Stop Improving Your Product

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Meet Ronald. Ronald’s product focus for the last year has been a cloud accounting solution for the small business owner. The core product is solid and internal user testing has been positive, but Ronald is still polishing customizable themes and a calendar integration. As such, release has been postponed three times. Failure to launch. No Ronald, no.

You see, Ronald wants it perfect, with every conceivable extension and application fully realized from Day One. He wants the launch to break the internet and result in an emergency after hours meeting at Microsoft, or at least at QuickBooks. But it won’t.

Let’s talk about MVP, and what Eric Ries calls validated learning.

Your Minimum Viable Product is the minimum grouping of core features which allows you to get quick feedback from users, and swiftly cycle through a Build>Measure>Learn loop. It is not a complete product. Remove any element of the product which doesn’t directly contribute to the learning you seek. It should test business hypotheses and provide real data. Any development beyond what the early adopters want is wastage, and this energy saved prior to release will be used collecting and understanding feedback. More on collecting feedback soon.

So, perhaps an important question is: just how minimum is this MVP?

  • It’s the Minimum version of your vision. It probably shouldn’t include customizable themes.
  • It’s Viable because it solves real problems.
  • It’s a Product because it adds value. It’s not a landing page.

Spoiler alert: not everyone is going to like your MVP. But that’s OK, because the MVP is not your goal, right? You’re selling the vision to the visionaries and early adopters.

But wait, “Early adopters only?” I hear you bellow. “We want the mass market!” Calm down. Initially you’re looking for early adopters only, or ‘Earlyvangelists’ as Steve Blank calls them. Nothing makes them happier than an incomplete product, and they’re going to provide the most meaningful feedback. Plus, they’re going to stick with you if you engage them.

Back to Ronald. Fixation on the cute add-ons prior to measuring interest in the core product makes our promising product manager appear, well, nervous. Is there even a market for another accounting application? There’s only one way to find out. Release your work, then listen.

The truth is this: the only way to win is to learn faster than the rest.

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