The manufacturing world is experiencing transformation, with an increasing number of companies adopting agile manufacturing practices. Adopting an agile framework requires a shift from creating fully-fledged prototypes for a specific stage of extensive testing to developing and continuously testing minimum-viable products (MVPs) instead.
Building a fully-fledged prototype is a common practice in traditional stage-gate manufacturing that allows consumers and stakeholders to test and experience the full version of the product before gaining approval for mass production. However, this methodology is often rigid and inflexible, leaving little room for changes or improvement to the product. In contrast, the concept of the MVP, introduced by Eric Ries, advocates building and testing the simplest version of a product to obtain more immediate feedback and allow for continuous improvement.
What Is a Minimal Viable Product?
An MVP is not a fully functional product, nor does it have to resemble the end product. The aim of the minimal viable product is to provide enough functionality to test it and then use customer feedback to improve it. For this reason, it's essential to build an MVP that contains the most relevant features for testing.
The Benefits of Creating a Minimum Viable Product
There are several benefits of creating an MVP in place of a fully-fledged prototype.
1. Reduce the Financial Costs
Fully-fledged prototypes can take several years to develop and require a huge financial investment that may not pay off in the end. In contrast, developing an MVP requires a much smaller budget, so fewer resources are wasted if the product idea is unsuccessful.
2. Low-Risk Testing Opportunity
Developing a minimum viable product instead of a full prototype presents a low-risk opportunity to test the product. This approach enables you to gather quick and direct feedback about how customers perceive the product, and you can also assess the product-market fit before starting full-scale production and committing to a huge financial investment.
3. Optimize the Product as You Go
The MVP concept emphasizes building one feature or a set of features sequentially. After creating one feature, the team tests it, assesses the feedback, and then iterates to improve it. This is quite different from the long process of building a complete prototype, where the opportunity for iterations is limited.
4. Achieve Early Investor Buy-In
When you have limited funds for development and a product idea in mind, creating an MVP is a great way to achieve early investor buy-in. With an MVP, stakeholders can physically interact with the product, and you can also provide user feedback as a valuable indicator of market response.
5. Meet Changing Technological and Market Demands
Product plans requiring meticulous details from the start to gain approval allow for very little change during the development process. When you develop an MVP, you can better adapt to technological changes and pivot quickly to meet market demands by iterating the product as you go.
6. Get Your Product to Market Quickly
Testing only the core features of a product and bypassing the time-consuming process of building a fully-fledged prototype saves time and money. The MVP is ideal when you want to get a product to market in a short space of time.
7. Defining the Features that Matter Most
Gaining a better understanding of which features are most valuable to the customer is crucial. When you create an MVP, you can validate ideas and test assumptions before committing to a project. By offering users early interaction with the product, you may also identify new opportunities you previously missed.
How to Get Started When Building Your MVP
To build your MVP, you need to identify what features your customers want and need the most. Your team can do this through various methods, such as conducting market research, competitive analysis, surveys, interviews, and focus groups. By conducting customer interviews, you can better understand their pain points and identify the necessary design features to address them.
Important Considerations When Building Your MVP
Now that you've read the benefits of creating MVPs, here are some helpful tips to consider when building yours.
1. Have a Clear Objective in Mind
When you have a product idea, it's easy to get carried away with development and miss the mark regarding product goals. Stick to the product strategy and ensure the product fixes the main problem you are trying to solve. When creating your MVP, ensure you focus on the features that excite the customer and address their needs.
2. Keep Team Members Aligned
Creating a minimum viable product requires more than just a brilliant idea. It demands a dedicated development team with the creativity and skills to bring the product idea to life. When building your MVP, it's essential to keep your team members aligned with the product goals to create a final product that meets the needs of the market. The product manager is the key decision maker who ensures the product fits the market and aligns with the company's goals.
3. Use Product Roadmap Management Software
Product roadmap management tools are helpful to keep your stakeholders aligned and informed on the progress of development. With tools that integrate with the software your other teams are using, such as your engineers, your product management team can know the status of the product at all times.
4. The Importance of Defining Success Metrics for Your MVP
It is important to establish specific objectives and success criteria for your MVP. Knowing what to measure makes it possible to evaluate the potential and performance. It's best to track key performance indicators, such as user engagement, conversion rates, and customer satisfaction, to measure success.
MVPs for Cyber-Physical Product Manufacturing
With many contemporary products built using both hardware and software components, MVPs have an important role to play in improving functionality for the end user. When a physical product launches, changes to the hardware must wait for the launch of the next model. With software, improvements and new features can launch with each new software update, delivering new value right to the customer, helping to increase user satisfaction and increase customer retention.
Product Roadmapping Software that Supports Agile Practices
At Gocious, we are committed to creating product roadmap management software that is designed for your changing manufacturing needs. If you're a product manager shifting from traditional stage gate methodologies and embracing agile practices, book your free demo to find out how Gocious can support you today.