Building your minimum viable product

c661a96923319a8f3db30f9b26b3766bOnce you have conducted enough customer interviews to confidently define the problem and solution, you can begin early stage product design and MVP development.

As an initial step, you should define the essential customer experience that your product needs to create in order to assess if the offering solves the problem in the way the customer values. From initial customer engagement you should have a shared understanding of the problem, solution, and value expected. Armed with this shared understanding, you need to identify the minimum product features required to measure and validate it.

Next, you must decide on the best approach to illustrate your product’s ability to solve the customer’s problem. First MVP versions can take many forms such as sketches, graphic depictions or diagrams for physical products, web launch pages, screen mockups, and click-through samples for digital or software solutions. Later MVP iterations take more functional forms such as scaled models, simple hand made or 3D printed constructions, or working prototypes.

Finally, you should determine what measurements or metrics would you use to validate the learning in this first MVP version? Asking customers to complete a short survey after they have reviewed and or used the MVP is a perfectly good start.

One of the challenges in designing your minimal viable product is to decide which product features to focus on in early iterations. Here are suggested steps you can take to hone in on the best MVP approaches for your early product testing.

Step 1. Review/Refine Target Customer Assumptions. As a starting point, you should review results from your early customer discovery interviews. Are there any revisions regarding your understanding of the customer jobs/tasks, pain points, or desired value (gains)? What assumptions are still viable? Which ones require any pivots?

At this point, you may want to turn your customer profile to a “design” persona. Focus on articulating a clear statement of customer jobs, tasks, and frustrations/pain points in doing the task along with likes/dislikes regarding current solutions. Create a persona version that builds off the value proposition canvas work along with customer segment profile. Start with customer segment profile (beach head) and add in details of customer jobs, pain points, desired gains, etc.

Step 2. Evaluate and Prioritize Desired Solution Benefits. Consider using importance and satisfaction scales to identify underserved or unmet customer needs (defined as high importance/low satisfaction). You should list benefits (based on customer interviews and specific desired “gains” and rate each benefit in terms of importance and current satisfaction.

Step 3. Compare Your Product to Competitor Offerings. Based on the importance and satisfaction ratings generated in Step 2, you prioritize benefits, those that fall into the high importance, low satisfaction zone. Then, compare competitors’ product offerings for each prioritized benefit area. Here, you are looking for where your offering may be offering unique benefits to the customer, something that they cannot derive from competitor products.

Step 4. Identify Product Features Required to Achieve Prioritized Benefits. After step three, you should have a good sense of which benefits are critical value creators for your target customer. Additionally, you will know where you are positioned as compared to competing solutions. You will want to focus on the critical benefits are not provided or underserved by your competitors. For these benefits, you should identify product top features for each proposed benefit. Consider each product feature in terms of the importance to you capacity to provide the customer with the desired benefit. Additionally, project how much the development of the feature will cost in terms of development time and funds. You are looking for the features that provide the most customer value for the least development cost.

Step 5. Select MVP Candidates for Early Tests. Select high value/low development features for possible MVP candidates and consider which approaches to use to test first MVP.

After making these important deign decisions, you can begin to build the first version of your product. Depending on the approach you are using to illustrate your product, it is important to keep in mind that each MVP version has a specific purpose. You must work to pare down your first version to the essential features required to test the problem and solution for the customer. This first version must focus on the primary problem and show that the product can solve that core issue. For this first version, you must eliminate any “nice-to-have” or non-essential features. As you receive customer feedback, you can add additional features to future product iterations. This focus is critical in the early product design stage. It reduces product development cycle time, eliminates distractions that might confound your testing results, and enables you to validate whether you have the right problem-solution for your customer prior to moving to the next iteration.


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