Everyone that has ever been in technology and around building products has heard Minimum Viable Product (MVP). For those that have not, it is a simple concept of building the most basic product and getting feedback to iterate it into a bigger product. This is often done with brand new products as you don’t want to devote the time and energy to building something that people might not want. I am not going to write about MVP, it has been written about enough and this is a great article about Uber, Airbnb and Dropbox use of MVP to achieve greatness as well as this article discussing the process.
Instead I am going to focus on NVP, or what I coined the Non Viable Product. All too often product teams take the approach of attempting to build an MVP when in reality they are building an NVP by accident. This happens because management (me) push to see something and deem a success as we release new products. Teams scramble to narrow scope as much as possible so that unrealistic time frames demanded are met. Basically, we (management) are often hurting ourselves and in turn we are getting NVPs.
The problem runs a little deeper than just management pushing, it also is a mis-understanding of the intent of MVP. With MVP you really need to have a new product and when I say product I am talking about something completely new, not just a new feature. This is where product teams get themselves in trouble, they start treating features like products. The problem with this is that the product already has users and they are accustomed to the product and how it behaves, if you release a new feature that isn’t complete because you scoped it down to be minimal in nature you will underwhelm them. Now if this feature is completely new you might be able to get away with this, meaning your competitors don’t offer it and there isn’t a product like it, but if you are merely building a feature to combat a competitor then you need to be very careful on how you scope it to not deliver something underwhelming.
We’ve all heard the quote from Will Rogers:
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”
This is all but too true when it comes to telling your customers you just released a new feature, if it isn’t what they expected or wanted they will be turned off. Sure you can tell them “don’t worry, we are releasing more features to the feature” but if it isn’t usable in its current state or doesn’t have any real value then it is a NVP. One letter off, but way off the mark.
I have found it best to just follow my Dad’s advice: “Do it right the first time or don’t do it all”. Time constraints and other factors come into play but in the end you have to deliver something of real value that your customers will love from the start.