Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been a common term in the startup world for many years – first coined by Frank Robinson in 2001, and popularized by Eric Ries through his book Lean Startup. However, larger corporates have been slower to embrace it as a strategy, and have missed out on major opportunities as a result.
It’s also a concept which is A) widely misunderstood and B) badly executed across the board – whether it be in startups, agencies or corporates.
In this article, we’ll give you an essential overview of:
1. The Problem: Reasons for Product Delays in Large Enterprises
2. The Solution: What is an MVP strategy and which big names are using it?
3. Why should large corporates adopt MVP?
4. The simple reason corporates often fail at MVP – and how to avoid it
5. How to introduce MVP in your organization without risk
Let’s dive in…
The Problem: Reasons for Product Delays in Large Enterprises
If you’re a product manager in a large corporation, you’ll know that product projects can be frustratingly slow. Here are some of the key factors which lead to most time-wasting:
Bureaucracy and slow decision-making processes
You might be painfully familiar with endless discussion loops, pointless meetings, and decisions based on bias that later have to be back-tracked, leading to lengthy delays.
Inefficient communication and collaboration
Siloes are the number one culprit in delaying progress. Add on a dangerous dose of internal politics and you’ve got a nasty case of broken collaboration.
Focus on perfection rather than iteration
Long gone are the days when perfectionism was a humble brag. The number one time-waster we see when working with large corporations is when teams are obsessed by refining tiny details. Meaning months down the drain before the product even gets into the hands of a real user.
Fear of failure and resistance to change
One phrase that’s guaranteed to kill innovation – ‘we’ve always done it this way’. In a fast paced modern market, an agile attitude is key. Indeed, failure can be our friend, as long as we take steps to derisk the process.
And that’s where MVP comes in…
The Solution: What is an MVP strategy and which big names are using it?
MVP (minimum viable product) is building the simplest possible version of a product that allows you to bring it to a real world market. This means getting the perfect balance between the minimum possible resources and effort needed to collect the maximum possible feedback and learning about the user experience through... you guessed it, the user feedback with the target audience.
When we apply the idea of MVP to the whole strategy of a large corporate, we focus on four key pillars:
- Accelerated time-to-market
- Enhanced customer-centricity
- Improved resource allocation
- Increased innovation and validated learning
And when it comes to successful MVP execution, we’re not short on examples. Household names from Dropbox to Spotify, Uber to Amazon all started with a basic product launched to a limited market, then learning and iterating based on hard data, to build massive international success.
Now if you’re thinking that your organization doesn’t have a lot in common with the Sillicon Valley set, we get it. But the universal principals of MVP give astounding results no matter how large the corporation.
Why should large corporates adopt MVP?
The four main benefits we see when we work with corporations who embrace MVP as a strategy:
Faster validation of product ideas
No more wasting time developing a product without knowing if your customer really wants it. The Minimum Viable Product approach cuts assumptions and ensures you’re working on a validated idea as early as possible.
Reduced development costs
The whole point of MVP is to launch with the lowest possible spend. This one wins serious points when you’re looking for leadership buy-in.
Increased adaptability to market changes
Some of the strategies employed in larger corporations were designed for times when social media, e-commerce and even smart phones weren’t a standard part of everyday life. As such, they don’t cut it in today’s ever less predictable market. Your user needs and values may change based on anything from today’s stock market activity, to media coverage of the climate crisis. Working with MVPs ensures you stay flexible and cut risk.
Early feedback for continuous improvement
By getting the product into user hands as early as possible, and keeping features simple and efficient, you create space for the experimentation and iteration you’ll need to really hit the nail on the head with your product.
The simple reason corporates often fail at MVP – and how to avoid it
Once corporates are clear on what MVP is and how it can benefit them, all that’s left is to implement the strategy. But here's where we hit a bump in the road.
Unfortunately, this is where a lot of enterprises go wrong, and there’s one simple reason.
They forget the essence of MVP.
Minimum. Viable. Product.
It's a simple phrase that belies a complex idea. As Marty Cagan, founder of Silicon Valley Product Group, explains in his book:
The MVP should be a prototype, not a product.
<quote-author>Marty Cagan, author of Inspired book<quote-author>
And here's the key – the value of MVP is not in delivering a finished product to the customer but learning as quickly as possible, minimizing risk, and increasing your chances of success by experimenting.
Creating value for customers is not the goal of an MVP.
Why, you might ask? Because creating products, especially in the tech world where writing software can be an arduous and costly process, is one of the most expensive ways to verify your hypotheses. If your assumptions are off the mark, the time, effort, and resources you've poured into several iterations can result in wasteful expenditure.
In contrast, an MVP should be something that's whipped up in a few hours or days – an order of magnitude cheaper and faster, facilitating rapid validated learning and adaptation.
Now, remember the first section where we talked about perfectionism, lack of collaboration, endless discussion loops? Well those don’t go away just because we stick on an MVP label to the process.
Companies often fall back into old habits, and end up taking 6 months or more to product an MVP, defeating the point of the strategy.
If building of an MVP takes more than 4 weeks, something’s gone wrong. So how do we avoid that?
How to introduce MVP in your organization without risk
Remember, an MVP based strategy means prioritizing early prototyping and user testing, alongside a clearly defined roadmap for iterating and refining at each stage.
At the beginning of any product idea, there has to be a ‘throwing darts in the dark’ stage. But through an MVP you turn on a light and analyze the board to see where you missed, where you need to course correct and where you hit the bullseye.
The most efficient, time and resource saving method for doing this initial stage is a Design Sprint.
This is a structured, collaborative problem-solving process, enabling teams move from idea to prototype in just 5 days.
In line with the MVP approach, the goal is to learn before building - quickly validating ideas and identifying potential problems, to avoid wasting time and money on solutions that may not meet customer needs.
It’s the perfect way to get your team on the path to an MVP in a low risk environment. In fact, we’ve used our Sprint structure to take clients from abstract concept to a launchable MVP in just 3 weeks – you can read about how we did it for a New York SaaS company here.
Read more about Design Sprint: