Minimum Viable Product is a term borrowed from the world of digital innovation. Since then, new concepts have been coined, like Minimum Awesome Product (MAP) and Minimum Viable Experience (MVE), which focus on the first customer experience you’re striving for rather than the first functionality you want to offer. However, this blog focuses on the basic notion of the MVP, which has since made its way into the realm of strategy execution in well-established businesses.
The word minimum is there for a reason. Note that minimum does not mean sub-par. Instead, it means designing a high-quality product for a narrowly defined goal and a manageable scope, and getting it ready for execution. It’s meant to bring about the minimum necessary customer experience, goals and functionalities. Don’t forget the 80/20 rule: 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes.
Building Block 6: Breakthrough
Let me walk you through the process. You’ve arrived at Building Block 6 of the model that I describe in my book Strategy = Execution. At this point, you’re looking to find a breakthrough customer value proposition. You’ve identified the customer processes and possible solutions that might lead to a breakthrough. Mind you, exhaustiveness is not your goal right now. You need to find solutions that have the biggest impact on your goals, make the biggest difference and can therefore lead to a breakthrough.
It makes sense for you to look for solutions in digital innovation. ‘Give your customers what they will want later’, is something I often tell my clients. Digital innovation enables you to radically change and improve how you anticipate existing and latent customer needs. My book Strategy = Execution includes a checklist for this. You need to identify the levers that digital innovation gives you to create a unique value proposition. The key is to improve not only how you meet existing customer needs, but also how you are going to meet hidden or future needs—as strange as that may sound.
A logical customer journey
How do you go about that? Customer Journey Mapping has been around for a long time, but its popularity has rapidly increased since the advent of digital innovation. Customer journey mapping helps you put yourself in your customers’ shoes and stay there. The key advantages of this method are that it gives customers top priority, helps to identify latent customer needs and hence opportunities for growth, while also identifying potential synergies between (digital) channels. In addition, its highly visual nature makes it simple and easy to explain. Customers find it just as recognizable as employees do, which is always helpful in strategy execution.
Redesigning key processes
Your next step is to redesign the key processes you can leverage to achieve your goals. These can help you make a breakthrough to a new way of working. To this end, you can use timeless principles such as eliminating non-value adding steps; introducing pro-activeness (‘laying the groundwork before you start building’); integrating preceding and subsequent processes; preventing peak production, or designing counter-cyclically; segmenting and differentiating; and automating standardizable process steps.
But keep it simple. Normally, any new operating procedure will also require you to adapt other, existing procedures. Processes are like algae: they grow, but they never shrink. That’s why you should simplify every project, be it existing or new. Because no matter how creative or brilliant the design, it will tend to be overly complex rather than too simple. If you’d like to learn more about integrating creativity into a process under time pressure, please read my blog post titled The Methodology of Creativity.
Single goal, single theme
To recap, in designing your MVP, you need to limit your product to a single goal and a single theme. Don’t develop anything beyond what you need to start the first wave of execution. You want to keep it concise and agile. After all, you have only five weeks. Your initiative as a whole may have three goals and involve five processes. But remember, 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes. I know this rule is not set in stone, but trust me, it applies to most cases: 80% of complaints are lodged by 20% of your customers, just as 80% of your profits are generated by 20% of your customers. So, in designing your MVP, you’ll want to focus on the 20% of the functionality with the most impact on the desired customer experience and goals.
Test your business case
Alright, so you’ve set your goals, done your analysis, and decided what solutions will get the job done. Creativity alone no longer cuts it: it’s time to test and validate the business case. In other words, to add metrics to the design. You need to define what you’re going to measure during execution, and how. That’s a tough one, because you need to find a way to measure execution in isolation in order to get a clean reading. Where do you draw the line between direct and indirect effects?
Focus on value creation and achieving your goals. In other words, prioritize by value and urgency. Anything that doesn’t contribute directly to value creation or goal achievement can be dealt with in later waves. That’s how you ensure you eventually get around to every idea, which is important because ideas without follow-up just use up valuable brain capacity.