ARTICLE: Annie Hensley

‘Good enough’ usually isn’t: Avoiding traps that sabotage MVP success

In EdTech product design, the road to MVP launch is full of traps that can sabotage success. Balancing the needs of your users against schedule and budget realities is often easier said than done. Successful product teams know when to hold fast and when to bend.

Below are three of the most common things that derail MVP success, along with best practices to help ensure you stay on the road to delivering value for your users.

Trap #1: Giving in to the Temptation to Assume What Users Want

As we talk about in so many of our articles on user research, assumptions are the greatest enemy of product teams. As a product owner, it’s natural to feel like you should know your users so well that you can define an MVP in your sleep, or that you can save valuable development time by skipping research and testing. After all, company stakeholders expect you to be the product expert. But that’s a dangerous fallacy akin to a scientist setting out to prove a pre-conceived hypothesis is correct. 

Recommendation:

No matter your level of sophistication or number of years’ experience you or your product team may have, you can never fully know what your users are thinking unless you take the time to research and test your product throughout all stages of the product life cycle. Remember, your job is not to know, but to discover and confirm what your users really want and need. 

Trap #2: Slashing Product Features to Meet Deadlines or Budgets

We often ask ourselves a simple question: “Are the rules serving us, or are we serving the rules?” It’s a reminder to ask ourselves whether or not we’re missing a big picture truth in the pursuit of checking what feels like important boxes. That’s not to downplay the importance of deadlines or budgets. After all, those are realities few product teams can ignore, especially for those who make classroom technology who must observe narrow release windows. But sometimes in the fog of product development as deadlines loom and budgets drain, product teams can have a knee-jerk reaction of slashing features. It’s easy to miss the potential damage that may result to the MVP as this happens incrementally. The potential outcome is an MVP that is neither minimum nor viable. It’s the ‘good enough’ product that usually ends up not being so, and is no longer viable for users.

Slashing features as a knee-jerk reaction to a draining budget or looming deadlines leads to an MVP that is neither minimum nor viable.

Recommendation: 

Organize features into two prioritized categories: Must-haves and nice-to-haves. Any feature whose removal would severely jeopardize the usefulness of the product and result in widespread dissatisfaction among your users should be a must-have. Solid user research and testing will help you understand which features should be non-negotiable. Once your must-haves are identified, make sure the product team and stakeholders understand the importance of bringing them to completion. If need be, schedule and budgets should be adjusted to ensure must-haves are completed. Adjust your roadmap to deliver the nice-to-haves in future releases.

Trap #3: Straying from the Original Problem Statement

Have you ever tried to come up with a solution before simply stating the problem that exists in the first place? A successful MVP has a clearly defined problem that the team is trying to solve for users. Avoid a “We need to make ‘X’” approach and, instead, uncover the problem you are trying to solve for users. That will bring your MVP into focus, and serve as a guiding light when your team might be feeling lost.

Avoid a “We need to make ‘X’” approach and, instead, uncover the problem you are trying to solve for users.

Recommendation:

Once you determine a problem to solve, the process should unfold like the scientific method does: hypothesize, test with users, apply and repeat. Recording users’ acceptance or rejection can sculpt a blue-sky idea into an actual product that users will accept in the marketplace.

Conclusion:

The North Star of MVP planning is a solid foundation of user insights gleaned from rigorous research and testing. Without it, teams are flying blindly, risking user dissatisfaction that can lead to disastrous outcomes.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a successful MVP, giving in to temptations to assume, slashing features to meet deadlines, or letting the team stray from the original problem to solve are all traps that can lead to product failure. To be successful, your product team and stakeholders must understand the difference between must-have and nice-to-have features, and be willing and able to adjust schedule and budgets accordingly. 

 

 

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    Annie Hensley

    As UX Lead at Openfield, Annie’s focus is ensuring our clients benefit from world-class UX design and research. She knows how important it is to mind meld with product owners and engineering teams while remaining a champion for our clients’ users. Annie is a lifelong runner who enjoys helping others train for major milestones such as full and half marathons. Her passion for mentorship and social issues is evident in her leadership and involvement in organizations that support women in our industry.

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