Project starts with a business idea and its validation. What looks like a sound concept on paper may become a disappointing product and a waste of investments in reality. This is especially true for digital products, in particular software startups. Fortunately, there is a way to test the viability of a future product at a reasonable cost.
Software developers may build a basic embodiment of a future software product, similar to building small-scale models to test engineering concepts. This process is called “building an MVP,” and it has become a common practice in software development due to its numerous benefits. Let’s have a look at what MVP software engineering is in more detail.
What does an MVP mean in software development?
In software development, an “MVP” stands for a "minimum viable product," a usable build of a future software product that shows its concept and basic functionality.
In this context, "minimum" refers to the number of features that the product includes. "Viable" means that the product can be ready for market and provides a solution sufficient for early adopters. For example, it may offer only one feature, but this single feature works as intended. And the "product" itself implies users have physical access to a solution and can consume it via devices.
An MVP in development components
A minimum viable product generally has three main goals, including many secondary objectives. The goals define the components of an MVP, and the objectives are related to the steps of its development process. The essential purposes of an MVP are:
- Analyze the market.
- Test the business idea.
- Facilitate the development.
Ultimately, an MVP's purpose is to validate the feasibility and product-market fit. Another objective is to promote the future development of a full-scale product based on an MVP.
For these purposes, a minimum viable product must have three components or characteristics that define a marketable software product. They are:
- Functionality — a product must be able to perform at least one function.
- Usability — a person must be able to use an MVP for the intended function via the interface.
- Reliability — a product must work as intended and without errors.
MVP Development Process
Developing a minimum viable product represents a reduced version of a "conventional" software development process used for full-scale projects. The number of development steps is similar but less time-consuming since an MVP usually has only one or a few core features.
The development process includes the "analytical," "building," and "post-release" stages. The entire scope of work covers the following activities:
1. Perform market research.
Market research is an initial step of an MVP development process that defines the future of the whole endeavor. Usually, a software development company has business analysts who monitor the dynamics of the IT market. They know the current and emerging trends and can evaluate the idea's feasibility and product-market fit.
2. Identify the target audience.
To succeed, an MVP must convey a demanded solution. For this reason, at the next step, a startup creates an ideal customer portrait. Analysts use various statistics and validate hypotheses to find out what their ICP looks like. In particular, they determine such characteristics as age, gender, location, occupation, income level, and others.
3. Define the most demanded features.
With the target audience's needs in mind, business analysts define a set of features that most likely can meet users' expectations. Next, project owners approve what feature (or features) they will develop. Alternatively, it's possible to build a better version of an already existing solution that will have a winning advantage over the market competitors.
4. Choose an architecture and tech stack.
Based on one or several features of an MVP, developers plan its architecture and choose the best-fit tech stack. Chief Technical Officers or specialists with sufficient experience are usually in charge of this step.
Cloud technologies provide fast and cost-effective development and offer various tools, making them popular among software engineers. One of the most important benefits of using cloud computing for creating a minimum viable product is excellent scalability. It will be invaluable for changing an MVP into full-scale software.
5. Estimate the time and cost.
The last "analytical" step of this process is determining the size and composition of a development team, taking into account the information obtained from the previous steps. Based on the determined team, analysts, engineers, and managers collectively estimate the time and cost of building an MVP.
6. Create a usable build of an MVP.
Just like a full-fledged product, an MVP requires the well-coordinated work of designers, developers, testers, managers, and other specialists. The scope of work may vary depending on the project, but this step is usually the most time-consuming in the MVP development process.
7. Release an MVP.
Depending on the set goals, a startup releases its minimum viable product into the market or reveals it to a focus group, such as test users, stakeholders, or investors.
There are two more steps after the release stage, but they aren't always performed by a tech vendor. Sometimes, business owners carry out these stages by themselves. The first is collecting user feedback, and the second one is improving the MVP using the mentioned feedback. These two processes can be repeated in a cycle, creating an optimization routine while it is needed. Such optimizations increase the potential of an MVP by making it more competitive and appealing. They also facilitate the potential development of a full-fledged product based on this MVP.
Benefits of an MVP
Thanks to its unique format, a minimum viable product can offer a range of benefits compared to creating a full-fledged product from scratch. Here are the advantages of building an MVP:
1. Knowledge of the market demand and consumer needs.
The information obtained at the market analysis stage may serve as a validation of the proposed business concept. In other words, the owner of an idea learns that a potential audience needs such software. Business analysts determine that no competitors already provide similar products that solve similar problems as a potential MVP. Depending on the results, the initial idea may proceed further through the stages of an MVP development process.
2. Proven feasibility of a business concept.
Software engineers who participate in the MVP development process determine whether the proposed idea can be implemented at all. Then, they find ways to implement it efficiently as an MVP. This task includes defining the technology stack and estimating the type, quantity, and skill level of specialists needed for development.
As a result, depending on the required team and functionality, analysts calculate approximate time frames and costs for building an MVP. Then, they can extend these estimates to the full-scale software product, which is required to negotiate with potential investors. This way, the owner of a software concept gets reasonable evidence from certified specialists that the analyzed business idea can have tangible implementation using existing technologies.
3. Reduced cost and speed of development.
In the business world, the time to market is vital. A minimum viable software product significantly reduces the time to launch a product. Initial research of business analysts allows stakeholders to choose the optimal time to appear on the market. Many preliminary stages of the software development process are the same for MVPs and full-scale products.
The difference is the number of features and, therefore, the scope of work. An MVP requires less cost and time rather a product with a set of features. A minimum viable product can be "upgraded" to a feature-rich product much faster than developing it from scratch.
4. High potential to attract investors.
The availability of a functional product as proof of a business concept helps pitch new investors. They want to see something tangible instead of just descriptions, slideshow presentations, or non-functional demos. Their behavior is completely justified considering the number and diversity of scams in the business world.
An MVP confirms that a business idea can be realized and transformed into an even bigger and better product if it receives more funding. It also shows that the product owner is devoted to their concept and has already invested time and financial resources into an MVP.
5. Early feedback to improve the final product.
A minimum viable product allows stakeholders to gather user feedback that will be useful for building the full-scale product. Though an MVP offers limited functionality, it has a working backend and frontend and can provide user experience while performing the designed task. The users who tried an MVP can report whether it works as intended on different platforms and device configurations. Additionally, they can share their insights regarding optimization, additional features, and other suggestions to improve the product.
For many startups, the best way to reach investors is to create MVP software, meaning their creators are genuinely motivated to elaborate on a product. Even when no additional investments are necessary, creating an MVP allows developers to prove the concept and mitigate risks. That's why Intellectsoft offers a full range of MVP software development services to kickstart your idea and help it evolve into a full-scale product. Contact us, and we will turn your concept into a functioning marketable MVP.