In part five of this series on new product development for content-based products for learning and research, I focused on the management of the road map. The overriding objective of carefully managing the road map is to ensure the delivery of a product that meets the most basic and essential requirements of a paying or using customer audience. If the road map expands because of scope creep, or if the road map is delayed for competing priorities, delivering the product as defined in the business case suffers. With this in mind, part six will discuss, differentiate and contextualize the two terms used in product development that capture the essence of delivering a most basic product a customer will support: Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Product Market Fit (PMF)
Minimum Viable Product:
A MVP is a product release that is fully functional, with all features presented in the business case as essential to launch available for use by the customer. The MVP is the most basic product that can be released to early users, lead users, or development partners with the objective of learning as much as possible for as little time and effort invested as possible. A well-designed MVP will accurately represent the feature set and user experience described in the business case for product launch. The early users or development partners will have a high fidelity product experience and be able to offer the product team validation that the promise of the business case can be achieved. The purpose of the MVP test with the lead user group is to validate the confidence of the business leaders and the product team in the development of the business case product concept. A successful MVP will trigger added investment, marketing and sales attention and focus for the coming product release and will validate the standing product roadmap.
An MVP can be a very early release of a fully-functional product, or it can be a wireframe or other mechanism for delivering a high fidelity experience to the development partner panel. This is a critical distinction. The MVP does not have to represent a saleable product, ready to integrate across platforms, acquisition models or library or university workflow solutions. The MVP must give the lead users a “true” product experience but it does not have to be market ready and it is not a product to be sold.
Product Market Fit:
A PMF is market ready. The MVP validation process triggers the “full steam ahead” of the product team and the drive to deliver the product to the market; the product-market fit (PMF). In the business case the features that differentiate the product will have been described and the market sizing and opportunity will have been stated. The PMF is the meeting of the ready-to-sell product with the target market and the product features fully developed that differentiate the new product from the competitors’ products. A PMF that has achieved its mandate will resonate with the target market. The intended customers will be able to describe its differentiated features from the product they are currently using. And, further, customers in the target market will be willing to, if not eager, to learn more about and trial the new product. The hallmarks of a successful PMF are an energized sales and marketing team, customers advocating for the product with peers, and, critically, lead generation, trial usage and lead conversion in line with that promised in the business case.
Product Market Fit is not the end of the story. The PMF launch is a ready-to-sell product inclusive of the most basic user experience and set of requirements a customer will pay for. The product roadmap will assume iteration toward functionality and user experience that is critical to the success of the product but is not required to launch and generate sales and usage. This is a critical point. The launch of the PMF is further validation of that achieved with the MVP, but done in the context of delivering value and utility to customers. With the PMF in the market being used, the product team is receiving daily, real-time user feedback that allows for correction and adjustment to the product and prioritization of the features and enhancements to release in the iterative product development process.
Across my career in new product development and product management, I have heard the terms minimum viable product and product market fit variously and, at times, incorrectly used. Precision in terms is important if the true value of each step is to be derived along the new product process. The MVP is a full-fidelity representation of the product intended for launch that lead users and development partners can test and evaluate; but it is not a ready-for-market, saleable product. The PMF is ready for market, saleable, and inclusive of the feature set and user experience validated in the MVP. In both cases, the product team is focused on the core feature and user experience necessary to launch and generate sales and usage. Of course, this is only the beginning of an iterative process that will refine, improve and enhance the product across its life-cycle.
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