Planning an Agile MVP Development Framework
What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
Currently known as one of the most significant lean-startup techniques, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a learning vehicle in product development. This powerful concept permits you to test an idea or product by revealing an early version to the target users/customers, collect feedback and relevant data, and utilize that data to learn and tailor the product for ultimate success. Many people get caught up in the name "minimum viable product" however, MVP is genuinely not about producing minimal products. It would be best if you looked at MVP as a form of accelerated learning. As a risk reduction tool, MVP allows you to avoid the release of an idea/product that doesn't meet the mark, hence avoiding the common mistake of wasting time and money on something that your users/customers can't or won't utilize.
Defining the MVP. So how do you define an MVP? It's best to clearly define the learning objectives that are closely related to the client's business goals. Understanding how the business goal(s) solves a business problem is the key. Next, your project team will need to define the wants versus needs. Needs are the features that the product cannot exist without, while wants are features that create a richer experience. A good MVP will clearly distinguish the two, cover all the needs, and determine which wants will differentiate your product from the competition immediately. Defining a successful MVP is all about being completely focused on what is essential to begin testing and validating your product.
Build with Purpose. You’ve identified what you need and what assumptions you need to test. Now it’s time to build your MVP. Building a MVP that is stable and usable is the number one priority. Limiting features to those that test assumptions plays a vital role in truly learning what the customer wants. However, note that it is essential that these features are well designed. Ensuring usability in the early stages of your MVP makes it easier for customers to accept the product now and stick around for more bells and whistles that are added in later iterations. Successful usability in the early stages of the MVP also encourages customers to give you the best data and feedback for future iterations.
Your goal is to develop a product that solves a problem, has a faithful customer base, and is profitable.
Testing Your MVP. Though MVP provides a means to test your product assumptions as a starting point, be careful not to assume that it is an easy build. MVP tests are designed to answer technical questions about the product and examine important business suppositions about the market of which it exists. MVPs can range from indefinite AdWords assessments to early product prototypes; the complexity depends on the type of product you're building. Here are some of the testing practices you can utilize to get reliable data from users and customers:
Customer Interviews – This unscripted interview with customers is designed to elicit information about the problem your product is trying to solve. Be careful not to make these exploratory interviews a sales pitch for your product or its functionality. List out the problems that your product will answer and ask the customer to rank them and give their assessment. These interviews are vital and will provide you with incredible insight that will help you streamline or pivot your offerings.
A/B Tests – These tests are essential to gaining customer data on any changes you've made to your product or marketing. Leveraging this two-version testing approach with applied analytic tools can help you test how customers react to the design variations, eliminating the guesswork.
Explainer Videos – visuals and videos demonstrating your product's user experience are worth a million words.
Functioning Demos – You can save time and money by leveraging existing platforms and services as the foundation of your product.
Cloud Platforms – Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services, MongoDB, Facebook Connect, and services like MailChimp, LiveChat, and Google Forms are all great tools for your MVP testing. Don't be afraid to leverage these tools to develop processes and cut down the time it takes to get your MVP to market.
The takeaway here is to take advantage of multiple MVP testing techniques.
Build it. The fundamental principle behind a minimum viable product is to learn rapidly with nominal investment. Iterate and build multiple MVPs that incessantly validate your assumptions in response to market feedback.
Project Managing in Chaos: Surviving an Iterative Process
Effective project execution means that a project team reacts appropriately to unexpected events and gets work done correctly, even if that means redoing or repeating some steps in a process to get it right.
Responding constructively to feedback can mean the difference between success and failure. Follow these tips for surviving an iterative product development process.
Traditional project management emphasizes rigid planning and approval cycles. More nimble project managers, rejecting the notion that they can't make changes midstream, find a way to incorporate feedback along the way instead of waiting until the end. This type of environment encourages re-work, which can be frustrating for some team members and can also be costly as well.
Accepting that completed work may need to be changed can reduce some of the stress involved with working on continually evolving initiatives. Chaotic environments can become more tolerable when the long-term goals get explained upfront. By being open to change and innovation, teams can create truly inspirational work.
The cyclic process of prototyping, testing, examining, and refining ensures that a final product truly meets the needs of the audience. Feedback received informs the next iteration of improvements. By planning how many iterations you want or setting a deadline, you can reduce the stress of coping with innovation.
In summary, to survive an iterative process, set expectations with all team members. Don't wait for an uncomfortable scenario to arise. Accept feedback and make use of it to succeed in the workplace. Instead of recoiling from negative input and barbs of criticism, toughen up and deal with the outcome. By being resilient and filtering the critique for its usefulness, you can help your team improve exponentially. Self-awareness usually leads to innovation and improved performance all around.
Agile Product Development and Roadmap Software
The volatility in the global economy has increased intensity in the competitiveness in specific markets. This competitiveness makes product development, and product launches an immensely important component of long-term success.
When leveraging an Agile product development approach, a roadmap is a useful steering tool. Essentially the roadmap gives the direction of travel for your product, sets expectations within your company, and is the balance between strategic developments and day-to-day requests.
Understanding the Basics. While developing products and services that will meet the needs of a specific market is essential, the need to do this in a cost-efficient and highly productive manner is equally important. Historically, businesses have used product roadmaps to predict and describe how a product will grow, to establish a baseline for stakeholders, as well as to acquire or establish a long-term budget for the development and marketing of the product or service in question.
Unfortunately, it can be immensely challenging to build a useful and accurate product roadmap in today's market, especially within an agile context, where frequent changes occur, often unexpectedly.
Introducing Product Roadmap Agility
Developing a product roadmap is a complex endeavor, especially when considering the shifts and changes in the market that will require constant interdepartmental collaboration and the use of multiple platforms of customer engagement. How businesses engage their target audience is constantly evolving, in addition to how the public perceives these encounters. The ability to make the necessary calibrations to the roadmap requires system and process agility.
For instance, two major trends that have persisted over the last two years, and seem to be still gaining momentum, are the impact of social media and mobile access to the business-consumer relationship. The prevalence of social media and the impact of mobile access must be factored into the evolution of the roadmap for any product or service.
One of the most effective ways to facilitate this type of agility is through the use of software programs that possess the inherent agility to support the changes that will be necessary as the product or services progresses along their lifecycle.
Using Agile Roadmap Software to Compile and Analyze Data. Another element that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the progression of product development and marketing is the use of big data. As the need to compile, categorize, and analyze data increases, the need to integrate this process into the road-mapping process will increase in direct correspondence. The use of a high-quality, agile roadmap software program can create the capacity to integrate the entire process into one functional mechanism that can efficaciously use data to assist in making the necessary changes to the roadmap moving forward.
The Communication of Product Strategy. Another massive benefit of using agile roadmap software is the fact that it can aid in the communication of product strategy, which is the common concern among product managers. This should not be a surprise, being that product managers use product roadmaps as a communicative tool, with their primary audience being stakeholders and company executives. These roadmaps allow the product managers to communicate with these individuals in a manner that will be visual and easy to comprehend.
In addition to providing a highly comprehensive roadmap that is easy to understand, agile roadmap software will also offer the ability to plan and prioritize effectively, making it easy to recognize which initiative should be pursued aggressively, and which ones can be approached passively.
As product markets become increasingly competitive, the roadmaps that set the path for the lifecycle of these products will require a great deal of agility, and the use of agile software programs is one way to address this need.