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Defining your MVP: the ever-raging war

And here I go. AGAIN. Always inciting the Wars of the Internet.

I’ve had an overflow of articles and discussions on the last few weeks about what is and what isn’t an MVP. Some of the core arguments involve these ideas:

MVP is dead. We should be doing MLP (minimal likeable product)

I haz Nietzsche feelings

This idea focuses on the client’s perception much more than product viability. Likeability is awesome, and must be a major goal. However, likeability doesn’t pay your bills. Having a loveable product is very different from having an economically viable product – and guess what happens when there is no breakeven in any foreseen horizon, and you can’t pay your bills? Yup, that’s right. Your product ceases to exist.

Economical viability must come before likeability because it enables the search for likeability. Whoever believes it is possible to live on likeability only is very lost in a self-serving, wide-eyed view of a dream, and has lost the grip all dreamers must have on reality to turn said dreams into real-life, world-changing achievements.

MVP is the minimal product you can sell

Best analogy for product management EVAR

So, as soon as you find something people will buy, there you have it! That is the opposite view to our first hypothesis, all focused in economical viability, and lacking every aspect of user experience. Finding a product you can sell but lacking the differentiated aspects that will keep your customer from migrating as soon as new contenders appear represents a very short journey in the product management seas.

Selling shouldn’t be the north that guides an MVP, but one of its many shipping sails, helping to guide the path to the product’s destination.

MVP is what you have when your product achieves its OKRs

Oh, the OKRs. Those awesome metrics you set to define your product’s success. Relying on this to define when you have your MVP is like deciding a plane will take off long after the airstrip has been left behind.

Keeping a product in MVP state until OKRs are achieved may well result in losing market timing and postponing launch to a future in which all your economical viability has gone down the drain.

MVP is the minimal product you can collect feedback on

That’s a very healthy view on the MVP when you’re building your first release. It keeps you grounded, with your eyes on the goal. However, I wonder what happens to the people who believe this is all there is to an MVP when you have your minimal, viable, feedback collecting product in hand — and the feedback is you should change everything. What is it you are doing then? A minimal viable “let’s test again” version?

This makes no sense. An MVP isn’t dead as soon its first version is released, and if the feedback is negative. If it were so, iteration would not be possible.

So what is an MVP?

MVP is a process. Building an MVP is about iterating with the minimal viable product you can to test and validate (or discard) hypothesis while you stumble through your way in the quest for a product you can sell, is likeable and achieves the metrics you set for success. It starts in defining what a first release would be, and everytime you gather feedback and pivot, you are still “MVPing”. There is only one possible indicator to determine if that process is over: your feeling.

Do you feel you have a product you’ll bet your cards on in your hands? Do you trust that product is marketable and have run enough test to project positive results and a not-too-distant breakeven? Will your customers enjoy your product? Is your business model solid so you know you won’t have to pivot drastically in a very near future, given there are no abyssal changes in the market?

If you can answer all those questions with “YES”, congrats! You have concluded the process of your MVP.

For more on using MVP as iterating tool and validating hypothesis:

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