What is A Minimum Viable Product in Agile Development?

An MVP in Agile is known as the base for creating a good software product. See how to build an MVP with the simplest possible features that solve user problems.

MVPs have become the main focus on startuppers’ minds, especially since everyone talks and reports that the no.1 reason why almost 90% of start-ups fail is because their product doesn’t respond to market needs. 

An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is supposed to help you avoid failure, or even if you fail, this happens in the early phases of development, where you can quickly make changes and improve. 

Below, you’ll find out exactly what an MVP implies in Agile development and all the benefits it brings to your business.

What Is an MVP in Software Development?

An MVP represents a product’s first version and covers the basic features that can solve a problem. Apart from improving and simplifying product design, building an MVP is one of the best ways to see how users respond to a product or app’s basic functions in the early stages. This allows you to quickly respond to changes if necessary and build the right and complete set of features afterward.

Based on the Agile methodology, the MVP is the starting point in software development and follows the typical Agile iterative approach. Development teams divide the project into several iterations based on an initial hypothesis, aka the problem you want to solve with your product. During each iteration phase, teams constantly verify and analyze if a product meets the target audience’s needs. 

In short, an MVP is the foundation that dictates the future steps on the project roadmap. It should cover the following:

  • Enough value for people to use or buy
  • Significant benefits to get early adopters
  • Feedback loop to develop future useful features

MVP Vs. Prototyping

One common misconception about an MVP is that it’s the same as a prototype. 

A prototype is just a sketch or draft created before you build an MVP, with minimal development, time, and resources. A prototype only tests the visual concept of a product, whereas the MVP has everything it needs to enter the market.  

Check out the main differences between a prototype and an MVP:

How Do You Build an Agile Minimum Viable Product?

Building an MVP doesn’t usually take a long time; on average, it takes between 2 and 6 months.  But that doesn’t mean it’s a simple task where only one or two people are involved. This is just another misconception, and the reality proves the opposite.

When it comes to the roles involved in building an MVP, it depends on the project’s complexity. For instance, for a simple, basic MVP, like a data extraction tool,  the team building the product can only include 1 Back-end Engineer and 1 Tester. 

But generally, working on an MVP implies a joint effort from a full-stack development team, including: 1 Designer, 1 Front-end Engineer, 1 Back-end Engineer, 1 QA Tester, 1 DevOps Engineer, 1 Product Marketer,  and 1 Product Owner.

Working on an MVP looks like this:

1.Define the problem

  • get a clear statement on the problem your product solves
  • map out all possible solutions to the problem

2. Define the solutions

  • research the competition and the market
  • designers start sketching and trying different variations

3. Define the product

  • compare all solution sketches and decide on what would be the best fit
  • create a storyboard and select core features

4. Start working on the MVP

  • turn the storyboard into a prototype 
  • the product owner ensures alignment across the entire development team
  • choose the suitable tech stack and work on the backend
  • the product marketing team comes up with ideas for the product’s UVP (unique value proposition)
  •  test all the functionalities of the app or product

5. Start next round of iterations

  • review and refine your solutions 
  • test out several trial runs with users (e.g., send a demo to the target audience identified in the market research)

The key idea in building the MVP is not to strive for perfection. Keep things as simple as possible and focus only on the minimum functions you need to implement to deliver the solution you decided upon in the first place.

Examples on How to Prioritize Features for an MVP

Development teams can enforce several methods to prioritize or decide on those core features a Minimum Viable Product needs. Yet, even these already traditional methods can be subjective and by far the opposite of one-size-fits-all for any project.

The MoSCoW Matrix

To give you one example of features prioritization, let’s imagine you want to build a music streaming mobile app. We’ll analyze the core features you’d need for this kind of MVP based on the MoSCoW matrix. This matrix includes:

  • Must Have (core features that make the product viable)
  • Should Have (important features but not necessarily vital; the absence of these features still makes the product viable)
  • Could Have (desirable, “nice to have” features, but not essential for the MVP)
  • Won’t Have (features with no real impact on user experience or not relevant for the initial idea of the MVP)

For our music streaming mobile app, here are the features we would include in each grid:

Whatever doesn’t fit in the ‘Must Have’ category doesn’t mean they’re wrong ideas or will never be included in the final version of the product. It means you should keep them on your product roadmap and focus on them after the MVP is a triumph.

Effort and Impact Prioritization Method

Similar to MoSCoW matrix, this method analyzes the complexity and effort behind building a feature. Based on the challenges, potential risks, including financial ones, features are divided into:

  • Quick wins
  • Major projects
  • Fill-ins
  • Reconsider

The Kano Model

The Kano Model follows in-depth data collected from customer surveys and market research. It follows the same principle of simple functionality but also adds attractive features to engage users. The three elements based on the Kano Model include:

  • Threshold  – features that ensure the good functionality of the app (the essential features users expect)
  • Performance – ‘nice to have’ features meant to boost user experience 
  • Excitement – surprising features that most users don’t expect, meant to create a ‘Wow’ factor.

How an MVP Accelerates Business Value

In simple words, an MVP approach saves you time and money, giving you an ideal opportunity to test and get confirmation that your product has what it takes directly from your target audience. 

While it doesn’t guarantee a quick win or success, it has fewer risks compared to the traditional development method. In the classic (waterfall) model, you spend 1 year or more focusing only on building the final version of your product without testing the waters.

One example of possible risk in the waterfall model is: market trends will likely change within months, and your product won’t live up to customers’ expectations because of outdated user interface or features.

Here’s a more straightforward perspective on the pros and cons of the MVP:

Notable Examples of Famous MVPs

The world is filled with successful start-ups that began with a Minimum Viable Product. You surely know the names, but check the brief stories of these famous examples:

Uber’s simple idea disrupted the taxi business

Uber founders’ idea back in 2009 was to create an affordable alternative to expensive cabs. To see if their idea would catch on, they developed an MVP in the form of a mobile app called UberCab. The simple process of ordering a cab with the tap of a button and the ability to quickly pay with the card on a user account became a hit, making Uber one of the fastest-growing start-ups in Silicon Valley.

Dropbox revolutionized people’s online storage habits

Building a cloud-based service from top to bottom takes a lot of resources, time, and effort. Even if Dropbox founders were convinced that people needed a fast service to sync files online and make them easy to share, they still tested it with an MVP. In their case, it was a simple video that explained the step-by-step process of how Dropbox works. Soon enough, over 70,000 people downloaded their video, and by then, they knew it was time to turn Dropbox into one of the best file hosting services.

Spotify introduced a new way to listen to music

With experience in the music industry, Spotify creators realized there was a huge gap in finding and listening to music using a computer. Spotify founders built a desktop app within four months to quickly reach product market fit with one core feature: music streaming. Spotify app had many early adopters who loved the functionality of creating and sharing playlists of songs with friends. 

Check out a screenshot from Spotify’s MVP:

Conclusion – Key Things to Remember

The main question you should keep pondering about before rushing into creating an MVP is this: “Is my idea worth doing?” Once you settle that the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”, your race from start to finish is only a few months away.

The essential details to keep in mind are:

  1. Always build a Minimum Viable Product having in mind how the end product will look like, with the entire set of features, not just the basic ones. Having an MVP without knowing how you want to develop it further is like creating a computer without thinking that it would need a keyboard at some point.
  2. Be as objective as possible when choosing the core features, leave personal biases aside, and focus on delivering what real users need.
  3. Before releasing the MVP on the market, test small versions of features through A/B tests, demos, or trials.