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Minimum Viable Product

When was the last time you complained about the food in a restaurant? I thought so. Most people will complain if they are offended by the quality or service; but if the food and/or service is just underwhelming then they won't complain, they will simply not return to the restaurant.

The same applies to software products, or to products of any kind. You will only get negative feedback from customers if they care enough to make the effort. In the meantime you are both losing out on opportunities and failing your core professional obligation.

Minimum Viable Product speaks to a desire to make your customers design your product for you. But, to me, it represents a combination of an implicit insult and negligence.

The insult is implicit in the term minimum. The image is one of laziness and contempt: just throw some mud on the wall and see if it sticks. Who cares about whether it meets a real need, or whether the customer is actually served.

The negligence is more subtle but, in the end, more damming. Imagine going to the doctor because your child is not feeling well. Suppose the doctor said to you: "well, I can give him antibiotics or an anti-inflammatory - which would you like?" This is not what you need to hear from a supposed professional. The doctor should know what to do and also know what is in the best interests of your child.

The same should apply to you when you design a solution for your customers: you need to be able to stand behind it and you need to be able to give your professional opinion that you are meeting your customer's needs – even if they have not expressed them. You may not know, and that is also Ok; so long as you are honest.

Rather than MVP, I prefer the term Initial Awesome Service. Initial, because this is actually a conversation and not a monologue. Awesome, because you have already really thought things through to the point where you are really doing something for people. Service, because you are offering to do something for the customer, not simply throw a gadget over the wall. The distinction between product and service is fuzzier than most people appreciate; but it seems to me the core of the relationship between providers and customers is one of service not product.

If I never hear the phrase MVP again, it will be too soon. But I would really prick up my ears when someone takes a more intelligent stand on the IAS.

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