Poor MVP, no one likes you

There are few things more polarizing in my profession that the phrase Minimum Viable Product, MVP.

“”MVP” is a selfish process, abusing customers so you can “learn.””

“Most MVPS are unfortunately too M to be V…”

“Instead of MVPs, maybe we should be releasing SMURFs”

That is just a sample of lines or titles from other articles on the topic.

Since I’ve been a person that believes in the concept behind an MVP, I wanted to dig into why it is such a controversial acronym.

MVP = bad product?

Launching a minimal product into the marketplace has a bad wrap because:

  • it implies low quality.
  • it suggests that there is limited functionality available.
  • the product sounds unpolished and perhaps buggy.

Minimal products also imply that you are focused on something other than your customers.

That’s because the purpose of an MVP is perceived as being more about metrics and quick wins than delighting customers.

MVP = right for some customers

I’ll take the other side of that argument and tell you that the purpose of an MVP is expressly focused on delighting customers.

That’s because the only way to build a product that delights is to get into a customer feedback loop as early in the product lifecycle as possible. That’s how you ensure you are building the right thing for your customers.

Is an MVP right for every customer? Nope. In most cases, it is only right for your most progressive customers who understand the state of the product.

That is true in my industry.

My team is building all net new products that will enter the market short of feature parity with other products. That isn’t a bad thing, that’s us understanding the reality of the situation. No net-new product could ever be at feature parity with products that are decades old. To wait until you have complete feature parity would mean waiting to release a product for a very, very long time. At which point you would likely miss the market.

While our products will be short of feature parity, they all have improvements and advanced functionality that the older products do not have.

So, for the right customers, adopting our early-stage products will be about a tradeoff between wanting to experience the most modern technologies, i.e. being progressive and solving for specific pain points while understanding that there will be gaps.

I’m thankful that we have a lot of customers that fit that definition.

MVP has a branding problem

Maybe MVP just has a branding problem.

I’ve heard people spin it to Minimum Lovable Product, or prototype, or first version.

I can find holes in just about every replacement for MVP. But, I agree that the implication of using the word minimal is likely where the problem lies.

I’m less focused on semantics.

What I am focused on is delivering products to the right customers who are interested in partnering on finding the best solutions to pain points.

That requires releasing products, to targeted customers, earlier than you might be comfortable with when compared to making a product generally available (GA).

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