Pruning the feature list to identify the Minimum Viable Product

Posted on March 28th, 2011 in Lean, Product design by siddharta || 8 Comments

This weekend I had the opportunity to mentor some of the teams at The Startup Center during the in50hrs event. The idea of the event was to conceptualize and build a minimum viable product within one weekend.

As a mentor, my role was to sit with teams and make sure that their product idea really was the “minimum viable product“. When you conceptualize a product, chances are you’ve got all these fancy use cases in your head. You’re thinking “Oh wouldn’t it be cool if we had this features” and “That feature would really be neat”. Before you know it, you’ve got a complicated product with many useless features.

Lets look at an example of how we can pare back the features into a minimum viable product.

Elevator Pitch

How often have you searched long and hard to find customer support numbers for companies? The numbers on many companies websites dont work (if you can find them) and Google is of no help. The idea is to build a site, with working customer support numbers for various companies. Users can add numbers they find and vote on other numbers whether it worked for them or not.

Initial Feature List

The initial feature list had a whole bunch of features for this product

  • Search the database to find a company
  • Allow users to submit companies to the database
  • Group companies into categories
  • Detect duplication of companies (eg: IBM vs International Business Machines)
  • Separate numbers by city
  • Get the user’s IP, determine the location and show numbers for the city closest to the user
  • Upvote on numbers which work
  • Downvote on numbers which aren’t working
  • Allow businesses to add verified numbers
  • Allow users to submit numbers to the database
  • Have premium users who receive discounts from companies
  • Premium users can login through facebook, twitter and google accounts
  • Show users their vote if they have previously voted on a number

Wow, that’s a lot of features for the first release.

The Minimum Viable Product

Now how many of these are really central to the core problem being solved? My job was to cut away the extra features.

So we went through the list and thought about each feature in turn. Do we really need to categorise companies? Do we really need premium users? Do we even need authentication at all? Can everything be done by anonymous users?

Finally, we whittled it down to just these features

  • Search the database to find a company
  • Allow users to submit companies to the database
  • Allow users to submit numbers to the database
  • Upvote on numbers which work
  • Downvote on numbers which aren’t working

That’s all you need for the MVP.

Think about your next product. Do you really need all those features for the first release?

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8 Responses to “Pruning the feature list to identify the Minimum Viable Product”

  1. Arunmozhi Says:

    Great post. I will surely remember this when I try to build something. Most of the time I try to build everything at first shot and give up in the middle as things are too complicated by then. I think I will go back to all those stalled projects and try to rebuild the basics. Thank you. Thank you @dorait for sharing the link.

  2. Suresh Sambandam Says:

    Sid,

    Very nice post on the exact experience. good one man – I didn’t realize you are going to blog this. Thanks.

    Suresh

  3. Jigar Doshi Says:

    Simplicity rules …

    I have found that creep sometime happens because the people executing (ie programmers) have either too little say or too much say. Too little say would lead to grandly conceived and poorly implemented features and too much say leads to personal favorites getting included (You have to have an advanced boolean search using our custom query language)

    Great job in trimming it down … It took us many iteration in getting http://www.3gsimplified.com down :)

  4. Joseph Korah Says:

    Great post Sid. The quadrant classification is a good way to visualize the MVP.

  5. Varadh Says:

    Good post. Neatly laid out. Kudos!!!

  6. Ajithesh Says:

    Good post Siddharth. In a small post, you have conveyed a lot that is of immense help!

  7. Minimum Excellent Delivery: Why it’s Better than Minimum Viable Product or ROI | adam.benjaminbloom.net Says:

    […] shares an excellent axis diagram—viability on the y-axis and the amount of features on the x-axis. It says you want the most […]

  8. Manasa Reethu Says:

    Good informative post sidd. thanks.!!

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