If you want to be a pro baseball player, start by playing stickball. If you want to climb a mountain, start by climbing a hill. If you want to build a product, start with an MVP. An MVP or Minimum Viable Product is an Agile initial release of a software product. You release the smallest thing you can and see what happens. New products change fast. MVPs provide an early opportunity to adjust.
With established products, tomorrow is a chance to iron out the wrinkles. Product managers should always try to validate young products quickly because tomorrow may not happen. Throwing things away sucks, but chucking a cheap product is better than tossing an expensive one.
MVPs should be considered research tools. They need to bridge the gap to your next release. The following exercise might help point you in the right direction: Before you elaborate your next product, take a piece of paper and draw three columns.
- In the first column, list the assumptions baked into your vision.
- In the second column, list the features in your MVP that use those assumptions.
- In the third column list how you are going to collect data around those features.
In the next installment, I will describe four methods of data collection that are perfect for young products.