How to deliver a better digital product faster, with these MVP games
Block out 1 day to play these 3 strategic games and you’ll have a roadmap and prioritised list of features to take into development.
Wrestling with where to start and what to prioritise?
For product teams, the start of developing a digital product or service is an exciting but often stressful time. For marketing teams, you’re likely to be working on a website or application, probably equally as fraught. Whichever team you sit in — you’re feeling the pressure of your first attempt to commercialise something.
You’re an expert in your domain — you know your data inside-out, but you’re finding it hard to be objective enough from a commercial point of view. Wasting time, budget, and resources to work out where you start is a key anxiety, as you’re unsure how to estimate the work.
Perhaps there’s also a disparity between what the leadership team and your team agree should be the first version. How do you know if you’ll start on the right problem or feature first?
And just to add fuel to the fire, we’re now in a pandemic-driven world where teams, hours, and budgets are being cut. Yet results are still needed in order to keep organisations and businesses afloat.
If only you had a clear roadmap for developing your product or website, you’d be empowered to manage time, budget, resources, and expectations.
You’d know where to start, what to work on first, and have a rationalised and prioritised list of features that your team agrees you can deliver. Then you could deliver an end result that satisfies the most important needs of your audience, in a shorter time frame, with fewer resources.
Meet your new ally, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has just the features needed to capture the attention and meet the needs of your most important audience. It delivers the very essence of a product in its simplest form, enabling you to gather audience feedback, avoid failure and financial loss.
The MVP approach is a perfect and proven way to focus teams on solving only the most important customer needs — or problems — required for a successful first version of a digital product or service. It saves wasting time, budget, and resources on a whole host of features that may be irrelevant right now and allows teams to prove something smaller first. It allows you to gather customer feedback on what you’ve built, and use it to improve later versions.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup popularised the term ‘MVP’, but it was originally introduced by Frank Robinson from SyncDev in 2001.
Frank explained that building an MVP isn’t about boasting how many features we’ve added or answering every customer request — that’s likely to make the product worse, as well as carry far more risk for the business.
“An MVP is the product with maximum ROI divided by risk. Revenue-weight the major features across your relevant customers” then, to bring in the words of Eric Ries, stop — “any additional work beyond what was required to start learning is waste, no matter how important it might have seemed at the time”.
The likes of Amazon, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Spotify have all used the MVP approach to build successful, billion-dollar businesses.
It’s a process Ollie and I run with many of our clients too. They approach us with a fantastic idea or first version of a product, but in order to commercialise their idea, they need help working out the best problem to solve first, in order to deliver the most value to both their audience and their own business. If we know the problem, we can work out the features that solve it.
How to make the MVP approach work for you
Now you understand what an MVP is… how do you implement this powerful approach yourself?
First off, decide if this is the right process for you with this quick checklist:
- Are you an autonomous member of the team? You’re a manager, project lead, or product owner who can make decisions about how you and your team works.
- Does the beginning of this article resonate with you? You’re developing a digital product, application, or website and you’re not sure where to start or how to prioritise.
- You’ve got the A-Team. You’ll need subject matter experts from Marketing to Web Development who really get your product and audience and have the skills to deliver it, you can’t do this alone.
If you answer ‘yes’ to all 3 — then the MVP process is for you!
A 1-day workshop, with 3 simple games
Excited and ready to get started? Before you get out your post-it notes, real or virtual, read the 3 tips below on how to prepare for the workshop.
We run the MVP approach in one workshop on one day. It’s fast, furious, and fun.
- Get familiar with how to run the MVP process and have your tools ready — read this article, watch the video below, and there’s a template you can download and use to run the workshop. We use Mural as we work remotely, but the alternative is a big wall space, lots of post-it notes, and a marker pen for everyone.
- Assemble your A-Team — you need a Decision maker, someone from new business and marketing, a product knowledge expert, a project or product manager, a designer, and a developer. Make sure one of those people really gets your customer or audience. You’ll also need a good facilitator, hopefully, that’s you.
Do you need to get the team onboard? Use this article or the video, to sell the value of why you have to do this.
- Block out time in the diary — Sounds obvious, but get a day booked out when everyone is available and has no distractions. You can’t have someone popping out for a phone call in the middle of the session. Also — schedule lots of comfort breaks, and make sure everyone has a light lunch so they don’t slip into a food coma when you need them most!
Watch the 9 minute video below, where Ollie walks-through the 3 games you’ll play to put the MVP approach to work for you and your product:
- Game 1 — The Feature Set: Define the functions and features of your product
- Game 2 — The Attractiveness Map: Map the impact versus the effort of each feature
- Game 3 — The Focus Dartboard: Prioritise the most valuable features and create your roadmap
Wait a minute — games?! Yes. Rather than a 4 hour+ disorganised discussion labeled as a workshop, we use games. A game has a clear aim, it has rules of play and it’s a great way to facilitate a group of people to a valuable outcome. Don’t panic, we won’t be playing with Play Dough or doing role-play, this is a serious strategic exercise in an enjoyable format.
Now you’ve done the workshop…
You have a rationalised and prioritised list of features that your team agrees you can deliver. Get to work!
If you need to, spend some time with your team on any Goldmine ideas that need further discussion, but be pragmatic, don’t waste time. Otherwise, simply translate these into Trello or your task management software of choice and book in your first block of work.
Wait.. this seems a bit overwhelming and you’re worried this process might be complicated. New processes often sound difficult but rest assured, you’ve got all the guidance here to take you through each step, and remember the MVP is a proven approach used by lots of companies worldwide.
Realistically, you only need to invest a day or two of your time — it’s a low investment for a high return. We guarantee you’ll see results — you’ll have a clear roadmap and prioritised functions to work on in no time.
Get started with your MVP now
Watch the video, download the template, and give it a go. Run a workshop. What’s the worst that can happen?
We’ve played these games with many companies over the last few years, it’s helped them solve their most valuable problems, launch successful products AND they’ve enjoyed it.
If It moves you from stasis to action it’s been worth it.
I’d love to hear how you get on. Do you have any questions I haven’t answered?
We’re here to help if you’re not quite ready to go it alone.
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