Launching a new product is an interesting and exciting process for every startup. So, you have already validated your idea for market fit, raised some seed investments, and are ready to embark on this journey? Great! But you don’t want to spend half a year of your life without any guarantee of success? Read on to learn the pros and cons of MVP development and how to minimize the duration of this process!
Prolonged MVP development duration is one of the biggest risks you might face. Should you miss the window of opportunity, more agile competitors are sure to take your market share. However, rushing an MVP software development might lead to releasing a half-baked product that fails on the market. What should a startup do? We will show you how it’s done!
What is an MVP?
We are sure you know the basics, but let’s ensure we are on the same page.
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product — the smallest set of features that can be used to solve some real-world pain of your customers and provide the feedback needed to continue the app development.
MVP software development by a remote software development team or technology vendor is the most feasible way for a startup to get the product to the market quickly, with minimal risks and maximum cost-efficiency. Why so?
An MVP helps you get real-world data early to validate users’ interest in your product and adjust the feature set based on customer’s feedback. In addition, MVP development helps minimize the losses in case the product gains little traction. Thus, MVP development is an essential stage for every startup.
However, MVP development requires a skilled team in order to succeed. Hiring a team while developing a product is very risky as it can break the whole project. Therefore, many startups go for outsourcing MVP development to a remote team of software engineers. While developing an MVP using a remote team, startups can hire in-house expertise quickly and lay the foundation for further growth.
Benefits of the MVP development vs developing a full-scale product
There are several important benefits of MVP software development:
Building an MVP allows you to validate how effectively your product’s core features solve customer’s pains — and change the strategy quickly if hypotheses prove to be wrong.
MVP development is rapid, so you can promote a product and gain early adopters faster.
Software development involves lots of risks. By going for the development of an MVP you can mitigate most of the common risks.
Relatively small investments
Building an MVP requires less money, as compared to building a full-scale product. Thus, you can spend this money on customer development to reach the breakeven point faster.
To summarize all the above, MVP development enables you to validate the idea quickly, save a ton of time and money, mitigate the risks, and deliver a market-driven product your customers need.
But how long should the MVP software development take? It depends on the scope of work that has to be done, the technology stack, the team availability, the processes maturity, the degree of customer involvement, and dedication to the project (and the speed of making the executive decisions on the customer side).
There are various methods and practices to minimize the duration and budget of your MVP development. Based on our experience, the shortest time to build an MVP was 3 months? Why was it done so fast and what contributed to the product becoming a success?
How to build an MVP in less than 4 months?
Why is it important to understand how MVP development phases precede and follow each other? Because to be able to estimate the project budget correctly, you must understand what phases there are and what their duration depends on. Below we describe one of the possible scenarios of MVP development:
Discovery phase. Based on our experience, the discovery phase can take from 2 to 10 weeks. The phase duration largely depends on how well the product idea is thought through, as well as the availability and level of detail of various inputs.
During this phase, you gather and collaborate with a discovery team (i.e. Chief Technical Officer, Business Analyst/Project Manager, Solution Architect, and UX/UI Designer). This team should produce the following results: customer personas, user stories, solution architecture, wireframes and UX mockups, a roadmap and backlog for future MVP software development, etc. The more attention and effort you dedicate here, the better the outcomes are overall.
Prototyping phase. Building a product prototype may take around 2–4 weeks and enables validating the deliverables from the discovery phase. It also allows getting initial feedback from the stakeholders and focus groups, who provide input on usability and possible improvements of the product. This feedback is continuously added to the backlog, so you can adjust any aspect of the project should the need arise. The deliverable here is the product prototype.
Implementation. Once the prototype feedback is gathered and processed, backlog and user stories are updated accordingly. This allows us to proceed with implementing the MVP. This may take about 6–12 weeks, depending on the agreed MVP scope. The deliverable of this phase is the product built according to the MVP scope, hosted in an internal staging environment and ready for user acceptance testing.
Release and post-launch support. At this stage, the stakeholders perform user acceptance testing. The team resolves the issues found, prepares the product release, rolls it out to the production environment, and can begin developing the rest of the features based on the roadmap and customer feedback. As a result, you get CI/CD processes for updates and rollback along with technical documentation, and any other solutions or tools agreed upon.
NB! We recommend ensuring that at the release stage the user analytics is integrated into the product and site reliability measures are implemented.
We are done with theory now. Let’s see how to speed up MVP development in practice without compromising on the quality.
Here is how we did it for one of our clients — a platform for the music industry from the US.
- Ready designs. As the customer was a musician himself, he knew the needs of his target audience firsthand and prepared the designs prior to contacting us, which is a rare occasion. This helped shorten the discovery phase significantly, as the discovery includes lots of work from BA and PM in addition to designs. Otherwise, the estimate would have been several weeks longer.
- In-depth discovery and expertise. Due to performing an in-depth discovery work and several of our core team members having relevant expertise, we were able to quickly define the best architecture for the project and implement it in full
- MoSCoW prioritization. We split the designs and specs by MoSCoW analysis techniques. This allowed to prioritize the most needed features and adjust the scope based on the end-user feedback
- Correct Product Owner. The customer filled in the Product Owner role due to being a niche expert and knowing all the challenges inside-out. He worked in close tandem with our Project Manager and team to solve all the tasks on the move
- Trust in the team. The customer trusted the team judgment to prioritize the features that give the most impact.
After the release, we provided ad-hoc support to the customer. Later the customer raised more investment and came back to us to continue the product development.
Due to the factors listed above and leveraging our in-depth project management expertise, we were able to reduce the duration of MVP development to three months. We also avoided multiple pitfalls and hidden reefs that could have slowed or failed the project.
Things that can slow down or fail your MVP development
We assume that market fit is chosen properly and the prototype phase was not skipped. In this case, the most common reasons behind failed MVP software development are as follows:
- A team without relevant engineering experience/expertise/project management skills. This might result in an incorrect technology stack, product architecture, or project roadmap.
To avoid hiring such a team, apply the proper method of choosing the Technology Vendor:
– Get yourself an in-house or contracted technology/engineering expert to validate the tech/SDLC expertise of the vendor
– Confirm the technology provider’s references, preferably on 1:1 communication sessions with the company’s clients relevant to your case
– Don’t rely too much on written testimonials/CVs regarding the vendor’s expertise, those are written by satisfied customers only
– Check the technical background of each team member you’re paying for with your expert
- MVP scope is not managed properly. MVP must include only the core features and don’t adjust the scope mid-development. Otherwise, exceeding the budget becomes almost inevitable.
Choose a vendor with demonstrable strong skills in project scope management. Don’t mix these skills with technical ones. The vendor should present your MVP project manager with the above upfront.
- Lack of resources or qualification on the founder/startup side to steer MVP development. The startup founder should not be a passive observer. He/she must actively steer the team to prioritize effort on the critical tasks.
MVP development is a time-consuming and communication-intense process. It may require significant resources and near-constant availability on the startup/founder. Make sure you have sufficient time allocated to project management or compensate it with a partner/team member assigned to the task.
It is okay if you lack all kinds of expertise required to deliver a product. However, it’s best to tap into such expertise before starting your MVP development. You can do so by contracting partners and external technology advisors. This will help you properly steer the MVP development, oversee its quality and cost-efficiency
- Not enough materials and information available to start an effective MVP development. If you start building a house without a proper foundation — it will crumble. The same goes for MVP development.
A proper discovery phase is mandatory to prepare for MVP development. It should be followed by a POC/prototyping stage. Hiring a team or vendor without defining user stories, UX/UI, and a well-tested user flow may kill the budget before your MVP is halfway done. MVP development team requires a detailed backlog of well-defined tasks to run efficiently. This way they will convert your budget into a max amount of product. Of course, we assume the tech expertise is present and the development process is managed on the proper level of quality.
If you want to build an MVP in 3 months or less, the following conditions must be met:
- Working with a tech vendor skilled in delivering MVPs quickly. This must be proven by relevant cases and satisfied clients you can contact, not by testimonials and reviews alone.
- Partnering with a CTO or tech advisor able to control the MVP development from a technological and process standpoint
- An idea validation and market fit check before MVP development starts
- An in-depth discovery phase to define the MVP scope and roadmap
- 2-sided management of MVP scope. You, as well as MVP implementation, must secure the MVP scope and make sure it does not grow and include various great ideas and wishes that might come up during the implementation.
Partner up with SPsoft if you need good advice or a rockstar team able to build an MVP in 3 months or less!