The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product

Posted on Wednesday 9th October 2013

Summary

The minimum viable product (MVP) is a powerful concept that allows you to test your ideas. It is not to be confused with the minimal marketable product (MMP), the product with the smallest feature set that still addresses the user needs and creates the right user experience. The MVP helps you acquire the relevant knowledge and address key risks; the MMP reduces time-to-market and enables you to launch your product faster. This post discusses both concepts, and it shows how you can use the minimum viable product to create a minimal marketable one.

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The Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product (MVP), as defined by Eric Ries, is a learning vehicle. It allows you to test an idea by exposing an early version of your product to the target users and customers, to collect the relevant data, and to learn form it. For instance, to test the viability of using ads as the major revenue source, you could release an early product increment with fake ads, and measure if and how often people click on them.

As lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and risk are closely related, you can also view the MVP as a risk reduction tool. In the example above, the MVP addresses the risk of developing a product that is not economically viable.

Since the MVP is about learning, it’s no surprise that it plays a key part in Lean Startup’s build-measure-learn cycle, as the following picture shows:

BuildMeasureLearn

The MVP is called minimum, as you should spend as little time and effort to create it. But this does not means that it has to be quick and dirty. How long it takes to create an MVP and how feature-rich it should be, depends on your product and market. But try to keep the feature set as small as possible to accelerate learning, and to avoid wasting time and money – your idea may turn out to be wrong!

While the MVP should facilitate validated learning, I find it perfectly OK to work with MVPs such as paper prototypes that do not generate quantitative data, as long as they help to test the idea and to acquire the relevant knowledge.

The Minimal Marketable Product

The minimal marketable product (MMP) is a different type of product. It is based on the idea that less is more. The MMP describes the product with the smallest possible feature set that addresses the user needs, creates the desired user experience, and can hence be marketed and sold successfully. The MMP is a tool to reduce time-to-market: It can be launched more quickly than a fat, feature-rich one.

Creating a product with just the right amount of features sounds like common sense. Why would we create more features than necessary? Sadly, I have seen many projects develop over-engineered products with lots of shiny features that provided little value to the users, but cluttered the product and increased the maintenance cost. And it’s not just the others: I am constantly tempted to add just another cool feature to a product, or to write a few extra lines in a blog post. Using the concept of an MMP helps me focus on what really matters, and remove unnecessary features (and lines).

A great example of an MMP is Apple’s original iPhone launched in 2007. I know that the first iPhone was a complex product, and that many people worked incredibly hard on it. But I find it amazing how many features the phone did not provide compared to its competitors: no copy-and-paste, no Outlook integration, and no voice recognition, to name just a few. Nevertheless the phone was still a staggering success. How come?

The key to creating a successful MMP is to “develop the product for the few, not the many,” as Steve Blank puts it, and to focus on those features that make a real difference to the users. To discover the right features, the MVP is a fantastic tool.

Combining the MVP and the MMP

To combine the two concepts, develop one or more MVPs to test your ideas and to acquire the relevant knowledge. Then use your new insights to create and launch the MMP – a product with just the right features and a great user experience, as the following picture shows:

CombiningMVPandMMP

Note that a minimal marketable product differs from a viable one: It is complete enough to be ready for general release, as indicated by the gift wrapping in the picture above. What’s more, launch preparation activities have to take place for an MMP, for instance, creating advertising campaigns, or gaining certification. Some of your MVPs are likely to be throwaway prototypes that only serve to acquire the necessary knowledge; others are reusable product increments that morph into a marketable product.

More Information

You can learn more about applying the two concepts by attending my Agile Product Planning training course. You can also find a more detailed discussion of the minimal marketable product in my book “Agile Product Management with Scrum“.

24 comments on “The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product

  1. John Coleman says:

    Roman,

    Great post. My only warning would be that early MVPs implemented via Lean Start Up like Build Measure Learn iterations might not comply with any decent “definition of done”. One almost needs a MVP team handing over to a doing it properly team with a decent definition of done. It’s hard to see how a team can switch quality standard radically between iterations. That said, the ability to pivot at milestones is compelling.

    I like the distinction in your post between MVP and MMP. Thank you.

  2. Srinath says:

    Great explanation of these two concepts .. Thanks

  3. sandra says:

    Excellent distinction!

  4. Eugene says:

    Fantastic article and one that has been top of mind for me recently after reading another article on good enough products (http://onproductmanagement.net/2013/10/07/good-enough-product/) and posting my thoughts separately (http://www.productownager.com/2013/10/great-is-enemy-of-shipping.html).
    I’m not too proud to admit that you captured the concept of MVP much better.

  5. Huimin says:

    Love the distinction and the linking of the two concepts. In our team, we are using qualitative interviews and quantitative analytical metrics to validate MVP, it worked out very well. When moving to define MMP, it become less “scientific”, how to “create a product with just the right amount of features” sometimes is an art. Now, we rely on keep checking, and asking ourselves: “Is it enough? Do we really need more?”

    Thanks, Roman

  6. Antonio Romero says:

    I like this idea. Unfortunately I’ve sometimes seen what some would call a “minimum marketable product” be “one that looks good enough to be described in a datasheet or a five minute demo”… what ships is not actually going to provide an adequate customer experience.

    • Hi Antonio, Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that the concept of a minimal marketable product can be misunderstood and misapplied. As a wise man once said: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.” MVP and MMP are concepts that have to be applied carefully.

  7. Daniil says:

    Thank you Roman !
    I was looking for such comparison and your article is the best piece I’ve found.

    To start a small debate I am wondering if it makes sense to associate MMP with money aspect ? Like an emphasis on marketable word – MMP is not only when its out there , but when customers are actually paying for it.

    • Hi Daniil, Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you find my distinction between MVP and MMP helpful. I like your suggestion to consider the monetary aspects / business goals. I would say that MVPs help validate the business model, but an MMP should execute it and generate the desired revenue. Do you agree?

  8. […] es decoroso, cuando estamos comiendo en una mesa, es asimilable en Software al concepto de MVP. ( Minimum Viable Product ). Mediante el MVP obtendremos y desplegaremos en producción el conjunto de funcionalidades […]

  9. […] FInd out what the Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product are, how they differ, and how they can be combined successfully.  […]

  10. David Lowe says:

    Great post Roman, thanks. Going to be useful in tonight’s discussion on this topic at the London Agile Discussion Group: http://www.meetup.com/London-Agile-Discussion-Group/events/172384772/

  11. […] goal can be achieved. A great concept for identifying the goal of the first major release is the Minimal Marketable Product (MMP). The MMP describes the product with the smallest possible feature set that creates value […]

  12. […] goal can be achieved. A great concept for identifying the goal of the first major release is theMinimal Marketable Product (MMP). The MMP describes the product with the smallest possible feature set that creates value […]

  13. I find the distinction you presented quite blurry.

    You said that:

    “Some of your MVPs are likely to be throwaway prototypes that only serve to acquire the necessary knowledge; others are reusable product increments that morph into a marketable product.”

    For me, one of the ideas of MVP is to not treat it as: throwaway prototype. It should not be even treated as base for your “future product” but as your “current product”.

    It is a way to bootstrap project and start validated learning. And each next modified version of your MVP should be treated as MMP, not as a stage to some distant “future product”.

    For instance: you launched your MVP and started learning, people like it and purchase your product – is it already MMP?

    • Hi Andrzej, Thanks for your comment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with equating MVP and MMP – as long as you are aware of what you are doing. My intention was to bring some attention to the fact that originally, an MVP was defined as a learning vehicle not as the first major release or product version and that it should hence only big enough to facilitate the desired learning. Does this help?

  14. […] Roman Pichler’s blog on Minimum Viable Product vs Minimum Marketable Product […]

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