The Dangers of Misunderstanding Minimum Viable Product

Jonathan Orosco | January 22, 2016

Technology needs to move at the speed of business, which often requires companies developing new digital products and experiences to be nimble, iterative and live by the "ship or die" philosophy — which can flirt dangerously with mediocrity. Companies often adopt similar models from the startup world to stay competitive, including the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Originally developed as part of the "lean startup" methodology, MVP refers to "that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort." Over time, this definition slowly transformed to mean "the smallest thing you can build that lets you quickly make it around the build/measure/learn loop." Both definitions have gradually led to a growing problem, where some misinterpret and consequently misuse this concept entirely.

One erroneous thought is that MVP is about just building something that is barely functional enough to get feedback. Consequently, those who fall for this misconception will often tend to eschew usability or reliability in the name of accelerated learning. However, it’s important not to let MVP be an excuse to deliver a half-finished product. While software is never done, releasing features that aren’t solid or work as expected ultimately lead to a poor customer experience.

Remember, customers aren’t interested in helping you be a success; they’re looking for a product to help solve their problem. Continue to ideate, prototype, build and analyze, but don’t neglect to confirm quality before releasing your work into the wild.