Commonly, MVP stands for “most valuable player.” The athlete that is better than the rest of us. Those Kobe Bryants of the world, always stealing the glory. Maybe they are better, more gifted, or maybe they actually work harder. IT professionals and programmers fear not. Spent too much time hunched over the computer? Good. Bring out the MVP in you. Here’s how.
First, know that the real “MVPs” are minimum viable products. Those great ideas with just enough to make them something. “Viability” refers to the quality of being able to happen or having a reasonable chance of success. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” You’ve had the lightbulb moment that leaves you feeling brilliant. Will others share your enthusiasm? Will customers come to your lemonade stand? You may have even landed your first round of funding, how can you be sure you won’t blow it?
Test your hypothesis, validate your idea, build an MVP.
The purpose of the MVP is to test your core idea, and determine how prospective customers will respond. With an MVP, you can try out the barebone version of a product quickly, and collect feedback to include in future iterations. The benefits of an MVP include prospective market validation, resource optimization, value proposition focus and proof that the product can be monetized.
Preliminary market research can be a good place to start if you have a little extra time and money. Research allows you to test the waters to gage whether you actually have a good idea or not, who would agree with you and why, as well as make you aware of the competition. Knowing these things can help you differentiate yourself early on, define and refine the problem you intend to solve, and help to develop your all important value proposition. You aren’t selling an app, you are selling a means to something bigger. Maintain your vision throughout the life cycle of the product development.
Next, draw it. Go to the white board, break out the grease pens, and draw it. Define the functional requirements or features that you want to add, before you actually start building the MVP. Functional requirements are the pieces of functionality that are needed in your app so that it can meet its goals. What do you want now, what will your users want along the way, and farther down the road. Create a feature road map for implementations now and then. Organize and prioritize features so that you understand the scope of work for phase one. Carefully compare the feature must-haves against the feature nice-to-haves. What are the basic things the app needs to run? Think in terms of essential versus useful. Focus on customer needs over your preferences. A video game style UI may remind you of your younger days, but a global financial consulting firm interested in your app may find it childish.
Next, build it. This is the development phase. The application development lifecycle is obviously impacted by how you build your app. All apps exhibit behaviors, where each behavior represents some form of functionality. In traditional app development, developers interpret requirements and then write lines of code in a development environment to implement functionality. Hand-coding can be time consuming, particularly if the app doesn’t execute properly at runtime.
In software development, releasing and assessing the impact of an MVP is greatly facilitated by the advancement of rapid application development tools. For example, Crowd Machine’s Crowd App Studio allows developers to model behaviors as a Pattern, rather than writing code. Patterns are a diagrammatic presentation of logic that represents an app requirement and are composed of one or more activities. Activities act to reduce the amount of effort required to create functionality in an app. Crowd Machine’s unique approach removes the requirement to understand any form of computer language or the traditional intricacies of app development. It also accelerates the pace of app delivery by removing the development and unit testing steps of the app lifecycle, allowing a developer to go directly from requirements to user acceptance testing. For the UI, Crowd Machine similarly uses a design canvas with drag and drop functionality to create page objects and other elements that are required for a page layout, all very quickly and easily. Tools like Crowd Machine can reduce resource costs and dramatically increase the time to market delivery of your MVP.
Next, quality assurance. After development, it is time for user acceptance testing. Where the rubber meets the road. The “did we get it right” moment? Did we solve the problem? Should we go forward? What feedback will cause modification in subsequent iterations. What do users like or dislike, does the UX/UI need to change? Use the constructive feedback head on to make improvements, and test again.
There are many examples of MVPs gone big. Facebook started as a platform to connect students of schools and colleges all together via messaging. Now it has over 2.7 billion users. Twitter was originally an SMS based platform known as “twttr” for internal use, yet now has over 500 million tweets posted per day. Amazon was designed in 1994 to compete with brick & mortar Barnes & Noble, and now, it’s Amazon the giant online retailer. Uber is an often cited example as it began as a simple app for a city commuter. User feedback led to the iterations of Uber ride sharing (fare splitting), UberPool (cost conscious) Uber X (nice) Uber XL (large). All were MVPs before they became what they are today. Build small, then go big.
Building an MVP is the single most reliable way to obtain feedback and reduce product failure risk. It is your opportunity to validate assumptions with minimal investment. It supports the iterative process of idea generation and evolution. Become an MVP, build your MVP in two weeks or less, with Crowd Machine. You don’t need Super Bowl rings to be great!
 Coined and defined in 2001 by Frank Robinson; popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries.
 Lloyd Christmas