Zero to MVP Journey – Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Whether you are a startup or a large corporation, it’s likely you will face many of the same challenges in building the first version of a new product or application. We explore some of the critical success factors and lessons learned from supporting a broad range of clients in bringing new products to life.  

MVP Mindset – Focusing on Value
An MVP mindset is about having a laser focus on what your customers or users value, especially when you are constrained by budget or timeline. Prioritising high-value features will enable a quicker time to market and position you to gather user feedback early, which is critical to the success of any product. Building a lean MVP will reduce development costs and time, lowering the risk profile and enabling you to enter a build phase with greater confidence in estimates.
In our work with clients, this can be an uncomfortable journey, and questioning each feature can often feel like the product vision is being compromised or diluted. These conversations require trust and maturity on both sides, and the process of developing an MVP mindset is as valuable and as important as the outcome in terms of scope or feature set for MVP. Remember that “not yet” or “not now” does not equate to “no” or “never.” The quicker the first version is out in the real world, the quicker it is to iterate, learn, and enhance the product based on real evidence and feedback, rather than assumptions and theory. 
Team – Diverse, Experienced Teams lead to better outcomes 

Bringing new products to life and taking a concept from idea to MVP is challenging and requires a diverse set of people and skillsets. Teams that have done this before will be more resilient in the face of challenges, as they benefit from real-world experience and an understanding of the risks and pitfalls they are likely to face along the way. 

A mix of product, design, technology, and commercial skills is required, and within that team, it’s important to have a diverse blend of realists, visionaries, creative thinkers, and doers. Knowing your team’s strengths and identifying any gaps will enable better decisions on how, where, and when to augment the team to achieve success. The earlier gaps are identified and addressed, the greater the impact on the outcome. 

Technology Selection – Keep it Simple
Selecting the right architecture and technology stack are critical decisions that can have long-lasting impacts on your product well beyond the MVP stage. It can be tempting to choose the latest, cutting-edge technologies, but there’s wisdom in keeping it simple and opting for proven technologies. Keeping the architecture and technology landscape simple will speed time to delivery and keep maintenance costs low during the early stages of the product lifecycle, especially if the application is pre-revenue.
Making the minimum number of choices at this early stage will also preserve optionality and avoid wasted effort in the future. When speed to deliver is critical, choosing where to focus development effort is important. Selecting third-party tools or services wisely can be a clever way of reducing development times. Several factors will influence the selection, including feature trade-offs, the comparative effort for development vs. integration, how critical the feature is to the unique selling proposition (USP), and whether it is more of a commodity, e.g. calendar management or payment. You should also consider the price differential and how these costs might increase as your product scales. There are no right or wrong choices; however, the most important thing is to be intentional and understand the pros and cons. 
The Balancing Act Between Value, Quality, Speed, and Cost 

Building an MVP is a constant balancing act and a series of trade-offs between value, speed to deliver, quality, and cost. Every decision is under the microscope, and rightly so, but cutting too many corners will hurt in the long term. Here are a few things to watch out for: 

  • User Experience

    Users want a product that solves a problem and works as expected. Therefore, it’s better to build fewer features but build them right. Performance issues, bugs, and a poor user experience will have a greater impact on users than having fewer features. Remember that users don’t know what’s on your roadmap, only you know something is missing. Depending on the customer segment, product type and market, you might only get one shot, and unhappy users typically won’t return. 

  • Technical Debt

    Opting for the cheapest, quickest solution may, at worst, leave you in a position where you need to rebuild entirely with the delays and additional costs that entails. At best, you may have to reinvest heavily in refactoring, which will impact the cost of developing new features and enhancing your product. Where you do make this choice intentionally, know the risks and have an exit plan. 

MVP delivery is a challenging and rewarding journey, whether in the context of a startup or a large organisation. By embracing a value-centric MVP mindset, choosing the right technologies, and assembling an experienced team with the right mix of skills from day one, you set the stage for success. Remember, simple is often better, and a well-balanced approach to product, design, and technology is the key to achieving your goals. 

The BoatyardX Discovery framework is a great starting point – contact us to learn more.   


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