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Product Management

What makes a Minimum Viable Product?


Building a minimum viable product will require the full involvement of the right customers in the process. The process of building a viable product starts and ends with them. As product owners, you need to invest time in customer analysis. 

The steps to making a minimum viable product involve the following:

  1. Interact with the users
    Once you have identified your target customers, start interacting with them. However, take time to figure out whether these are the right people to validate your assumptions with. You would want to invest time interacting with innovators and early adopters, instead of laggards and mainstreams. Who you are talking to is essential. Anyone who has glued together with a solution searched for better alternative solutions are people you should be targeting at this stage.The next step is to ask questions that will encourage them to discuss their pain points in detail. Remember that you are not pitching your ideas to your customers. You are trying to understand their pain points, the acuteness of the problem, and how you can help them do specific tasks. If we are not a solution to their problem, maybe they are not our potential customers. We might be targeting our product in the wrong segment. A qualitative interview with users will validate our assumptions about the solution we intend to build.
  2. Document your user interaction
    While you interact with users, you need to document those interactions. The empathy map can help you with documenting your interactions with users. It lets you get deeper insights about your target customers using simple visualization of user attitudes and behavior. It can represent a group of customers or a market segment you’re aiming to target.
  3. Low fidelity Wireframes
    Once you have the documentation, extract the hypothesis, and list them out. These are the biggest problem we are going to solve which have been validated by your customers. Now, we need to validate the solution. However, we don’t need documentation at this stage. Instead, we use low fidelity wireframes.Low Fidelity wireframes are concept sketches that represent the skeleton of the interface. They include only the necessary content, drawings, and are static. The reason we choose low fidelity wireframes is that we want our customers to focus on the solution rather than design and aesthetics at this stage. We are validating the solution by providing a distraction-free wireframe. If we use high fidelity wireframes, people will start commenting on design, color, and aesthetic aspects instead of the solution.
  4. High fidelity wireframes
    By this stage, you will have a validated solution to work on. You can now start working on high fidelity wireframes. High fidelity wireframes represent your product entirely. They include the design and aesthetics of the real product. The developers base the product development on high fidelity wireframes.
  5. After each stage qualitative interviews with target customers
    The customers will be involved in all the stages of building a minimum viable product. After every step, it is suggested to take qualitative interviews as developing a product is an iterative process. If you want to head to product development directly, stop and follow the steps so you can save 1000 hours. We have a concept of 10 X10 X10 in product management which implies finding a bug in requirement phase requires 10 min to solve, in the design phase the same bug takes 100 minutes to solve, and in developing a whopping 1000 min. The risk of building a product is higher without qualitative interviews. You might probably waste your time making the wrong thing. Even when some clients are aware of the consequences, they tend not to invest time in this step. Remind, advocate, and show the way to do it. Aware or not, we have to set a system, to take action.
  6. Solution is usable
    Now, we have a validated problem with a valid solution. But we are not done yet. We know the problem exists, and the solution makes sense, but the platform you’re building the product in, does that make sense? Without a distribution channel, your product is still miles away from reaching your customers. You need to invest time in the medium your customer is most likely to use your application.For example, Leapfrog worked on a project related to employee retention. The early assumption was to build a mobile app. But after talking with users, we found out using mobile phones were not allowed in work-hours. Moreover, they would not want to use it in off-hours for work-related activities. We had a valid solution, but the platform for the app was not right. If we had initiated the development without customer analysis, we would have built a solution that would never reach our audience. Thus, you also need to figure out the platforms by talking with your users. Doing so, we are improving the speed of product development.
  7. Then build the product
    With all the requirements now validated, we now move on to building the product.
    Some clients will have a product in their mind, and they want to build a product first and then find the users. In such cases, the probability of success is rare; 1 in a billion maybe. The role of the product manager comes in here. To convince such clients, talk about the drawbacks of not following up with customers. If they hesitate because of the time constraints, make them realize that it takes only a couple of weeks. Iteration cycle is fast. Let’s assume, it takes five months to build the product without research. Do you want to wait five months to talk to your users when you can do that within a week and iterate from there? Do you want to know about your customers or shoot in the dark?

Investing in this stage will instead speed up the entire development process, 4-6 weeks by the rule of thumb. If you are a domain expert, this will take less time. During these stages, you will learn about 70-80% of the product; the last 20% will require the use of real products. That way you can move to product-market fit.


Done with Step 3? Learn about all the steps in Product Development from this series.


To unpack more questions related to product development dive into our Product Podcast.

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