MVP Software Development: Everything You Need to Know (The What, Why and How)
Have you heard the term Minimum Viable Product, otherwise known simply as MVP? If yours is a start-up or small business, you probably have heard about minimum viable product development and, in fact, you may be considering this approach as a way to leverage your limited budget and resources to explore the opportunities provided by a new software product or application, and ensure that you don’t make a misstep in the market.
Think of an MVP in this way: A Minimum Viable Product is a version of a new product or a new feature set that provides customers and users with core features in a usable environment so that these users can offer feedback to incorporate into a final product. Businesses often ask how long it might take to develop an MVP. The answer is, ‘it depends.’ Like everything else, the time and budget for an MVP depends on the depth and breadth of the feature set, the complexity of the design, the resources you use to complete the project (in-house, consultants or offshore experts), and the accuracy of your planning and team experience.
When your business contemplates minimum viable product software development, there is a lot to consider. In this article, we explain the MVP meaning in software development, why MVP is important, how to build an MVP and the steps to develop MVP, and the crucial considerations you will need to include when selecting MVP software development services.
This article provides the basics and identifies the various phases of MVP software development, and the considerations your business must include in each phase. It includes an overview of each phase and how the information gathered and processed throughout the project should be used to continuously refine the MVP product and build a foundation for final product design.
What is MVP Development?
Before you can proceed with your project, you first need to understand Minimum Viable Product Meaning. Here is a Minimum Viable Product definition that will help you understand the concept:
An MVP is a product that has just enough features, and will be just functional enough for beta or early customers to use. These early users will provide feedback to be used in comprehensive product development. Businesses can leverage MVP product development to quickly, and cost-effectively gather feedback on a product. In so doing, the business can avoid a lengthy, costly product development process that may result in failure, may include features or functionality customers do not want, or may leave gaps in functionality that are important to customers and clients.
When we consider MVP software development, the concept must include a framework and environment to create an approach for information management, queries and/or data analysis, task completion, sales, or other business focus.
The Gartner technology research glossary refines the definition to answer the question, ‘What is MVP in Software Development.’ So, what is the practical application of MVP development? It can be applied to support a start-up, small technology, software business, web agency, technology consulting company or a business or entrepreneur looking for an investor and beta users to pursue a concept or idea.
Let’s dive in a little deeper.
MVP in software engineering or MVP in custom software development is meant to serve a particular purpose. For example, it might be designed to provide feedback to:
- Transform an idea into an early stage, functional product
- Validate a concept or idea through user feedback to address a use case
- Validate product-market fit
- Illustrate a concept in tangible form to attract investors or stakeholders
- Refine the scope, requirements and use cases for a product or feature set to improve product and market success
Remember, you are only building a product with minimum capabilities. Think of this approach as comparable to building a movie set. All the audience needs to see is the outside of the building, so the construction will not include a full build out of rooms. But the MVP must be convincing enough to engage the customer, so they will use the features and provide the feedback you need to take the next step.
It is critical to balance ‘minimum’ with ‘viable’ in order to avoid failure. In other words, you want to develop the minimum functionality to demonstrate what your product will do or improve upon while, at the same time, ensuring that the product is dependable, user-friendly and meets the stated needs of the customers and/or a particular use case. You can’t over promise. If you can’t deliver what you are showing the customer, then don’t promise that product or those features. The concept must be viable!
What MVP Product Development is NOT
Before we leave this part of the discussion, let’s talk about one more thing. Namely, what MVP product development is NOT!
Building a Minimum Viable Product is not the same as building a fully functional product. Later in this article, we will talk about how to build an MVP, but for now, it is important to highlight the definition so as to avoid any misunderstanding. When businesses start the process, the ‘minimum’ concept may be clearly defined. But as the process evolves, companies and individuals involved in the project are often tempted to add features or functionality. ‘As long as we are working on this, we might as well add…’
Resist the temptation. Define the MVP and, when there is a question about adding layers or deeper functionality, revisit your definition and be sure you stay within those boundaries.
Now that you have a grasp on the Minimum Viable Product concept, let’s look at why this concept is important for your business to consider.
Why MVP is Important
Gartner research analysts report that new product failure rates in the software industry are between 40% and 80%. Take a moment to let that sink in. One of the primary benefits of building an MVP for a potential software app or a new set of features in a software product is to reduce the failure rate for your product.
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach is ideal for a start-up business. Why? Because most start-ups don’t have a lot of capital and, even if you do, you’ll want to improve your return on investment (ROI) and your total cost of ownership (TCO) by carefully and comprehensively planning the product and its features and functionality.
Here are just a few of the reasons the minimum viable product approach can help your business achieve its goals:
- Build trust with customers by confirming what is important to them and how a product will best serve them
- Test the business understanding of requirements and competitive advantages
- Avoid costly missteps in the market
- Reduce time to market for final product design
- Evaluate product plans while limiting resources
- Accelerate customer feedback and incorporate feedback into the final product plan
- Understand customer and user behavior and implement user experience (Ux) concepts
- Reduce development time
- Mitigate risk
- Discover gaps in product and/or market fit
- Find hidden opportunities
- Create a tangible working version of a concept, product, or idea to attract investors and educate stakeholders
- Design a final product roadmap that is cost-effective and based on feedback rather than guesswork
- Attracting investors and/or improving budget approval process with fact-based feedback and proof of concept
- Discover new markets and create new demand
When one considers the final point in this list, it is worth noting today’s competitive business environment. Now, more than ever, a start-up or small business is pressed for funds and must build its reputation in the market as quickly as possible.
A respected Entrepreneur Business Publication recently noted that developing an MVP and creating an environment that is agile enough to test a concept and pivot quickly can mean the difference between success and failure, and suggesting that the business create a team to experiment and identify new opportunities while, at the same time, maintaining a stable product portfolio.
Start-up MVP development allows your business to reduce costs and mitigate risk, and to test new ideas, and it can provide a crucial proof of economic viability and customer satisfaction. With a rapid development strategy and a feedback loop in place, the business can gain valuable insight into its projected product plans.
When you consider the importance of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach, please remember the reason you are taking this approach. Positive results are only possible if you leverage MVP software development as it was intended to function.
With the right focus, MVP development can provide a solid foundation for results. Just remember this:
- MVP is meant to avoid a product misstep, and the creation of products or features that do not serve your bottom line or your customers – it is NOT meant to represent a fully functional product or to be a short-cut to full product design.
- MVP is meant to uncover the 20% of functionality that 80% of your customers will use, so you can build a sustainable product foundation.
- MVP can be a test of viability for a new product or a new feature set to test business assumptions before making a major financial and resource commitment.
When the MVP process is used appropriately, it can help businesses build solid success. Start-up businesses that successfully used MVP to test assumptions and garner customer feedback and interest include Uber, Snapchat, Dropbox, Foursquare, and Airbnb.
As important and beneficial as the MVP process is, your business would be wise to avoid the pitfalls of those who came before you, by maintaining a clear understanding of Minimum Viable Product development goals and how and when to use the concept.
The MVP process is not for every company, and is not suitable for every situation.
How to Build an MVP
If you have decided to build an MVP, it is important to understand the minimum viable product process. MVP product development must be planned carefully if a business is to achieve the results it needs from this process.
Let’s take a look at the steps to develop MVP:
- Market Research to Define Scope
- Document and Prioritize Requirements
- Define Metrics to Determine Success
- Create a Plan for the Customer Feedback Process
- Create MVP Roadmap, Including Iteration Process
- Design and Develop MVP
- Launch MVP
- Incorporate Into Product Iteration
- Refine and Detail Product Features for Final Design
Market Research for MVP to Define Scope
If yours is an existing product, you probably already have a lot of information about, and from, your customers. In order to accurately plan your MVP development process, you will need to use this information. If this is a new product, your team will have to perform market research to understand your target market and how your customers will use the product. Include information about your market, your user demographics and how and when your users will engage with the product, your competitive position and advantage, and any customer feedback or needs assessment you have already performed.
- What market or user need will this new product or feature set solve or address?
- Which competitive products or features will inform your decisions about what to include in the product and how to position pricing and/or marketing?
- What are the obstacles to releasing a successful product or feature set?
- What business needs and goals will this product or feature set address?
For each business, the list of questions and answers to these questions will vary. Be sure you have a real understanding of a) what you want to accomplish, b) why you want to undertake this project, c) how will this project will help you achieve your goals, and d) what value will this product add to the market or to your customers or target customers?
One of the primary reasons a start-up business fails is that the market does not perceive a need for their products or services. Be sure the product you are contemplating serves an actual need in the market or among your customers.
After your market research is complete, you can put pen to paper to develop an overall scope. We will talk about developing requirements and specific features later. For this exercise, you are creating an overall scope. Think of it as a high-level statement of purpose with a bulleted list that describes what the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will do. Starting with a broad scope is a good way to get all parties on board and brainstorm the purpose and function of the product you want to test.
Document and Prioritize Requirements for MVP
With your market research and scope statements in hand, you can now dive in to document your requirements. Make sure your requirements include consideration of how the user(s) will engage with and leverage the product or new features. Not every user is the same.
In one wholesale Minimum Viable Product example, there might be a segment of customers who use your application to find products, review product options and choose, buy and ship products to stock the shelves of their store, while others within the same organization will focus on reporting, to track how much money was spent on your wholesale products in a quarter or a year, or check the status of outstanding orders, or pay the invoices you send. In order to decide on a feature set and requirements for your MVP, you need to understand the needs of both types of users and decide how deep and wide your feature set must be to give them an idea of the final product and engage them in using the application so you can get feedback.
Remember to focus on ‘minimum’ and ‘viable.’ You want to create a list of requirements that represents the minimum to give users an understanding of what the product will do, and you want to be sure that the list of requirements and the product functionality you are planning is viable!
Your requirements must be clear and detailed enough to instruct the team. Here is brief snapshot of requirements that will help you test your assumptions:
|Be Specific||Make sure your requirements clearly define the purpose of a feature and what it does.|
|Make it Measurable||How will you know if a feature is working well, e.g., specific response time, etc.|
|Determine Viability||Can you fulfill this requirement on time and on budget, with the resources at hand|
|Specify a Schedule||Set a schedule with milestones and be realistic about what you can accomplish|
Now that you have created a list of requirements, resources, and schedules, sit down with your team, and prioritize the requirements to choose those that are crucial, important, or just nice to have. By its nature, an MVP is not meant to be a fully formed product.
Look at the market research you have and the feedback you have available from customers or prospective customers. What are their pain points? What specific things do they really want? Use this as a guide to keep you on track. Assess the impact of a particular feature on the customer and their overall satisfaction.
Define Metrics to Determine Success of MVP
How will you know if your MVP project is successful and whether the process has given you what you need to take the next step and develop a final application or product?
Because the MVP process is based on hypotheses and experimentation, it is easy to fall back on the idea that you will just see how it goes – that you will somehow KNOW whether you got it right. But, as with anything else, it is important to have metrics. Before your management team, board of directors or senior executives agree to go forward and invest in a fully functional product or feature set, they will want proof that you have based your assumptions on fact.
The customer feedback you obtain from the use of the MVP will give you some information but you will want to ask specific questions and avoid subjective feedback. These customer metrics should measure what is important. Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring. Choose metrics that actually tell you whether a concept has been proven, whether a feature is important, etc.
- How often was a particular feature used
- How often did a particular feature fail
- What is the ranked value of a particular feature
- Does the user experience (Ux) behavior measurement meet or exceed expectations
In addition to this information, you should include metrics for:
- Revenue (based on number of users or licenses, etc.)
- Lifetime customer value
- Acquisition Cost
- Churn Rate
As the results of the MVP test process evolve, you can make assumptions about the price points, estimated revenue, etc., but only if you are asking customers for feedback on how often they did (and might) use the product, what they will specifically use the product to accomplish, etc. For more information on incorporating customer feedback into product design and metrics, see the section below.
Plan the Customer Feedback Process for MVP
The Minimum Viable Product you design is meant to provide customers with an idea of what the final product will be and to make them excited about the value it will add. As we have discussed, customers will use the product in different ways. Getting the right feedback from your customers will help you develop a set of metrics to determine the success of the MVP and to forecast the success of the final product.
There are two types of customer feedback: Quantitative and Qualitative.
|Quantitative Feedback assesses the capabilities of the design and how easy or difficult it is for a customer to perform a task, how many errors the user encountered in the system, etc.|
Qualitative Feedback is more subjective, and will help the business to understand whether the customer thinks the MVP is user-friendly, and whether they think the features are easy to understand, etc.
The business will need a process to gather and capture customer feedback, both through the system as customers use the application and through direct and indirect customer feedback.
The team should develop an interview process, surveys and questions that elicit information regarding the use of the app, the issues the users encountered, the value of the solution or features, etc. Click Maps and other techniques can be used to elicit indirect feedback and will be valuable in identifying issues the customers may not wish to discuss or may not consider important to mention, but which may be of significant importance to the business.
Customer feedback will help to inform your marketing messages and your Call to Action (CTA), as it will identify what is important to customers and how they define and describe those features or issues.
Other feedback can include:
- The number of downloads or sign-ups
- The number of active users
Create MVP Roadmap, Including Iteration Process
Create your MVP roadmap, schedule and budget and assign resources. If you plan to engage a consultant or offshore resources, you will want to bring the team in to review requirements, and plan for what comes next.
The roadmap should include product iterations to refine your product based on customer feedback and the use of features, etc. How will you incorporate customer feedback into future versions? How many future versions of the MVP will you create (if any)?
Your team will have to decide whether to refine features and fix issues as you begin to see the feedback and, if you plan to do so, what types of issues or features will you address and which will wait? You will need a plan for this and that plan should be clear to customers as well.
Your plan should also include a fail-safe for significant failure. When and how will you stop the project if there is a critical issue?
Be sure to include a review and re-prioritization of features so that you can handle the product evolution, based on metrics and real feedback.
Design and Develop MVP
This step in the process has the most potential to devour time and money. You may have gathered a lot of great information but, if you are not using the right, skilled resources, you can encounter significant obstacles and you risk damaging your reputation among your customers or potential customers.
In this stage, you (or your consultant or offshore expert) will use a standard, dependable software development technique like Agile, Scrum, Kanban, etc. and begin the design process. The choice of a development language, platform or framework will be made based on the complexity of the MVP, the features, the devices and environment into which the product will be introduced, etc. Your MVP software development partner will recommend methods of process management and tools to support this process, e.g., JIRA, as well as reporting and meeting frequencies, backlog management, springs planning, testing feedback loops and the number of iterations required to support the project and feature complexity.
The testing phase can include introduction to a limited number of customers or testers, followed by beta testing. During this phase, the developers collect feedback and assess issues. Based on this information, the MVP product is refined and tested again until a suitable solution is created for introduction to potential customers or to a limited customer base for feedback.
The MVP launch strategy must include a process for managing the use of the MVP, answering customer questions and providing support. If your customers are frustrated during this MVP test phase, they will not use the product, and you will not get the feedback you need.
The launch strategy must be well-conceived. Will your team provide a free download from your website, or will the MVP be released in some other manner? How will you provide access to users? Do they have to sign-up? Is each user given a specific profile? What security measures are in place to assure that information entered by customers is protected? How long will the MVP test period last? Will the download ‘expire’ so that access is no longer possible?
You will have to manage all of these questions and more, in order to ensure a successful launch.
Again, if you engage an expert, you will be working with a team of people who have launched MVP products and understand how the process should work and all of the complexities of the process that must be addressed in order to assure success.
Incorporate MVP Feedback and Metrics Results Into Product Iteration
Now that the MVP product is out in the world, your team will focus on reviewing the feedback and metrics as they are available. Some MVP products are refined on an ongoing basis to address small bugs and make the user experience easier.
What if the worst happens and the project is seen as a failure? Your metrics must reflect what is considered a viable product and when to keep moving forward. If you have minor issues, you will simply refine your metrics and your hypotheses and move forward with those refinements using an established product iteration process. One of the most important aspects of the MVP development process is to be flexible and agile enough to pivot as necessary. If the product is viable, make the changes and move forward. If it is not, or if the concept requires fundamental changes that cannot be made in this version of an MVP, the business must adapt. Do not stubbornly continue if all metrics, feedback, and signs are telling you to drop back and come up with another plan!
Be sure to revisit your priorities and focus on those issues that are the most important to your business and your customers. Don’t try to fix everything at once!
The team should continuously review the results to gain insight into features and priorities. Were there things the business considered important that are seen as less important by customers? Are there gaps in the features or functionality?
Refine and Detail Product Features for Final Design
After the MVP cycle is complete (including any iterations you deem appropriate), the process of requirements refinement and detailed feature design begins. All the information gathered during the market research, initial and subsequent requirements iterations and customer feedback phases is incorporated to finalize the product design.
If you are working with an MVP partner, you will budget and schedule the final product design in concert with that team.
Find the Best MVP Developers
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) process is not to be taken lightly. Done right, it can provide crucial information for product development and test your theory of market success. It can help the business to avoid the cost of product development for a product that the market does not want or need. It can help you to identify competitive advantage and customer needs and build trust among prospective and current customers.
But, if you are to achieve your MVP goals, you must have the right resources. It is unlikely that a start-up or small business will have the resources or the knowledge to undertake an MVP project alone. By engaging an MVP development company for Minimum Viable Product app development, you can leverage the skills of a team that has experience in planning and launching an MVP.
When a start-up or small business considers this cost, it is easy to see how even the best application or software product idea can be set aside. But a start-up cannot grow without products or investment. The key is to get the most value for the investment.
In-house resources will, by their nature, include a benefits package, ongoing training, the facilities costs to house the staff, etc. U.S. and Western European software development fees are skyrocketing.
MVP software development agencies in India are a good option. Consider the average cost of development for India vs. selected global markets.
On average, the cost of MVP development services in India is:
- 25% of the cost of development in the U.S
- 28% of the cost of development in Western Europe,
- 65% of the cost of development in Central Europe
- 32% of the development costs in Australia
Consider offshore MVP development to save money and time and ensure project success. These cost-effective, experienced resources can work closely with your team to ensure that the MVP project investment will be affordable and, with the help of a skilled team, your business will get the feedback they need to make a decision on a final product.
India-based MVP development services include flexible delivery models for onsite, offsite and hybrid resources and a full suite of design, development, testing, project management, and other resources with timely communication and reporting and effective Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
This White Paper will help your business establish a detailed process to select an offshore development partner.
Minimum viable product development consulting is crucial to a start-up and the right services can mean the difference between success and failure.
No matter the size of your business, when the enterprise is considering MVP product development consulting, it is important to get the best skills, and the most responsive services.
As you consider the project phases and information provided in this article, think about adding an appropriate partner to your team to help you through these phases and ensure that your MVP project will be a success.
Take your start-up, small or medium (SME) business to new heights with a software product that will put you head and shoulders above your competition. Let us help you get your MVP software product out into the world!
Explore the benefits and components of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach to software development and business considerations for mobile application development with these complementary articles: ‘Mobile App Development is Important to Business, So Are Mobile App Programmers,’ and What is Flutter Programming, and ‘What are the Pros and Cons of Flutter Programming?’