In our world we talk a great deal about the MVP – the Minimum Viable Product. We use that concept in a lot of different scenarios, often for startups, but also many times with established companies that are developing software products for themselves or for a specific market or use case.

There are a lot of definitions for what the MVP is, and I would define it as:

The MVP is a product with the minimum features required to establish that your product has value, and the users can provide feedback to inform the ongoing development process.

In practice, what constitutes an MVP varies widely depending on budget, maturity of the idea, and what you are trying to accomplish.

Some MVPs are barely more than a prototype, with a lot of the functionality being simulated on the back-end. This is a great way to test and validate your product idea before committing to an expensive development cycle. Teams with limited (or almost no) budgets can go in this direction with much success.

Many great products started with going to market with just an idea and an MVP. Dropbox famously didn’t have a full product, but a minimal MVP with a classic explainer video with social media engagement that got them 70,000 interested people who submitted an email address in just a couple of days. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a few minutes:

Others with larger budgets and concepts that are more fully formed often do more complex MVPs that allow them to get more traction and scale faster. The risk of spending more resources on the MVP is balanced by an expected commensurate reward.

Sometimes the business idea has already been validated to the point that you know there is a need for the product. In those scenarios, you are creating an MVP that might be much closer to a complete product, ready to go to market. We see that many times with companies that are already selling a product or service, and their new product is an extension of their established business model.

How to balance the risk with the reward is a tough call. The whole reason for the MVP is to reduce risk, while at the same time validating the idea, and allowing you to move to improve the product from the information you got from your customers.

Is the MVP Really Dead?

Since the term was coined in 2001, the MVP has become a very popular process to adopt, primarily because it works! It’s really more than a process though – it’s a mindset based on Agile principles, and Design Thinking on how you tackle product development, and it isn’t just for startups. Companies and organizations at every level can adopt MVP principles to speed velocity on projects and minimize risks.

Of course, any popular concept is going to have its detractors, or those who take it in a different direction, put their spin on it, and the MVP is no exception. There are even those declaring the MVP is dead, and long live something else:

MAP – Minimum Awesome Product
MMP – Minimum Marketable Product
MMF – Minimum Marketable Features
MDP - Minimum Delightful Product
EVP - Exceptional Viable Product

There are more, but that’s enough!

So, here’s the thing – all of these concepts can have value. They are all a spin on the original MVP idea that is all about creating great products while reducing risks. If any of those variations resonate with you, a quick search will give you what you need.

Depending on your situation, your initial product development, call it an MVP or something else, should meet your goals whatever they are. And keep in mind, whatever your approach is to that first round of development, there are variations of the MVP that can serve different goals, such as:

If you are looking for a product / market fit, you might make your MVP less about the tech, and more about the value proposition, and how to validate that. The classic MVP scenario.
A technical MVP might be a proof-of-concept that allows you to validate some application of new technology.
An MVP that tests one or more UX/UI concepts can be extremely valuable, sometimes more so than the underlying tech.
If you want to know if you can sell something, an MVP can validate your marketing concept prior to doing the full-blown system.
An MVP can be used to determine a pricing model on a particular product, that otherwise might be hard to do. You are answering the questions, “What are people willing to pay?”

The point is, don’t be a slave to a rigid concept. There are a bunch of ways to approach building that first product. Just make sure that you know what your goals are, understand the risks and rewards, and chart a course that, in the end, will answer your questions.