The Infatuation With MVPs Is Taking Us Away from Our Real Need

June 26, 2018 — Posted by Al Shalloway
I love MVPs and think Ries' Lean Startup's brilliant. But MVPs are about discovering if something's of value &was designed around startups a focus on what to work on exists. While the thinking underneath MVPs can be used in existing orgs this is too abstract for many.
 
Overloading or using terms that aren't natural causes confusion. MVP's viable & product do not apply everywhere. The idea is-what's the next business increment to deliver. In '05 we renamed Denne&Cleland-Huang's MMF to Minimum Business Increment to avoid the confusion the terms marketable & feature have.
 
Net Objectives helps companies achieve Business Agility-the quick realization of business value predictably, sustainable & w/high quality. Doing this requires
1) understanding what has the most business value
2) allocating your capacity to getting it done w/o distraction
 
MVPs are about discovering if something is of value. 
If an established company doesn't know what's of value, that company is in trouble. They have existing products/services & markets.  They should know. What needs to be focused on is the relative value of what's being considered in order to focus on that. Few people can do this so it's ignored-doesn't mean it's not important.
 
A combination of MVPs for discovering value and Minimum Business Increments (MBIs) for when we are working on an existing product is more effective than MVPs alone.
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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.


Comments

Hi Al,

I'm currently helping a large automotive multinational in their Agile transformation and find your writing hugely influential and helpful. I would, however, love to challenge one of the comments above - that existing organisations should already know what's of value.

To clarify my position - my organisation horribly misuses MVP, as it's morphed into 'we're not setting scope.... but here's the scope of what we must deliver'. The original use of MVP - of discovering value - has been lost, and I'm looking to reclaim that. We're currently stuck in a rut where MVP is a minimal feature set necessary for go-live, and it's a real problem that our internal technology team doesn't yet fully understand.

However, I'd challenge the point that my employer should know 'what has value', as it suggests they have little to gain from considering MVPs. Whilst the automotive industry is definitely a technology industry in a way that perhaps the industry - outside of Tesla - still hasn't itself fully recognised, and whilst we understand the Business Value of what we're looking to deliver (better cars, better user experience and so forth), I'd suggest we have exactly the same requirements of the newest of startups when creating digital IP, in that we still have huge value to gain by presenting early delivery back to our internal customers with the question 'does this move us towards providing business value in the way that you hoped?'.

So in summary, whilst I hugely agree that the 'MVP Trap' as I call it is an issue, from my experience it's less that more established organisations can't still benefit significantly from MVPs and more that the meaning of the term can be dangerously twisted to fix on scope, which itself is especially problematic when the delivery is outsourced (as this causes contracting and partnering conflicts, where we may end up codifying MVP as a fixed deliverable in what should really be a high-trust T&M engagement).

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