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MVP Checklist Blog

Amber Coffman
A well-conceived MVP is a representation of the core functionality of a product. It guides development efforts, bolsters and hastens validation, and is a linchpin in the overall app, software, or product design process. Quickly and effectively getting from idea to MVP requires discipline and allegiance to process-driven principles. Starting from ground zero, this MVP checklist will help establish and structure the necessary steps to bring an MVP to life.
Step 1

Getting into The MVP Mindset

We begin by ensuring that everyone involved in the product development process has a shared philosophy about where they’re going before  either time or money is made. Having an ‘MVP Mindset’ includes:

  • Agreement that the product in question should exist at all
    A good case needs to be made for the mere existence of this product. Some questions to ask: Does the product solve a problem? Is demand sufficient for this product? Are we the best team to build this product?
  • Ideas Vetted
    Brainstorming about the concept should yield good and bad ideas about what an MVP should and shouldn’t be, do, or cost. These ideas should be thoughtfully considered before proceeding.
  • A North Star is defined
    Why is your team committing to this? What’s the point of the entire endeavor?
  • Commitment to small feature sets and accelerated learning
    An MVP mindset is not the place for unending lists of ‘what ifs’ and ‘nice-to-haves’. The team needs to be unified in a determined, no-frills approach that keeps everyone accountable.
  • Readiness to fail fast
    The sooner you can rebound from mistakes, the faster you’ll arrive at an MVP. "The greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail" - Mark Zuckerberg
  • We are a United Front
    This means total buy-in from all stakeholders. Everyone involved is on-board with the teams objective and what is required of them to get there.
  • Adoption of agile product development methodologies
    Does everyone on the team understand iterative collaboration? If not, revisit this concept and make sure there’s no confusion about how you’ll get to an MVP.

Step 2

Defining Your MVP

Planting your stake in the sand and declaring your MVP is as exciting as it is important to the outcome of the product development process. Be sure your MVP makes the grade by including all of the following criteria before moving forward:

  • Incorporated market research
    The more you know, the better the outcome will be for your product. We’re not suggesting analysis paralysis, but having a solid understanding of your market ecosystems builds confidence for your team and stakeholders alike.
  • User personas
    Who is going to be using your product? Who is going to be using your product? Who is the very person who needs what you’ll be building?
  • Identified end goals for the user
    If you’ve determined who your user is, what is going to be their ultimate goal in using your product?
  • User naratives
    There needs to be a story that each user will experience. For your app, software, or product, what is the user’s story from start to finish?
  • User journey maps completed
    These should be as detailed and comprehensive as possible.
  • Success (and failure) criteria defined
    How will you know if and when a problem is solved by a user through their use of your product? What will be the data that justify success or failure?

Step 3

Planning Your MVP

It’s one thing to define an MVP. It’s something altogether different to have a plan of attack for how to achieve it. Proper planning for the road to MVP will require giving focus to virtually every moving part, including:

  • Team roles
    Does everyone know and understand they’re unique role in the MVP creation process? Are there crystal-clear responsibilities assigned to everyone who has a hand in the mix?
  • User action mapping
    Every conceivable action a user could take needs to be identified and documented, leaving nothing to chance. This document becomes incredibly useful during testing.
  • A ‘pain-and-gain’ grid
    Every user action has a corresponding pain and gain grid associated with it. What pain (effort on the part of the user) is going to be required to realize a gain (progress toward solving a problem or solving the problem itself)?
  • Complete feature prioritization
    It’s not enough simply to have a short list of bare-bones features. Each of them needs to have a defined priority. We suggest going a step further and add reason to each priority. In case anyone forgets at a later date this document quickly sets them straight. (It happens to the best of us.)
  • MVP feature finalization
    During the planning process, it’s going to be necessary to ‘trim the fat’ when it comes to what features the MVP will have. What is absolutely mission-critical (final), and what can wait (designated for the product roadmap)?
  • Sprint organization
    Iterative sprints will get your team from one phase to another along the way. It will be imperative that these sprints be organized and given reasonable, realistic timelines.

Step 4

Development of the MVP

This is where the rubber meets the road. After all of the philosophizing, defining, and planning details are addressed, it’s time to build a roadmap for MVP development. There are numerous approaches to this, but they all have the following fundamentals in common:

  • Definition of the technology stack
    For native, hybrid, or cross-platform development, there will need to be agreement on what programming, scripting, and markup languages will be used.
  • MVP timeline
    How long is the journey to MVP going to take? What factors are likely to impact a reduction or protraction of the timeline? How will these factors be addressed?
  • Unearthed, resolved issues in three key areas:
    What could present problems down the line, design-wise? What could be optimized before moving forward?
    Development. Where are there wrinkles or mismatches in the tech stack, workflow processes, or sprint organization?
    Testing. What are the glaring issues with quality across-the-board? How are these issues going to be dealt with?

Step 5

MVP Launch

The launch phase itself needs to be categorized and well-communicated if the MVP’s release to the world is going to be successful. Your MVP is ready for prime time when the following launch qualifications are met:

  • Launch type determination
    A quiet release to a limited user population is best for some MVPs (soft). Others might dictate a launch without any PR or advertising whatsoever (dark). Still others might be greenlit for a full-bore, advertising- and marketing-driven explosion into the marketplace (hard).
  • Integrated beta group feedback
    If your beta test results haven’t been incorporated into iterated revisions of your MVP, you’re not ready for any kind of launch yet.
  • An assessment of the customer’s willingness to buy
    How confident are you that your MVP will start generating revenue post-launch? What are your best- and worst-case revenue prediction models?
  • Tested monetization options
    There’s a multitude of ways to monetize an app, software title, or web asset. Be sure your MVP is launchable by having the monetization question answered definitively.

Step 6

MVP Post-Launch

It’s one thing to define an MVP. It’s something altogether different to have a plan of attack for how to achieve it. Proper planning for the road to MVP will require giving focus to virtually every moving part, including:

  • Testing idea generation
    It’s inevitable that user feedback and overall market response to launch is going to be a hotbed for new ideas. Corral these ideas, and develop a plan for testing them.
  • Rapid iteration
    With core MVP development now complete, resources can be reassigned to rapidly honing and refining features through advanced iteration.
  • SMART goal development
    Now that the product is live, what are your Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely goals related to it?
  • Profitability plan
    Bigger, broader margins. How will you get them? Where are the ‘greenfield’ opportunities for this MVP and any future versions of it?
  • Customer focus strategy
    It’s likely that the MVP launch will force you to retool your strategy for new customer acquisition and existing customer retention. Don’t let this critical area of operation go by the wayside.

Step 7

MVP Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Even though the core features of an MVP might be essential and minimalist in nature, it’s important to understand how they’re driving usage, interaction, and user adoption. This is best done through the definition, integration, and tracking of Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs. Ensure your MVP is moving the needle by incorporating the following KPIs into your overall product development process:

  • Traffic metrics
    Where are your users coming from? How long are they spending on-page or actively using your app or software? How can this be improved?
  • Engagement rate
    When a user is presented with your app, software, or web asset, how often are they engaging with it and to what degree? Are they taking actions within the platform that deepen their connection with your brand?
  • Sign-ups
    This could be the easiest KPI to track. How many of your users or site visitors are signing up for a paid product or service? This will help to derive the percentage of your target market you are successfully reaching at any given time.
  • Percentage of active users
    Unfortunately, it’s common for users to download or opt-in to an app or service only to abandon using it altogether. Keep a keen eye on the percentage of your users who are frequently active, and track this metric accordingly.
  • Number of paying users vs total users
    Total user counts matter. However, total paying user counts matter more.
  • Client Lifetime Value (CLV)
    For the investment you make into landing each new client or user, what is your return? Calculating your overall MVP ROI is going to be much easier when you understand the total dollar amount attributable to each individual client or user from the moment they first interact with your brand to when they organically make their way out of your sales funnel.
  • Churn rate
    How quickly are new users getting what they want from your app, software, or website and then moving on? What can you do to reduce churn rate and keep your paying customers engaged for longer?

Step 8

Finance/Cost for an MVP

Few organizations know the kind of monetary investment that is required to pave the way to a qualified, stable, and market-ready Minimum Viable Product. To develop a clear picture of the financial cost of an MVP, ensure you’re taking all potential expenses into consideration. As part of this effort, be sure to think about:

  • Talent acquisition costs
    High-powered, responsible, and reliable developers and designers come at a premium. Know their worth.
  • Cost delta between an MVP and the final product
    Remember that an MVP is a bare minimum. This is not a final product. Know what it’s going to take in terms of dollars and cents to bridge that gap.
  • Resource security
    Keep in mind that initial resource requirements are just that: initial. They’re going to change. Securing more of what you may need could prove challenging without a financial plan in place.
  • A plan for financial scope creep
    No one has a crystal ball. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for what might happen financially. Be as liberal as possible with the money you think you’ll need at each stage of development, lauch, and execution according to the final product roadmap.
  • Cash reserves for final product development
    Do not, under any circumstances, rely on post-launch revenues to fund final product development. Always keep enough money in the wings for this exact purpose.

Step 9

MVP as a Validation Tool

Once the MVP has been let loose to users, there is going to be no shortage of opportunities to validate assump-tions that were made early on in the design and development processes. In this way, an MVP can be an exception-ally powerful validation tool, revealing key insights like:

  • Analysis of newly revealed market needs
    More often than not, a successful MVP will bring ‘hidden’ market needs to the surface for analysis. Be sure you have a plan to capitalize on these.
  • UX optimization
    Eliminate friction points, get the user to the end goal more often.
  • Redesign iterations
    Sometimes, an MVP launch will uncover opportunities to enhance the product or service through iterated redesigns.
  • Validity validation
    The ‘V’ in MVP isn’t truly proven out until weeks or months into primetime.

Step 10

Life beyond the MVP

Make no mistake: a lot of hard work goes into the genesis, development, and launch of an MVP. But, there is always more to be done to enhance the user experience and to keep brand engagement ever-evolving. For many enterprises, the launch of the MVP is just the beginning of the story. At Orogamis, we believe an MVP launch signifies the start of an entirely new chapter. It’s here we find some of the more unique and nuanced challenges related to:

  • Brand integrity
    The more successful an MVP is, the more important it’s going to be to protect the brand behind it. This includes protecting intellectual property, trademarks, and other brand assets.
  • Product roadmap execution
    To continue adding value for the user, new features and functionality will need to be planned and calendarized.
  • Ongoing QA/QC/testing
    This effort never truly dies, and there will always be improvements to make.
  • Identification and capitalization of new business opportunities
    We’ve seen it time and time again: success breeds success. It’s knowing how to pivot that makes all the difference.

If you’ve come this far, then it’s likely you have a passion for bringing new ideas, innovations, and solutions to market. And, so do we.

If you’re setting sail to an MVP destination of your own, the team at Orogamis wishes you godspeed and good luck. If we can be of any assistance along the way, we look forward to connecting with you.

Onward Hero!

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