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MVP

MVP, in product development referred to as Minimal Viable Product helps organizations take the pressure off development teams, reduce deadline rushes and Big Design Up Front(BDuF)[1]. Minimal Viable Product is one of the Most Valuable Practices an organization has to adopt to survive in an ever faster changing market.

Minimal Viable Product is that product which has just those features that allows you to release a product that has value for your customers which in return will pay you money or give you feedback[2]. MVP is often referred to as a Minimum Feature Set[3], where the minimum feature set is the inverse of what the business usually wants. An approach to get the MVP or minimum feature set is ask the question: “What is the smallest or least complicated problem that the customer will pay us to solve?”.  MVP has its roots in lean startups but can also be applied within existing organizations to reduce scope creep, BDuF, deadline rushes and most importantly to get valuable feedback.

When applying a practice like MVP, teams will focus on delivering something valuable as quickly as possible. For startups we value feedback over quality. For projects within existing organizations quality and control are preferred over fast feedback. This approach kills  innovation, effective project portfolio management should include different strategies for different type of projects. To drive innovation, facilitate fast feedback though MVP. When working within a well-known domain, fast feedback becomes less important and so does MVP. Nevertheless there should always be a healthy relation between quality and feedback. To quote Martin Fowler, to achieve fast feedback we will: “deliberately and prudently accumulate technical debt in order to run experiments and get validation”[4].  But be aware!! In the long run the penalty for an existing organization not addressing this debt will be sever.

The biggest advantage of MVP is that feedback will occur as soon as possible and an organization will be able to learn and adjust their course. This also is one of the characteristics of empirical process[5] theory on which agile development methodologies like Scrum and XP are founded. When organizations focus on delivering something valuable as quickly as possible we can actively prevent deadline rushes and BDuF. Deadline rushes in projects most of the time occur when a team is expected to deliver some large piece of software after months and sometimes years of work where nothing has delivered yet. When applying MVP, a team will release at a steady pace, as often as possible and the dreaded deadline rushes will be a thing of the past.

Within a culture of constant learning BDuF will become a thing of the past. You design just enough to receive feedback, learn and adjust. The design evolves in coherence with the teams knowledge of the domain at hand a practice better known as continuous learning. When applying MVP within Scrum the PO not only focusses on business value but also on the time to deliver and directs the team by prioritizing its backlog towards faster feedback which results in quicker learning which finally adds to the team’s performance in the long run.

When innovating we value feedback over getting things right and MVP is an excellent practice to deliver just that feedback.

There is no failure. Only feedback.
– Robert Allen

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