With the threat of Civil War, and the need for faster communication to the west, the Pony Express began service in 1860. At only 10 days across eight states, it was faster by months than transit by ship. However, the Pony Express lasted only 19 months, when the telegraph ended an unprofitable business (losing twice its gross lifetime revenue).
How should a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) be structured to validate a solution to a business need in a time of rapid change? Starting with MVP basics:
- Use of a defined process (MVP) to test assumptions about customer demand.
- Learn if we are solving the right problem, and gather more information from potential customers (potentially leveraging early adopters).
- Reducing risk by testing fundamental assumptions on design and demand.
And going further to ask if our understanding of the environment and risk space is complete? Do we have full awareness of ongoing, perhaps accelerating, adjacent technology, industry, and regulatory changes? How can a MVP contribute to the project risk management process?
It is important to note that the initial release may need to deliver a sufficient level of maturity to be credible for an accurate assessment of solution fit to market need and customer demand. Presenting something immature or incomplete may signal to a prospective customer that the developer does not understand their need, or does not have domain credibility, and should be discounted. The business context, new and disruptive vs. entering a mature market, will drive a different development path before market exposure. Firms operating in competitive markets will give thought to timing or use of confidential MPV analysis of new features and IP.