What Is A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

What Is A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

Either, you found this article because you just won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award from your team; or you are wanting to learn about Minimum Viable Product (MVP). If it is the earlier of the two, congrats on the great season. We’re going to award you with some knowledge that you can take back to your team! If it is the second, congrats to you for your involvement in technology and for being in the right place.

When it comes to building software, you will eventually run into the acronym MVP. Unlike for our award-winning athlete, MVP does not stand for Most Valuable Player when building software. The MVP we are using stands for Minimum Viable Product. Recently, there has been debate in the technology community. Some desire to update MVP to stand for Minimum ‘Valuable’ Product instead of ‘Viable’.

Technologist Love Acronyms + Debates

If you work with technology long enough, you’ll learn the technology community loves acronyms like MVP. The community also loves debating concepts like MVP, too. Apparently, our profession creates new concepts, turns them into acronyms and then popularizes them. That popularity attracts detractors that will challenge the concept with a new concept. In the case of MVP, the detractors are even challenging what the acronym stands for. Its an endless cycle. Don’t worry though, our team is here to help navigate the hyperbole and focus on the takeaway. We will focus on the facts and help you harness technology no matter the perspective you subscribe to.

Minimum Viable Product Defined

Before we get to the debate, let’s discuss where the term MVP originated. The term Minimum Viable Product was developed by Eric Ries in 2011 for his book Lean Startup. Eric defines MVP as follows:

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

To illustrate how the term popular in technology, especially software development, here’s the definition for MVP from Techopedia:

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the most pared-down version of a product that can still be released. An MVP has three key characteristics. It…

  • has enough value that people are willing to use it or buy it initially.

  • demonstrates enough future benefits to retain early adopters.

  • provides a feedback loop to guide future development.

Debate: Viable vs Valuable

The good news is that it looks like Eric and Techopedia agree on the definition. Now, let’s take a look at the debate. Should we say ‘Minimum Viable Product’ or ‘Minimum Valuable Product’ and what is the debate about?

The debate revolves around the goal of the MVP. Some argue that by making the goal ‘viability’, it puts the focus too much on the ‘features’ of the product. This focus on features ignores whether the features are actually valuable. For example, one could define a signup page, login screen, and forgot password as a minimum viable product. Of course, these features are necessary but their development would not be considered ‘valuable’.

Those arguing for the term ‘valuable’ want to go beyond just building features that get us to an end product. They want to focus on building a product that is actually ‘valuable’ in the end. Their focus is not on features but on meeting the needs of the user, the project, and the business. By focusing the goal on creating value instead of viability, they feel the MVP process will be more successful.

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