A few weeks ago I overheard a common complaint while in a meeting with technology experts.
“They don’t know what an MVP is. Our business partners just aren’t thinking as well as we are about these things.” The promulgator of this complaint was looking around the room ready to soak in the approval of their peers, who certainly would agree that “those other people” did not understand. Indeed most of those centered around this table nodded and smiled knowingly. While this situation of “us vs them” is common, the issue that arose in my mind from this comment was actually their use of MVP.
An MVP, for those who have more exciting lives than mine, is a Minimum Viable Product. It is a phrase that became popular in the software sector around 7 years ago. A basic definition would be “a product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” This definition is vague for a reason. While I am not going to get into too deep of a discussion about what qualifies as an MVP, it is important to know that there is no formula for an MVP. The MVP in any situation will change based on what is attempting to be delivered.
Going back to the comment I heard, I felt a disconnect around what was being defined as an MVP. The picture above, taken from here, is a general metaphor for what the goal of an MVP is. The technology being delivered worked, but did not provide what the business needed to give to the customer. In the diagram you can see that the MVP asked for was a skateboard. This is because what the business needed was something that moved the customer. In this situation, the individual was complaining about the business partner who was asking for software. What they were getting from the technology partner was an excellent wheel, whose code ran smoothly and would be a critical component of the car to come. But you cannot give your customer a wheel and ask them how well it moves them. My complaining colleague was assigning blame, but not accepting that it was the technology group that had misunderstood the meaning of an MVP.
Thus far we have noticed that there is a disconnect between to business partners and the technology group. Next we will look at what may cause this disconnect, and finally we will look at ways to overcome this disconnect.