5 Risks Of A Bloated MVP

A while back, a colleague of mine told me about an incident with his 10-year old son. His son and a few of his class mates entered a build-a-robot competition and were competing with other teams at state level. The robot was to throw tennis balls into a small basket from a distance of 15 feet. During one of the rounds of that competition, they realized that a particular functionality in their robot had stopped working and needed a fix. With very little time before the start of the next round, they started fixing that issue and were able to resolve it and test it out successfully.

All set to go into the next round with a better version, someone in the team pointed out that the ball throwing mechanism could be made better and more accurate with a little tweak. My colleague tried to convince his son and his team mates to go in with the current version that they had, as they were highly likely to miss the boat if they tried the tweak. According to the competition rules, a team would be disqualified from proceeding further if it was not present at the designated start time for the next round. Guess what, the “little” tweak took way longer than expected and the team was disqualified from the competition as they couldn’t complete it in time.

This is a good analogy to understand the predicament of technology companies regarding the decision about what should be rolled out in the MVP version and when should that exactly happen. The seduction of more is very sweet and hard to guard against. A company can make or break its own success by this very decision.

Everybody loves to have a product that would cater to the needs and wishes of all the 7 billion 42 million 10 thousand 4 hundred and 7 people on this planet. But being able to do it on day one of the roll-out will take a lot of effort, sweat and dough. The golden question to ask is – are all the needs and wishes of all those people required in v1.0? If not, which ones are? This set needs to be well thought out and well defined, and then strongly guarded against creep.

If the MVP version starts to bloat, the business risks the following:

Building Something That Has Not Been Validated By The Customer

A product, however greatly designed and built, can only be truly great if it has been validated by the customers. The feedback from the customer, good or bad, would be the best source for setting the direction of the product road-map. The sooner the business can start making that happen, the better it is for everyone. The best domain expertise, product development knowledge or engineering practices don’t bring in revenue through the door. Only the customer paying for it does.


Leaving The Gap Open For Someone Else To Fill-in

Ideas are dime a dozen these days, and probably always have been. There is all the probability in the world that someone else would also have already thought of the amazing idea that you have come up with. What differentiates is the execution and being able to take it to the market quickly. If you don’t launch soon, someone else will.


Rolling Out An Already Outdated Product

Trends and customer requirements change fast, especially in the technology industry. Change could occur due to numerous reasons – government regulations, hardware innovation, competitor activity, etc. This could impact the business positively or negatively. If the product doesn’t roll-out soon, businesses leave themselves to an increasing chance of becoming a victim of change.


Frittering Away Too Much Cash

Saving cash is important, especially for startups and early stage companies where the idea has not been fully tested yet. If the company bleeds too much cash in the early stages without going to market, it would have nothing to show for all the money that has been spent. The investors would be worried about seeing no returns on money already invested, and the management would be worried about not leaving enough in the bank for pivoting if needed.


Setting An Internal Trend Of Sluggishness

Fast turnaround time is very important, and this should be built in the DNA of the company. Elon Musk was recently in the news for taking a customer complaint from idea to execution in 6 days. You read it right – 6 days! That’s what has made Tesla what it is today. If the company doesn’t work to instill this habit into everyone – from the CEO to the lowest level, it would be leaving itself vulnerable to sluggishness in the times ahead.