Are MVPs (i.e., creating Minimally Viable Products) a good idea for startup companies? Or for existing companies that want to create a new product or service?
Yes, absolutely! Why? I want to answer this “Why” question in this post. This idea is important and appropriate before I get into the short series of posts I mentioned in a previous post: Can non-geek startups get suitable software solutions.
First, what is an MVP? MVP = Minimally Viable Product
An MVP is the idea that you can create and release or sell a very, very small product with very few required features. This small product makes it faster and easier to get the product into the market, and to get proof of whether the concept in the product actually works or not…i.e., are customers willing to pay for it or not.
This idea applies not only to creating a new product from scratch, but also applies to adding new features to an existing product, as well as companies that provide services as opposed to products.
Now the question is, why should you do this? I see 3 reasons why:
- Cheaper – It takes less money, as well as effort and mental energy, to create a much smaller product
- Quicker – It takes less time to create the much smaller product.
- Last Risk – You risk less money, which then puts less money
- Faster to market – You can create the product and get it into customers hands sooner. This is often important when customers tastes and preferences change very quickly these days, and your competition is often reacting much quicker to your same customers changing preferences.
- Make money sooner – You are able to start earning money soon because of the two benefits above.
- Quick proof of the concept – You are able to learn if you’re product is any where close to hitting the mark as a result of the “Faster to market” and “Make money sooner” ideas above. The idea is that if you make any money at all, you can then figure out that you might actually have something good.
To execute an MVP is much, much easier and cheaper than creating a full blown product that has so many features that you “think” are necessary for the first version. But keep in mind the problem with creating an MVP is the tough decisions you have to make to strip away the fluff and figure out what really is minimally viable and a must-have to release the product.
We apply this idea to many projects in custom software solutions we create for our customers. Those projects are often situations where the customer wants to start a new line of business in an existing, well established company. Additionally, they are also often new companies or individuals starting a new company that wants to create a new product or service.
The solutions we create end up being small custom desktop applications or a new custom web application. Often enough, we end up continuing to modify and extend the solution over time, or the customer grows sufficiently that they can take over maintenance and improvement of the product in-house.
In the last post I was talking about when custom software might be the next step in the progression of using software to track and report on data about one’s business. To continue…
That next level is a software application which uses a database to store the data behind the scenes. That software will display forms to enter data, have buttons to run automated processes, have reports to pull data together from various places, all enabling you to enter, edit, and view reports on your data pretty easily…especially compared to the Excel scenario.
The software solution can come in two basic forms:
- Off the shelf (OTS) software
- Custom software
Off the shelf software can solve the issues of many businesses. QuickBooks is a great example of this. It has a place to work with much of the data discussed above.
But if your business is a little bit different than what QuickBooks allows you to handle you either suffer through those differences by doing some things in Excel again along with QuickBooks (which is going back to a cumbersome scenario), or you have a custom software application written.
I’d venture to guess that a fair many companies find that QuickBooks or some other off the shelf application doesn’t work exactly the way they want. They’ll often consider custom software. Custom software is often more expensive than off the shelf software, but it can also save users lot’s of time, prevent many mistakes, provide more useful reports on data than otherwise possible, and thereby enable the business owners to save and make a lot more money than otherwise possible.
So if you find yourself with too many Excel files, you might want to give serious consideration to an off the shelf solution, or creating a custom software solution…which is, of course, what we do day-in and day-out.
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