What is the “Minimum” in the Minimum Sustainable Product?


“Sustainable Minimum Product,” or “MVP” is a concept for agile development and business growth. With a minimum of viable product, you focus on creating the simplest and most basic version of your product, web application, or code.

The minimum viable products include just enough features to attract early adopters and validate your idea early in the development lifecycle. MVP workflows can be very valuable in the software selection environment as it helps teams get feedback, learn from it and respond to it as quickly as possible.

The question is, how exactly do you define the “minimum” in an MVP? How do you know if your MVP creation is basic enough and still “viable”?

Defining the Minimum Viable Product: An Introduction

The concept of “Minimum Sustainable Production” comes from the Lean Start-up Methodology, introduced by Eric Ries. The purpose of MVP is to help companies quickly create product versions and gather validated insights from customers for each iteration. Companies can choose to develop and release viable minimum products because they want to:

  • Introduce new products to market as quickly as possible;
  • Test an idea with real users before you make a big budget for product development;
  • Create a competitive product with frequent upgrade usage;
  • Learn what the company’s target market is all about;
  • Explore different versions of the same product.

Rather than allowing a company to think about product validation without building the whole concept from scratch, MVP can also reduce the demand on company time and resources. That’s why so many small start – ups with limited budgets use the MVP and lean production strategy to keep costs as low as possible.

Defining an MVP: What Is Not Your Minimum Viable Product

In building a Sustainable Minimum Product, you are focusing on developing the most “essential” features that must be included in that product. For example, you may be building a shopping app for your website. For the app to be “viable”, it had to allow customers to search for products and add them to a shopping basket or cart. The app would also require a Checkout feature and security components.

However, additional functionality, such as the ability to ask questions about an item to a customer service team or features that allow clients to immediately add products to a “wish list”, may not be necessary immediately. Defining what does not exist is part of defining sustainable minimum production. For example, an MVP does not:

  • Prototype: Prototypes are often mentioned alongside MVPs as they can help with product validation at an early stage. However, prototypes are not usually intended for use by customers. The “minimum” version of a viable product still needs to be developed enough for clients and users to test it and provide feedback.
  • Minimum marketable product: MVP is a learning medium that allows companies to create multiple iterations of your item over time. However, a marketable, ready-to-sell minimum product is a complete item with features or “selling points” that the company can highlight to differentiate the item from the competition.
  • Proof of concept: Here’s another similar idea but separate from MVP. Proof of concept items test an idea that you have to determine if it is achievable. No customers are usually involved in this process. Instead, companies create small projects to assess the technical capabilities and feasibility of business solutions. Sometimes you can use proof of concept before moving on to MVP.

Finding the Minimum in Your MVP

In finding the “minimum” in a viable minimum product, the key challenge is to strike the right balance. Ideally, your MVP needs to be as essential, cost-effective and simple as possible so that you can create several iterations in a short amount of time. The simpler the product, the easier it is to customize, roll it out to your customers, and learn from their feedback.

However, developers and business leaders should not be so focused on the “Minimum” part of the Minimum Sustainable Product that they forget the key part: “Viable”; your product still needs to achieve a specific purpose.

So how do you find the minimum in your MVP?

1. Decide on Your Goal or Objective

First, you will need to determine what your product needs to do in order to be considered viable. What goal or goal do you hope to achieve with your new product? For example, in the example we mentioned above, where you are creating an ecommerce shopping app, the most basic thing the app needs to do is allow customers to shop and buy goods on smartphones.

Think about the whole selling point of your product or service and decide what the “goodbye” is, compared to the basics. For example, your AR app must allow people to interact with augmented digital content on smartphones, but may not have to work with all versions of the latest AR smart glasses.

2. Make a Feature List

Once you know the goal or purpose of your product, the next step is to make a list of features or capabilities that you can rank in order of importance. You can base your knowledge on what is “most important” to your customers by looking at things like:

  • Competitor Analysis: What do your competitors in this category already have to offer, and where are the gaps in their service or product?
  • User research: What are the most important features or functionalities for your most important audience? How can your solution stand out from the crowd?
  • Industry information: As an expert in your industry, you should have a basic understanding of what it takes to make your product “usable”.

3. Create Your Iterations

Once you have defined the most important features, the next step is to build the simplest version of your product. Build the item according to what you consider to be the most essential features and ask yourself if it meets its purpose.

If your solution seems “viable,” you can roll it out to your target audience or a small group of beta testers to get their feedback and validate the offer. Use focus groups and market interviews to gather as much information as possible about what people like and dislike.

Using your feedback, you can begin to apply changes to your “minimal” viable product to add more essential features or functionality.

Understand the “Minimum Sustainable Product”

Viable minimum products are evident across multiple industries and markets today – especially in the digitally changing world. For example, Amazon may be one of the most popular online marketplaces in the world today, but it did not start that way. Instead, Jeff Bezos began buying books from distributors and sending them to customers every time his online store received an order to determine if the book sales landscape would work.

When Foursquare first started, it only had one feature. People could check in at various locations and win badges. It was the gaming factor that made people so excited about using the service. Other examples include:

  • Group: Groupon today is a major discount and voucher platform, operating in companies around the world. However, it started out as a simple, minimalist viable product to promote the services of local businesses and offer exclusive markets for a short period of time. Now Groupon is constantly changing and updating its offerings.
  • Airbnb: Starting with the founders ’own apartment use, Airbnb became a unicorn company that allowed people to list short-term rental places around the world. The founders rented their own apartment to see if people would consider staying in someone else’s house before expanding it.
  • Facebook: When it was released, Facebook was a simple social media tool used to connect with friends. There were basic profiles, and all members were Harvard University students. The idea grew rapidly and became a global social network. Facebook continues to learn from the feedback of its users and introduces new features today.

Creating Your Minimum Viable Product

Your definition of a “viable minimum product” may not be the same as that of a developer or other business leader. The key to success is finding the right balance between viability – and the purpose of your product, and simplicity – or minimizing your features.

Start by discovering what your product can’t do without it, and gradually add extra features as you learn and get feedback from your audience. While it may be challenging to produce something so “minimal” at first, you need to be willing to release these small, consistent iterations if you want to leverage all the benefits of an MVP.

Suppose you can successfully define the meaning of the words “Minimum” and “Viable” at the same time as your new product creation. In that case, it should result in agile business, follow-up workflows, and better development processes for your entire team.

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