What is an MVP?

This week’s conversation was one that applies to many companies. The challenge as presented was “we have an idea, and we need to produce a minimally viable product; how do we find the tools and materials to create a prototype”.   The company had quite a bit of useful detail about the materials needed and how they should be combined in this structure so that it does “XYZ.”

One of the first questions from the Office Hours Group was “how you know that this is what the customers want?” and “how many customers are there?” The answer was over a billion and growing at 8% CAGR.  The group had done their homework and had a good handle on types of customers, segments, and how the product would be used.  All good stuff.

The focus remained on “how do we create this product?”   The Office Hours Group kept going deeper, turning their attention to the business model.  What, very specifically, what would be charged for? Again, specifically what were the customers getting from the product; value proposition? Why would people buy? How would the customers buy and where?

The Group was trying to get at the key question of what is the product?  Moreover, what is minimal expenditure in time and money was needed to answer that question.

The idea behind a minimal value product is to test assumptions about value proposition and customers expectation.  In a series of questions the Group tried to narrow down a series of activities which could test the important aspect of the idea.

Rather than creating an MVP that would have an embodiment anything like the envisioned product the strategy arrived at was to distil the potential outputs of the product to the basic interaction with the customer. Each of the interactions could be tested in isolation and combination to discover what is important to the customer.  Once the impact and nuances of that experience have been observed and assessed the team can look at what physical constrains that implies, incorporating them into the product design.

The MVP does not have to be a product at all, rather it is can be whatever is needed to extract from potential customers what they value and how they want to consume.  The key step is to define the information required and design test around those questions.

In most cases this testing approach can be accomplished with existing off the shelf products used to produce the needed outcome or using manual inputs.  If the tests prove successful the technology and processes can be expanded, miniaturised or automated into the final product.    

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