Minimum Viable

In the progress of any tech product (well, any tech product being put through the Lean process), there will come a time when time itself is in opposition to the vision, so deeply cherished and held tight by the Founder. A time when hard choices need to be made and when the left and right side of your brain are in a battle of epic proportions.

That time is determining what your minimum viable product or MVP will be.

The right side of your brain – the hemisphere responsible for awareness, creativity, intuition and insight – is the keeper of the vision. Not just it’s original form, but in every possible form you can imagine. This is where the dream lives, where your ‘why’ was formed, where the future looks absolutely outstanding. This is where wonderland is.

The left side of your brain – the hemisphere responsible for analysis, logic, reasoning and factual calculations – is likely the keeper of the dreaded doubt, but also reality checks when it comes to your vision. On the left, the numbers get crunched, the schedules are made, and anything that can go wrong is analyzed. This is where the real world is.

Now, each Founder or Founding team member has both hemispheres intact, but they don’t always see eye to eye. You see, in the planning and execution of an MVP, the left is the minimum and the right is the viable of your product. Your job is to bring those two halves together and churn something out that both sides can live with. You’ll notice I didn’t say that both sides will be happy with, because neither will get everything they want at this stage.

In tech terms, the left side represents the core of your product. The foundational coding and technology stack that will be the backbone of your offering for (hopefully) a long time to come. On a team, the left brains of your business are your programmers, project managers and database administrators. The right side is features and UI/UX design. On your team, these are the visionary, the marketers and the graphic designers. Now, it may seem like the left should have the upper hand when determining the MVP, but it really will take both to get it done. And both sides are going to take a bit of a beating.

To begin, the right side gets to take over and play. You get to dream the big dream – bigger than you ever did before. You get to imagine all of the wondrous and amazing possibilities that could be part of your product. You get to immerse yourself in wonderland. It is glorious there.

Then the left side gets to take a journey of it’s own. You get to really look at everything it will take to make wonderland a reality. You get to test out new theories and options and integrations. You get to punch that product out of imagination and into life. It is very cool.

Then, you have to slash it all away until you have enough wonderland to attract a paying customer and the right amount of real world to make what is left actually work, within the timeframe and budget you have.

This is, by far, the worst part.

This is a place where a lot of tech products go to die, either because the left sluggishly followed the right into wonderland with an MVP that had every bell and whistle it could, at a crazy high price or after so long that someone beat them to the market. Or, because the right gave way to the left and brought forward a clunky, unfriendly and unpolished product that no one wanted to use, let alone buy. Getting it right comes down to one thing. What is it that your product is intended to do?

You are no longer looking at all that it ‘can’ do, you are looking for what it ‘must’ do to be viable. What must your product do to deliver on your value proposition? What does it not need to do? These are the questions you need to answer and work hard to stay focused on. Once you have that answer, you can calculate what it will need and how long it will take to make it happen. There will be a lot of give and take here, through murky areas of uncertainty and subjective views on all sides. There will always be things that are open to interpretation where both sides come to different conclusions based on their strengths, but the goal is the same for all, and eventually you will get clarity on how to deliver something viable and minimal.

Determining your MVP will be one of your tougher challenges, but if you truly understand the value of your product to your target market, your MVP will get you to your bigger vision a lot faster.

About the Author:  This is me!  My passion lies in leveraging today’s technology to create, support and engage communities and drive measurable economic growth.  Like many, I yearn for a time when fear won’t dominate actions, where local shops thrive and people understand the value and power of local investment, in all it’s forms.

~ Lisa Denis, Founder