In America, from an early age, we are taught that we can be anything that we want to be; that you can not only dream but, through hard work and persistence you can make your dreams a reality.
Nowhere are these principles more real than in the world of software development.
We all face problems or see others dealing with difficulties every day. A true entrepreneur, however, sees these problems as opportunities. They realize that if the problem is significant enough and faced by enough people, that creating an effective solution to the problem is a real opportunity to create a viable business.
Technology, particularly software code, is often the key ingredient in creating the means to solve problems and giving life to someone’s vision for making the world a little better.
Too often, people get stuck at the vision level, struggling to find a way to communicate the vision and to show proof that the idea really can be brought to reality. Compelling explanations and refined elevator pitches might be great ways to get someone’s initial attention, but to attract investment dollars, the entrepreneur needs to do more. Investors and venture capitalists typically demand far more. Typically, storyboards and mock-ups are not enough to prove that the idea can be made into reality. Wireframes only are sophisticated pictures of what the vision could become.
They don’t answer the question “does it work?”
Sophisticated software development can be expensive. Cheap software development is seldom sophisticated and brings with it increased risk and exposure.
The trick is to find a way for aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups to find a way to prove their concept without having the funding necessary to bring the full product concept to life.
The solution and often the smart business move is to create a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. Think of the MVP as a basic version of the product that contains only the essential functions and components without the bells and whistles that come with an extended vision. It is proof that the fundamental features that meet the needs of the user (solves the problem) exist. It shows that the product works.
The MVP not only proves that the concept can work, but it also rapidly advances the ability for additional testing and design. It creates a working model from which market or user testing can take place and feedback obtained. Instead of theory, real user feedback and data are the basis for future development.
Not only does this method demonstrate viability, successful use and testing of the MVP should serve as a means of reducing risk and raising investor confidence, and therefore product value.
Also, the software development team, now having access to this information, has a much better understanding of the desires and needs of the market. This speeds up development time, reduces the number of hours spent editing or tweaking performance, which in turn means faster and less expensive development.
If you are looking to attract funding or investors, or even if you are looking to initiate outside testing or sales, the existence of the MVP gives you several benefits. First and foremost, the MVP proves that you’ve done something real. You have an actual software product, not just an idea or a wireframe of what it might look like someday.
Another significant benefit is that the MVP establishes the entrepreneur as someone who can deliver.
To get the MVP, the entrepreneur will have had to have thought of the idea; created a plan to bring the idea to life; found a way to execute the plan; and then assembled a team that was able to get the job done. The entrepreneur with a functioning MVP has considerably more credibility than somebody with only a good idea and “vaporware” backing it up.
The entrepreneur having an MVP can then obtain an additional advantage by testing the MVP’s performance and operation with either customers or potential customers. This activity does many things to bolster the viability of the project and the credibility of the entrepreneur. Often, the MVP is sold at a significant discount to grow the user base.
The MVP can help establish sales viability and the existence of a user base. Even more significant is that with the users engaging with the MVP, the entrepreneur can learn what the market thinks so far and to learn what other features the market will want.
Additionally, it is not uncommon that once you start getting feedback that you will discover other uses, market segments, or industries where the MVP could have even broader or more significant potential. Have at least some user base to indicate demand
For applications or software designed to function on an enterprise basis, the MVP becomes the best means of market testing. Often enterprise-level software is designed and created through the use of opinion surveys.
While surveys may gain some information to identify a problem, they are far from the best way of designing a solution.
Angry, or frustrated potential customers can be very good at telling you about their problems. However, they are not necessarily trained or skilled at creating solutions or figuring out the best means of solving the problems. Having a chance to work with the MVP allows people to see a real solution. It is much easier to suggest or brainstorm improvements to a functioning product than it is to create the same product in the first place.
Ultimately, almost all entrepreneurs are trying to find some balance between how to spend their limited resources wisely weighed against the desire to have the product fully developed with all features from the start.
If there is any chance to control costs within a budget, it is crucial to keep this balance at the forefront. The entrepreneur working to create the MVP must recognize and remember that there is a need at this initial state to prioritize features. One way to help this and still give a sense of preserving ideas and planning is to create a “Version 2.0” list. In other words, as ideas and modifications for future features are identified, it is often good practice to have the entrepreneur put them on a list of modifications to take place in the next release. What features does the public insist on having in place for the product to attract a significant market and establish sales viability? What features would then improve the product or open up additional services for the user?
Because it is necessary to prioritize and limit the initial features of the product (due to budget restrictions), a good design of the MVP becomes paramount. The entrepreneur cannot allow the design or feel of the product to be cheap or compromised to save money. A well-designed MVP will have the benefit of being adaptable as features are added or modified as the product matures in testing and early usage.
Lastly, it is important to stress that the MVP is designed to prove the technology and to get the ball rolling. It won’t be perfect for all users from the start. Constantly reminding users and all development team members that they are dealing with a work in progress is crucial to avoid frustration or burnout associated with new product introductions.
Ultimately, having your MVP created is a fantastic approach in the SDLC of your product. At PS Solutions, we work with entrepreneurs and idea-generators every day. Having the experience of helping many others bring their dreams to life is an invaluable part of the service we supply to our customers. Call us today and schedule a time where we can talk about your software development ideas and the plans you have to make those dreams into a reality.
Wayne Hippo is an owner and Managing Partner of PS Solutions, a software development and consulting firm with offices in Altoona, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, and Wilmington, NC.You can reach Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org
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