MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a commonly used, and sometimes misunderstood, term in the realm of startups and IT. The term was coined in 2001 by Frank Robinson, the co-founder and president of SyncDev, and popularized by Eric Ries through his book “Lean Startup”. The term MVP means, to build a product in the most simple fashion, so it becomes the most basic version of the product that you are releasing.
There is no set formula for designing and releasing an MVP, but there sure are some things that will define the outcome of your future finished product and some things that will not take your MVP in the right direction. In this article, we will discuss all these aspects along with how you can outsource your MVP development, and tips on doing it.
Before going into the details of MVP development, we’ll explore the stark differences between prototype and MVP, because quite often, these two terms are confused.
Both MVP and prototype are models of a product that the development team is going to build, but the similarity ends there. A Minimum Viable Product is more like a draft of the original and acts as a standalone product in itself in its most simplified version. Prototypes give a clear visualization of what you are planning to develop, but they are typically non-functional. And another distinguishing factor with prototypes is that it is possible to understand what features need to be built into the MVP.
Since MVP is a standalone functioning product, it may not have all the features and functions of the final product. The MVP is placed in the market to understand how users will react when the final product enters the market, so an important requirement of having it would be to address the core problem faced by users. This would be greatly helpful because you will know how the product will be perceived when it is released to a larger user pool. It will also help in identifying the pain points before they get developed into a full-fledged problem.
With the help of an MVP, businesses can identify the need for a particular product in the market. They will analyze the user’s problems and their solutions, and rather than theorizing, they put a plan to action to see if they can find a solution to the user’s problem. This solution would come in the form of an MVP.
However, companies might not have the right resources in hand to develop the MVP of their own accord. In that case, they will consider outsourcing the task to a third party. Sometimes it makes perfect sense to outsource the MVP development because it is one way to launch new applications in the market without any delay. However, it doesn't suit all.
Outsourcing is one of the most popular scenarios in the software development market, and it allows for a faster, cheaper, and better release. Even though these three are the most important parameters in outsourcing MVP development, you can decide whether it is a good idea for your company by considering the following factors.
History has proven that several tech giants of today had started off as MVPs, and they had outsourced their requirements initially. We will discuss them further down in the article. But first, you need to identify whether outsourcing works for you.
It doesn't matter whether you are a start-up or a popular medium-sized company. It is always wise to start with an MVP and then move forward.
There is severe competition and changing user demands, and they are going to get only fiercer. Sometimes unrealistic goals have to be set in order to reach the market on time. This is why most companies choose to outsource their MVP development to others. Here are other reasons:
1. When more technical expertise is required
Though developing the MVP is to release a basic product into the market and understand user sentiment, it is still important for the base product to be technically brilliant. If your in-house talent is ill-equipped to deal with the new requirements, it would be good to outsource them.
2. When you need to focus more on the business side of product development
Outsourcing MVP development allows companies to diversify risks because they can now focus on the business side of product development and leave the technical side to experts. This way the job will be completed on time and efficiently. Outsourcing also allows companies to choose their level of development in the project.
3. Cost-saving factor
When the MVP development project is outsourced, companies worry whether it would be expensive or worth it. However, the fact is otherwise. Outsourcing is definitely the way to cut costs because you don't have to go on a hiring spree to hire a new development team.
4. Focused product development
An outsourced team would always be focused on the project they are doing. Whereas an internal team would have to be active in other projects as well, and they won’t be able to devote all their energies to a single project.
5. An experienced team that has excellent tech knowledge
When hired correctly, you can get knowledgeable partners who can understand your vision and goals and can work towards them with a passion. With their experience, they would be able to curb problems in the bud so they don’t hinder the development process.
6. When rapid turnaround time is a priority
As explained earlier, there is a rich supply of skilled developers and that means you get to release your MVP faster than ever, leading to rapid turnaround time.
7. When you don't want to worry about overbudget or misuse of internal resources
There is no worry of surpassing the budgets set by the company, nor do you have to worry about over-pressurizing the internal resources, thereby you can arbitrarily reduce expenses several times.
8. When flexibility becomes the order of the day
When outsourcing MVP, you get the flexibility in business models as per the feedback of your first users. Since MVP needs continuous feedback, strict deadlines, and release iterations, having a good partner would definitely help.
Once you hire a third party that would act as a reliable partner for your MVP development project, you can have a chat with their business analysts/BA and share your basic idea with them. The developer can draw a technical specification document that consists of a technical how-to document for your basic project.
This document contains all the technologies needed for the basic project, the libraries that are going to be used, and so on. Once this technical document is ready, the vendor’s team of developers would start working on the project, making the necessary tweaks and iterations as they go along.
This brings us to the next question - what is the best method of MVP development? Would you rather go for the Waterfall, Agile, or the Hybrid method?
In the waterfall method, there will be a fixed scope, a fixed price, and a specific method of developing the software. So the requirements need to be well defined because if the requirements are vague and non-specific, you will end up with a poor project. The project follows a sequential pattern that would be easy to implement and understand. And since it has specific deliverables and review, the management and control of the project is always predictable.
The other option is the Agile methodology, where the vendor’s team and your company are involved in the process every step of the way. Since the development method is flexible, there would be a general tendency to make tweaks until perfection is achieved, but that can go on forever and you have to draw a line somewhere because it is just a minimum viable product and it has to get into the market.
The main advantage of the Agile methodology is that you can see the baby growing right in front of your eyes and you can participate in the meetings to rearrange priorities and even go beyond the initial budget if required. And you don’t have to wait until the end to see how the product would turn out.
Sometimes it is not possible to adopt a single approach, so you will have to take the best of both worlds. In situations where Agile isn’t suitable, you will have to go with the Waterfall method. If yours is a big project, then going just Agile or just Waterfall wouldn’t be suitable.
If the steps of the project can be predicted with great probability, then you can go for the Waterfall approach. However, if there are certain parts of the project where there is uncertainty and you will have to go step by step in detail, then Agile would be good. So you will have to take both the approaches in the same project.
But then, of course, it would depend on the size of the project, the different sequences involved in the projects, the number of parts in the project and what they are, and the decision-making process in each part.
Here are some tips that would help you with successful MVP outsourcing:
1. Analyze the market behavior, so you can communicate your requirements successfully, along with small measurable milestones.
2. Choose the skills that you need for the project and whether you need developers, Quality Assurers, and/or Business Analysts. This is because you need the right skillset in the right proportions to release a perfect basic product.
3. There is always this race to release fast. Your competitors are always out there to beat you if you are a tad late, so the idea is to launch a working product faster. Your vendor should be able to provide you with the necessary skills and resources, and even more if the need arises.
4. Just as testing market demand is important before you plan an MVP, it is imperative to perform market validation before the product is out. With a vendor, you can do the market validation faster because the product gets into the market faster.
5. You’ve outsourced successfully if the vendor can provide a demo of the MVP at the end of each sprint (weekly or bi-weekly, whichever is convenient). This way you are minimizing the risk by investing in a small part of the project.
6. To get better results with outsourcing, you would need to have the right kind of collaboration tools, remote pair programming tools or code collaboration tools.
7. You can ensure efficiency by using task management tools because it helps in ensuring maximum work productivity and better team management.
Tech startups gain a great deal from their MVP outsourcing. Once the third-party vendor accepts their MVP project, startups save a whole lot of money, time, and resources which can be utilized to improve their business structure. And that’s not all. They can bring in an expert to build a product on a short-term basis, minus the hassles of a long-term commitment.
Following are some of the reasons why startups stand to benefit from an outsourcing strategy:
A number of companies that started off with outsourcing their MVP later grew to become giants in their field of expertise. Here are three of them:
Twitter was initially a messaging app that was to be used internally by the employees of Odeo, a company that ran podcasts. When Apple iTunes released in 2001, they thought outside the box and used hackathons to come up with this ingenious idea that became extremely popular, and later became the Twitter that we know and love today.
Launched in 2008, Airbnb now has about 150 million active users. The founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, initially intended to just rent out a room in their apartment for conference attendees in San Francisco.
Image Credit: Logan Merrick @ Medium
They created a basic website with pictures of their apartment, and later found other volunteers who were ready to rent their rooms as well. This seed idea grew to become the Airbnb that we know today.
Instagram was founded in 2010 and the fame of this particular platform cannot be explained in mere words. According to its MVP plan, Instagram was initially intended as a mobile application for photo filters. Kevin Systrom’s (the CEO of Instagram) girlfriend wished to have her pictures beautified. This was how the initial idea grew and morphed into what we know today.
While the benefits of building an MVP have been given so much hype, another problem cropped up whenever this kind of development was mentioned - abusing the concept behind MVP. The purpose of building a basic product was to have a stripped-down product and test it with real customers in order to measure its success in the market by using minimum resources. But abusing the main objective of MVP happens when many people ‘claim’ what they call as MVP, but is actually a cheap product with less attention to quality. This certainly defeats the purpose. The meaning of MVP turned from Minimum Viable Product to Minimum Valuable Product!
The MVP should be a learning tool and not the whole thing, so sometimes, you will have to make a detour and try a different way of creating it. The MVP should be able to provide the following specifications in order to be successful:
Value - It is important to provide sustainable innovation through your product. Customers know their problem and they know what features they need to reach a solution. So the minimum offering must be able to battle against existing products and provide a good solution.
Delight - The product should delight the audience in the minimum offering itself. This is how you can build a minimum connection to the product. Make the product more enjoyable and delightful than your competitor’s product.
Revolutionary - The product need not be perfect, but it has to be revolutionary so the early adopters have something to look forward to.
When minimum viability is a threshold - The value proposition of the product is ensured when you have the achieved product-market fit with a good number of market transactions, providing there is minimum viability of the product. You must be able to keep that as a threshold.
For any startup or medium-sized company, it would be worth considering whether they need to outsource their MVP development or not. However, you still need to do your research and weigh the pros and cons, before you make the final decision. A lot of multinational companies, with their successful track record have proven the benefits of outsourcing their MVP.
Interested in outsourcing your MVP development? We'll be happy to help!
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