MVP: The Zen of Software Development

Guest blogger, Toby Morris, is back with his take on the importance of Minimally Viable Product (MVP) in Agile.  Toby, known around these parts as “The Amazing Toby”, is a software developer at Valpak.  Enjoy!

When it comes to agile learning, development and growth, one concept rises to a level of importance few, if any other, concepts rise. With this one concept, if you grasp it, you will grasp the very heart of agile. If you can’t, you will struggle to reach the level of efficiency you should be able to reach.  Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the soul, wit and zest of agile.

To me, agile is about maximizing the value and speed of delivery of the products my customers need and want. It’s about cutting waste and inefficiencies out of the development process. MVP is the deliverable with the absolute least number of features that will satisfy your customer’s needs. Period. Anything more or less isn’t good enough. Not enough features and the product may not be useable. Too many features and you’ve wasted resources and delayed getting the product to the people who need it most.

Minimum Viable Product is a concept that wraps up many agile principles, and it’s a tool for slicing through extraneous features. When looking at any user story, a first thought should be “how much of this is needed for a working product?”. Use the MVP blade to cut away at fluff and “wants” to get to the heart of the product. Try defining the product in a catalog blurb. If a feature isn’t in that blurb, then it’s probably not needed. Every feature that isn’t a core feature of a product is a wasted time in not only development, but also support.

Use the MVP blade to cut those extraneous features out of the current user story and add them to the backlog. If they are valuable, they will make it back into the sprint plan and into the product. If they never make it into a sprint plan, then they weren’t valuable. You just saved yourself, your company and your customer the time and resources that feature would have cost.

We’ve had customers at our company that ask for every possible feature during the early stages of a product’s development. They share a belief that if they don’t get everything in the first round, we’ll put features they want on the backlog, only to never find the time to get back to them. And that’s true. And that’s how it should be. If a feature belongs in the product, MVP will force you to include it. If it doesn’t belong in the product, MVP will relegate it to the backlog, where it will die a slow, cold death.

The Minimum Viable Product concept applies to anything you create. Anything you do. It’s the Zen of software development, and every other creative process. Whether you’re applying it to an entire application, a single feature of an application, or even a component of a feature, if you let it guide you, you will be surprised at how efficient you become.

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About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie Davis is Senior Director of Enterprise Agility & Digital Product Leadership at Cox Target Media. In this role, Stephanie champions agility across the enterprise, leads the Agile PMO, and manages the CTM portfolio while also overseeing the Digital Product Leadership team. Stephanie leads the team of Agile Project Leaders in the roles of ScrumMaster, Kanban Lead, and/or Agile Project Manager as well as overseeing the IT Business Analysts. Stephanie is a career project leader with over 16 years in the field, including past positions with AT&T Business and IBM Global Services, and has maintained the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification since early in her career. She also maintains the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Her academic credentials include a BS in Marketing and an MBA in International Business. Stephanie serves and supports Agile within her community and beyond as organizer for the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup and the Agile Open Florida. Most recently, Stephanie has been elected to the Agile Alliance board for the 2015 to 2017 term. View all posts by Stephanie Davis

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