TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to properly define the scope of (MVP) Minimum Viable Product?
MVP Development - What is it?
MVP Development is the best way to create a new product or validate business assumptions. It involves creating an application that includes only the most important functionalities and solves the most critical problems of target users. By creating an MVP application, you can determine the actual reception and real needs of users at a low cost. Through user feedback, you can regularly make changes to ensure that the project's further direction is justified from a business perspective.
By limiting the number of functionalities, you can reduce both the cost and the time required to develop the MVP without compromising the quality of the application. Depending on the project's complexity and the number of functionalities, creating an MVP can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months.
The main goals of an MVP are to minimize market entry costs, achieve a fast time-to-market, and validate your business idea. Therefore, it is important to define the appropriate scope of MVP functionalities to meet these goals. Including too many functionalities in the MVP that are often unnecessary for the project will increase the cost and time of development. Defining the MVP scope should prioritize tasks and functionalities that can be classified as "low effort, high impact." A well-defined MVP scope allows for a smaller project cost and faster initiation of work on achieving product-market fit, where you quickly learn what functionalities users use and what they are missing in the application.
Why is it crucial to define the scope of MVP functionalities?
MVP can be defined as an application that meets only the most important user needs or solves their most significant problems. An MVP should be a fully functional application that is technically and design-wise polished. An MVP should not include missing graphics, non-functioning features, or similar errors. Therefore, properly defining the scope of MVP functionalities is crucial to fulfill all the above requirements within a relatively short period. MVP development projects typically last around 1-3 months, depending on the scope. However, there are exceptions, such as projects related to AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning), which may take much longer.
If too many functionalities are included in the MVP that are not critical to solving user problems and needs, it will only delay the time-to-market and increase the project's cost. This unnecessarily increases the investment risk in an MVP project, which should typically have a low cost and be realized in a short time. Many projects never enter the market or enter too late because the "non-MVP" specifications are too extensive. In reality, it is often possible to create an application with slightly fewer features and at a lower cost that still fulfills all the project's requirements.
What to focus on when defining the MVP scope?
When determining the scope of MVP functionalities, it is essential to focus primarily on the user. The "user first" approach can be considered a fundamental principle of MVP. Therefore, before even thinking about which features should be included in the MVP, conducting preliminary user research and understanding their problems is crucial. Creating user personas, which represent ideal application users, can help identify their most common problems and challenges that we aim to solve with our MVP. Based on this information, we can consider how to address these problems and design the appropriate functionalities. If your product includes functionalities that solve users' problems better and faster than existing solutions, they should likely be included in the project's specifications and be necessary.
It is also valuable to research direct competition and their solutions by reading user reviews on marketplaces like G2 or Producthunt. By doing this, we can identify a better solution that more effectively addresses user problems. This way, we can determine the minimum necessary functionalities and eliminate parts of the project that would only prolong the MVP creation process and increase its
How to decide which application features should be included in your MVP?
To minimize time-to-market and start working on achieving product-market fit as quickly as possible, you need to determine the essential functionalities to meet user needs and start working on them. There are various methods to discover these functionalities, and the effectiveness of each method may vary depending on the target audience. Here are a few popular prioritization workshop methods:
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Prioritization techniques to use when defining the MVP scope
User Story Mapping
User Story Mapping is one of the most popular techniques used to categorize MVP functionalities. It is also one of the most efficient techniques as it considers all product stakeholders. To determine the most and least important functionalities using User Story Mapping, analyze all the goals that users want to achieve with the application and document them as "user stories" and their journey through functionalities.
In an example related to hotel price comparison and booking application, the user goal of "booking a hotel" can be broken down into several steps:
- Specify travel details – destination, date, number of people: "As a user, I want to specify the location I'm traveling to in order to book a hotel there."
- Compare hotels and prices – enabling users to choose from multiple options, minimizing effort: "As a user, I want to compare several hotels at once to choose the right one for me."
- Check hotel reviews and offer details – "As a user, I want to check hotel reviews to determine if the hotel will be suitable for me."
- Enable hotel booking – "As a user, I want to quickly book a room to avoid calling the hotel directly and make the reservation faster."
Each of these steps should then be prioritized from most to least important. This helps determine which features should be included in the MVP and which ones should be added later.
MoSCoW is a business analysis technique used to define the requirements and priorities of all MVP functionalities. It involves assigning each functionality to a specific priority category:
- Must-haves – functionalities without which your MVP will not have a chance of success. In the example mentioned above, it could be the hotel search engine in a specific location with advanced filtering.
- Should-haves – functionalities that MVP will be used without, but users still need them. An example could be displaying user reviews of hotels or a list of amenities like free Wi-Fi.
- Could-haves – any functionalities that are useful to users but not necessary for using the product. Simultaneous hotel search in multiple locations or date ranges or price trends could be a "could-have" functionality. They are not critical for users and can be implemented later.
- Won't-haves – functionalities that provide the lowest added value to users or are not essential but require a significant amount of time to develop. These functionalities should not be included in the MVP scope. They can be added in later stages of development if there is a genuine need. A good example of such functionality would be virtual tours of hotels – it would be a nice-to-have for users but has a low priority in the context of other hotel comparison functionalities.
Feature Priority Matrix
The Feature Priority Matrix is a straightforward method that helps prioritize functionalities when defining the MVP scope. It is often referred to as "Impact/Effort" or "Value/Complexity" Matrix. The Feature Priority Matrix is essentially a two-dimensional chart where functionalities are plotted based on the effort required for implementation and the value they generate for users and the application.
By using the Feature Priority Matrix to define the MVP project scope, you can combine the effort required for implementing a functionality with its value to users. Based on this, you can decide which
functionalities to prioritize and in what order they should be developed. The key elements to consider when assessing functionalities are:
- Effort required for implementation – Is the task challenging to implement? How much time and resources should be allocated?
- Impact on users – Are users complaining about the lack of functionality? How significant will it be to include the functionality for users?
Assigning a scoring scale (e.g., 1-5) to effort and impact helps create a simple measure indicating the priority of a specific functionality. These mapped points are then placed on a chart, which is divided into four categories:
- High impact, low effort
- High impact, high effort
- Low impact, low effort
- Low impact, high effort
When planning the MVP scope, it's important to remember that added functionalities can significantly deviate from users' expectations and needs. The simplest way to mitigate the risk is to start the project with a few essential functionalities that users cannot do without. Then, additional features can be developed to achieve product-market fit.
For this reason, the majority of IT projects, especially MVP projects, are divided into stages and managed using agile project management methodologies to quickly and efficiently adjust the scope of functionalities to users' actual needs. Investing a significant amount of resources in an application with dozens of functionalities and requiring a year of work from a ten-person team can usually be divided into smaller stages. An iterative approach to MVP development allows for faster achievement of product-market fit and reduces the risk of project failure.
After releasing the MVP, priorities may change, and functionalities may shift positions in the matrices based on user feedback. Therefore, it's valuable to cyclically apply these prioritization methods after receiving user feedback as their needs may differ from what was assumed during the planning phase.
Improperly defining the scope of MVP functionalities is a common reason for project failure, leading to excessive costs and sometimes even startup failures. In some cases, due to poor planning, startup projects may never reach users due to a lack of funding, which is difficult to obtain without demonstrated project traction. Therefore, the scope of MVP functionalities should be kept as small as possible. The commonly recurring causes of incorrectly defined project scopes are a lack of interest in and research on real user problems and needs, resulting in specifications based on unconfirmed data or personal assumptions.
The key thing to remember when trying to define the scope of your MVP is the "user first" approach. Keeping the user at the center and building functionalities based on their problems and challenges is the most effective method of functional planning. However, it requires well-conducted user needs analysis. Accurately defining customer needs and, consequently, the necessary functionalities allows for a proper estimation of the budget required to implement the project.
In the pre-seed stage, the main needs of startups usually include a short time-to-market, achieving product-market fit, and building traction to convince investors to fund the project. All these goals can be achieved by starting with an MVP.
We can assist you with your MVP - we have already created many such applications. If you would like to learn how iMakeable can help, please visit our dedicated MVP Development page.