The Importance of Minimum Viable Product to the Agile Philosophy

5 minutes

12th of December, 2023

The Agile philosophy was developed to streamline IT project development by segmenting each step in the development process into micro-projects called sprints. Each project can have anywhere from 10 to more than 50 sprints.

Agile hinges on constant client collaboration and feedback at every stage, which prevents a finished product that does not meet exact client expectations. One way Agile teams reduce wasted resources is through the use of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept.

The Minimum Viable Product Definition

Understanding the client's perspective is a large part of building a successful product. Most clients do not have an IT background and can become quickly frustrated with draft sketches and concept meetings wanting; instead, a product to test. Likewise, spending months developing a product your client hates is a waste of team resources (and could cost you the client).

Rather than take these risks, Agile teams create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). An MVP takes 1-2 months to complete and appears fully functional but isn't. An MVP gives clients a product to test, allowing teams to make adjustments based on feedback but doesn't waste resources.

An MVP can sound like the ideal solution to wasting resources (and it can be), but it's also a concept that's misunderstood.

Possible MVP Pitfalls

It's vital to keep in mind that an MVP is first a teaching tool created to help teams better understand client expectations and, on the flip side, to help clients understand what a team is capable of creating.

In creating an MVP, watching out for the following pitfalls:

  • Confusing MVP with MMF: a Minimal Marketable Feature is a small and highly marketable feature that can provide quick value to clients (such as an ad campaign). An MMF takes little time and resources and is marketed immediately after development. Contrastingly, an MVP is a teaching tool used to help teams learn what clients want from a product and to prevent failure when launched.
  • Maximum Minimalism: an MVP must be functional enough for clients to test. Some teams focus on spending as little time as possible, developing an MVP, and fail to deliver a useful test product.
  • Lack of development: teams should apply client feedback and further develop an MVP based on client notes. Some teams fail to make adjustments resulting in a product that doesn't live up to client expectations.

How to Build a Minimum Viable Product

Keeping in mind the purpose of an MVP (to understand client expectations), here's how to begin building a minimum viable product:

  • Research: all projects should start with market research. Find out what needs the product should fill, who will want to use it, and what other products are on the market.
  • Design Concept: don't make the mistake of skimping on design. Think about how users will interact with the product, user-friendliness, and overall flow.
  • Consider features: what features are essential? Which ones are the most important? Make a list of features and begin building based on those concepts - try to incorporate functional core features without spending too much time on complete product development.

It's essential to prepare your client for an MVP by stating the purpose of the initial design. Allow clients to test and play with the MVP and gather all feedback for later adjustments.

Benefits of the MVP Stage

The primary purpose of an MVP is to help teams fully understand client expectations without fully developing a product. Some clients may not find the product your team develops useful, and some clients may change a concept entirely based on an MVP. By developing an MVP, you can determine whether your client will like the product you can create while gathering valuable feedback.

Your client may not like the work that your team does, but it's much better to discover this truth before spending 12 months creating something that never launches. Developing an MVP can also work as a marketing strategy by giving your client something to test immediately (much more appealing than mock-up drafts!). In most cases, your client will appreciate the collaborative nature of an MVP and the chance to become involved in a process. 

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