Try the Fail Fast, Learn Faster approach:

How does MVP help avoid costly mistakes?

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Try the Fail Fast, Learn Faster approach:

The IT world has been demanding rapid responses to all sorts of changes and novelties for some time now. With each new project, it's important to remember that the risk of making costly mistakes during software development is always present. That's why the growing popularity of the 'Fail Fast, Learn Faster' approach and the use of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) are practices that significantly contribute to minimizing risk and effectively avoiding expensive errors. How to minimize risk by utilizing the aforementioned practices? You will find out from the further part of the article.

What is "Fail Fast, Learn Faster"?

Often while working on IT projects, even when understanding the requirements perfectly, it turns out that "it's still not it." Why does this happen? Well, the answer is very simple. Even during the course of work, the client's idea may evolve, requirements may change, or simply without seeing the first version of the product, it's hard to determine whether the adopted assumptions will meet the expected outcomes.

The "Fail Fast, Learn Faster" approach is a philosophy that underscores the value of rapid experimentation, early error detection, and active learning from experiences. In the IT world, this means that instead of lengthy and costly product development, it's worthwhile to invest time and effort into creating its most basic version - the Minimum Viable Product. With this approach, even in the initial (sometimes unfinished) product versions, the client will be able to determine whether the work is progressing in the right direction, and potentially modify their initial assumptions to align with their expectations. The sooner the client identifies issues that require adjustments, the faster they can be fixed, and at a significantly lower cost compared to the final polished product.

Furthermore, allowing room for failure at the early stages of a project enables quick accumulation of experience, accelerates learning, and immediately optimizes solutions to reach the goal.

What does Minimum Viable Product mean?

MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product, which is the smallest functioning version of a product that includes only the most essential features necessary to demonstrate how the product works to stakeholders. The MVP is designed for rapid testing and validation of a business idea, aiding in understanding user needs, and collecting real feedback to enhance its performance. By validating the MVP with the client and users, we ensure that the product is precisely what the client expects.

Not without reason, one of the fundamental and likely most important principles of the Agile Manifesto is:

The highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

This premise emphasizes that the success of the project relies on continuous collaboration and communication with the client, along with the ability to deliver value in short cycles of time. The ultimate goal of an MVP is to gather feedback from users, understand their needs, utilize that knowledge for iterative product improvement, and provide a solution that genuinely addresses market requirements and user needs.

How to effectively build an MVP?

Building an MVP is a dynamic process that requires diligence, flexibility, a willingness to experiment, and the ability to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. The key to success is to focus on solving the core customer problem and delivering value in the shortest time possible. Here are a few steps that will aid in effectively developing a Minimum Viable Product:

  1. Defining Goals: To begin with, it's valuable to clearly define the goals that you intend to achieve with the MVP. Whether it's understanding user behavior, testing a specific solution, or verifying a business idea, the goal should be distinct and measurable. Consider a fitness industry startup planning to create a new mobile application to help users track their workout progress. In this case, a well-defined goal for their MVP might involve investigating whether users find the app interface intuitive and if they regularly use it to record their workouts. This goal is measurable through indicators such as the number of active users, login frequency, and user opinions about the app's usability.
  2. Identifying Key Features: Next, focus on identifying the key features that are necessary to achieve the goal. These features constitute the "core" of the product and are its most crucial elements. For the fitness startup mentioned earlier, key features could include user registration/login, adding workouts, viewing history, and statistics. These features form the foundation of the MVP, which concentrates on delivering the most essential value to users.
  3. Scope Limitation: An MVP must be limited to ensure it can be delivered in a short timeframe. It's essential to precisely determine what will be included in the MVP version and what will be deferred to future iterations of the product. For instance, the user interface, which can be simplified and functional with minimal graphical elements during the MVP phase. Interface refinement can occur in later stages of software development.
  4. Simplicity and Usability: An MVP should be simple and easy to understand. Avoid overly complex solutions that might confuse users. In the initial version, prioritize streamlining processes; for instance, user registration should be straightforward and require minimal information, such as just an email address and password.
  5. Collecting Feedback: A key aspect of MVP development is the ability to gather feedback from users and customers. This feedback is crucial for validating the idea and tailoring the product to market needs. After a certain period of app usage, you can ask users to complete a short survey or provide feedback on their experience with the app. Questions can focus on usability, interface design, and overall satisfaction with the product. The responses help identify missing features and areas that need adjustments to better meet user needs.
  6. Rapid Iterations: An MVP isn't a one-time effort. After collecting feedback, make appropriate changes and carry out subsequent iterations until the desired result is achieved. Using the fitness app example, user feedback might reveal a desire for monitoring progress over longer periods. In response, the team decides to add a feature for generating training reports that users can review weekly and monthly. In the next round of feedback, users emphasize the need for improved notifications about upcoming workouts. The team responds by introducing a more advanced notification system that sends reminders for planned training sessions.
  7. Testing on the Target Audience: An MVP should be tested on the target audience of users. These users are the ultimate judges of the product's value. Choose a group of initial users who are interested in tracking their workouts. They can include individuals who have experience with other fitness apps as well as those who are just starting their fitness journey. Test participants have the opportunity to directly evaluate the app, use its features, and provide feedback. During testing, users can share their reactions, opinions, and suggestions regarding functionality and usability. This input is valuable for further product development.
  8. Gradual Evolution: It's worth noting that an MVP is just the beginning. Based on results obtained during testing, the product can undergo gradual development, introducing new features and value over time. In later stages, it's also beneficial to focus on project details that weren't considered during MVP construction. For example, in subsequent project phases, you might expand the user registration form, adding options like registering via a Google account.

How to Avoid Costly Mistakes in IT Project Execution

One of the more dangerous approaches in software development is the fear of failure and the desire to deliver a flawless, perfect product. Both of these approaches can ultimately lead to very serious consequences, resulting in complete project failure.

To minimize the risk of total project failure, it's essential to adopt an iterative approach, evolving functionality based on justified user needs. Allowing for minor failures in the early stages of the project is necessary for errors to be corrected and, in the end, achieve success that satisfies both the client and users.

The sooner the project team embraces its own mistakes, the quicker it can proceed with rapid product improvement. Failures and setbacks are inherent in the software development process; it's very rare to fully and precisely meet client expectations without project iterations. Therefore, it's crucial to remember that building an MVP is a key element of the "Fail Fast, Learn Faster" approach, which helps avoid costly mistakes in the IT world. By focusing on essential features, gathering user feedback, and iterating rapidly, you can effectively deliver a valuable product while simultaneously minimizing risk and costs.

MVP is a tool that enables idea validation, understanding customer needs, and building success in the IT market. At SKM Group, we adhere to the "Fail Fast, Learn Faster" principle in the projects we undertake. Customer satisfaction is always our top priority.

About The Author
Izabela Węgrecka

Izabela is a Project Manager and Scrum Master with 6 years of experience in the IT industry. She has experience in leading diverse projects and effectively managing teams. She's a leader with the ability to create cohesive and efficient teams based on Scrum values. Regardless of the project's scale, she's able to establish a dynamic environment where collaboration, innovation, and delivering valuable products take precedence.