In the media

Agile transformation: Getting Minimum Viable Product right

By Morten Amstrup


10 May 2022

Read the article in Danish here.

If you are going to achieve a successful agile transformation, you have to understand the thinking behind the various basic factors. Morten Amstrup believes that, in too many places, so-called MVPs are misunderstood.

That our world is constantly changing, that there is nothing new in it, has always been the case. But the demands on how quickly we must respond to change are constantly accelerating. We can thank the digital era for that. There have been many good ideas about how best to act on change, and the best solution is not new, on the contrary. The first agile principles were tested in the 1980s and the agile manifesto was written in 2001 – that is 21 years ago.

The working methods have changed their names and they are currently called Organisational Agility, Lean Portfolio Management, and Minimum Viable Product – and the methods are in the process of being implemented in virtually all Danish companies to ensure their ability to pivot and respond to changing market demands.

As someone who spends all his time helping Danish and international organisations with agile transformations, I unfortunately see that some of these concepts are misunderstood and not used correctly.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP, ed.)  is a good example. It is a key element of an agile operating model, but if you cannot master the thinking behind MVP there is too much risk that you will develop the wrong thing and so not achieve the desired result.  All too often I've heard the phrase "just think MVP" or "make a small MVP" and what is really meant is "make a draft", and that puts us very far away from the thinking behind Minimum Viable Product.

The MVP concept was introduced in 2001 by Frank Robinson, co-founder of SyncDev, and was defined as a product that is just the right size to create satisfaction for users and which they will pay for at the same time. So it's all about finding the sweet spot between Return on Investment and Risk, and that's exactly why it's such an important element of agile implementations.

The commercial angle is often lacking when I hear larger organisations talk about MVP solutions and here, we can learn something from the entrepreneurs.Many of the big unicorns, such as Airbnb, Uber, and Dropbox, all started with a minimal solution that came on the market and generated revenue, and that revenue was then used to re-invest in the next product feature. Entrepreneurs can't afford to think differently, the need to get money to survive pushes them to think in MVP terms.

Larger companies don't always have that need, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from the entrepreneurs, because there are plenty of savings to be made by doing it that way.

If you are a Product Owner or Product Manager in a larger company or organisation, bring these three thoughts to your next planning session:

1)     How well do you know your customers/users?

2)     When was the last time you saw your customers/users use your product?

3)     Do you know what the next feature your customers/users can't live without is?

If you can answer these three questions adequately, then you are well on your way. If not, then there is a lot of value to be had from implementing a Minimum Viable Product mindset.

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