March 12, 2020

How to Decide the Features of Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

Product development in the software development space has become a game of speed. With innovation and technological development becoming an agenda on everyone’s mind, faster time to market ranks high on everyone’s priority list…before the market changes. Clearly, the faster you can reach the market, the greater are your chances of success.

In such a competitive environment that is defined by changing user demands, technological development, and constantly shifting market dynamics, an MVP becomes a great way to develop a viable product that can provide immediate value without escalating costs and test the waters.

An MVP acts as the baseline for your product…the initial bait needed in an overcrowded market to hook your audience and to test your assumptions. It sets the stage for future iterations of the product, helps in gaining more development clarity to plan sequential steps to take the product to maturity. Whether it is to showcase business potential or to secure shareholder buy-in or to test the market, an MVP validates or invalidates product assumptions and strengthens your confidence in the product using the build-measure-learn process.

But an MVP is more than just a random set of ideas or features for a product put together. To build a strong MVP, it is essential to identify and prioritize features to get your MVP out into the market confidently.

Given our experience of helping our clients in hundreds of product releases, here is what we recommend you need to do to decide the features of your MVP.

Business and market understanding
While Uber was a hit as a taxi service, the Segway fell flat on its face. Not every great product idea will be a success. Before deciding on which features to include, it is essential to assess the market need for the product. The product has to fulfill either a customer or an organizational need where there is a gap.

Studying this gap gives valuable insights into the problems the product is trying to solve.

Gaining this understanding of the list of requirements that the product should solve is the first step towards deciding the features road map.

Effort v/s impact
The objective of an MVP is to test the waters. The focus of the MVP has to be on the ‘acceptance’ of the users, provide a feedback loop, test hypotheses, accelerate learning, and reduce engineering waste. Feature prioritization determines the first set of priorities and defines the boundaries that separate wants from needs.

Thus, given its purpose, assessing the effort v/s impact of the feature becomes a critical point of consideration. There is no point in putting in high effort for a stellar feature that might not deliver an impact on the users. The objective here is to focus on the quick wins without expending too much of an effort.

It is essential to remember the concept of ‘value’ in the MVP narrative when evaluating effort vs. impact in the feature prioritization checklist.

Identify user journeys
Having a clear idea of your target demographic is a given with the rise of the conscious customer. People know what they want. They know what kind of products they like using. They are aware of the growing importance of user experience and design.

Given this, when designing an MVP, it makes sense to ensure that the users will have a great experience with the first interaction itself. It, therefore, becomes essential to map user journeys, evaluate how the user will navigate the product, and how they will achieve the end goal.

Post this, you need to evaluate the high and the pain points in this journey and use that information to decide the feature prioritization roadmap.

The features that help the user to reach an end goal, at the earliest, in an optimized manner, take precedence over those features that don’t.

Airbnb’s initial website, for example, didn’t have all the features that the current website does. But it did help its users find accommodation. And then the product matured iteratively to grow into the phenomenon that it is today.

Prioritize – When everything is important, nothing is important
Once you have a defined user journey, it becomes the time to create the list of features for each stage. The features can be put into ‘must-have’ and ‘nice to have’ categories. Once this list is in place, it is time to create the priority list by determining the single most important action that you want the user to accomplish (this decides the key features). You then go on to decide what other features you can offer by assessing why you need these features and then cross out the least important ones.

Upon doing this, you need to arrange these features into the ‘must-have’ and ‘nice to have bucket’ and then assign priorities going from high to low. Once prioritized, define the scope for the first version of the product and start the MVP development process.

Most people think that an MVP is nothing more than a skeletal structure of a larger product. While this is true, it has to be mentioned that an MVP doesn’t have to unexceptional. There is immense value in delivering a quality product that will help the users see how it delivers an advantage to them. However, getting the right set of features out is the hook that you need, so choose wisely.

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