Friday 5 May 2017

Minimal Viable Product

"You don't deliver features, you deliver solutions to problems." Very truthful quote when it comes to successful design. Since the real world is not always filled with successful environments, lets analyze potential pain points and reasons why delivering pointless features is still a common pattern.

I do not know the source of said quote but I appreciate the meaning behind it. People nowadays just create things just for the sake of creating things. They think it might be cool to have that while in reality they are just making assumptions based on their opinions and very little if any data.

I encountered this behaviour numerous times in my career so far. I do not believe there is ultimate solution and I do not have any, what I have is my observations and suggestions on how to fight the specific issues and situations I have noticed.

MVP – Minimal Viable Product

Minimal Viable Product represents the smallest set of features that are absolutely essential for the product to be useful in some manner. Any features that can be done later are done later.

Lets be honest, this is tricky part for majority of the people. Almost every stakeholder and stakeholder wannabe I work with wants to have everything immediately. No patience, no double guessing, no objectivity. They want it because they think it is essential. No compromises allowed.

It is very difficult to determine what is essential and what can be added later, even if it is really high priority. And yet the outcome of a brainstorming should be the MVP set of features that will be implemented next. So how come people do not filter it and leave everything in the development right from the start?

It is a must to educate people on MVP and the reason behind it, while adjusting the processes to not only allow it but incorporate it and endorse it.

Presenting to managers

Another group of people I deal with do not roll with MVP because of their managers. Kinda. The problem is that to have budget for something, idea of it has to be sold to the managers who hold the budget. And how better to sell an idea than to oversell it.

Multiple times now I was approached by stakeholders with a tool designed by them – people with no design background – stating that all the features must be there because they already presented it to managers and managers approved it. Brilliant! I presented my sketch of an alien in kindergarten to entire class, does not mean it was not horrible.

There are cultures and environments where for some reason people are afraid of adapting, learning, growing. Once you present an idea, that's it. The idea is perfect in your mind and no change will be made. It does not work like that. Every good design evolves. It is important to realize that.

For those afraid to stand up to your managers: It is as simple as this, instead of saying how bad your idea was at the beginning and that you had to redone it, take more positive approach by stating that you found even better way of doing the already good thing you were after.

And for those on top: Encourage your employees to adjust or even completely rework their ideas once they proved to be incorrect or lacking. The final products will be way better and you will feel the success in the long run even if it takes little longer to get there.

Delivering solutions to problems

Successful business build solutions to problems people have. They do not build useless features. And they all start small. But instead of treating it like weakness, they treat it like an advantage.

Small things can be easier updated, modified, improved. Big things are harder to change. And if you spend effort and time listening to your users and clients you will know that the changes you are making are the best ones you can. You will be building product for your users based on your users and not yourself.

Start small, release in small community and listen to feedback. Gather it, nourish it, learn the real problems and implement solutions to them. Grow the product and with it the community of users.

Do not come up with big plans that you present to managers based only on assumptions or so limited data it is basically still assumptions. Do not try to implement everything immediately.

You have time – every giant started small.

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