution later, he is doing it wrong.

A value proposition and it's MVP are inseparable.

The software engineer can start with the solution to Problem X, only if he knows the solution. He can know the solution only if he knows how to make it.

You understand a MVP if you understand how it is made.

So as an entrepreneur, how do you know if your software engineer has come up with the optimum solution?

Problem -> Solution -> Unique Value Proposition

If your software engineer has come up with a solution, that produces a value proposition similar to your competitors, he has got it wrong. His solution must produce a Unique Value Proposition.

It is all about the "Jonathan Ive" in your team.

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