Pragmatically developing a new product or service helps businesses in many ways.  First, getting the product in front of the target market helps identify which features are essential, which are nice complements, and which are extraneous.  Spending time and money on extraneous features is frivolous.  Second, getting a product to market quickly helps generate the revenue necessary to continue future advancements.  Third, having shorter development cycles keeps people focused and maintains momentum.  Additionally, in the dynamic marketplace keeping managerial options available for effective resource allocation is vital.  And, on occasion, you find that the product or service you created with the best intentions really isn’t viable.  Better to learn that lesson quickly, for sure.

Enter a concept called “Minimum Viable Product”, which involves only the requisite feature set that allows a product to be launched and perform without error.  But, an important caveat must be considered about this concept.  An enterprise must be careful in how it deploys the product or service such that it isn’t considered underwhelming to the target market.

Years ago the idea of launching a minimally-viable product would forever doom the product’s chances for success.  Even now, this concept doesn’t work for many products.  There’s the obvious products.  Certainly nobody would want to fly a minimally-viable airplane or undergo a minimally-viable surgery.  Perhaps less obvious, it’s doubtful you would want to open a restaurant with a minimally-viable menu.  Here’s where the subtlety arises.  An aspiring restaurateur  might consider the menu to be an essential feature.  But, they could effectively launch by utilizing lower-cost equipment, a shorter-term lease, or in a smaller space in order to gauge their likelihood of success.

Today consumers are more accepting of minimally-viable products, particularly for digital initiatives.  Often, customers in the target market enjoy being able to use a beta version of a product or being able to contribute to the feature set.  Also, opening up an aspect of your product or service for contributions by third-parties can reduce costs, extend functionality, and help generate market awareness.

The notion of “minimally viable” can take many forms.  We encourage businesses to extend the concept throughout the supporting functions of the organization.  Before adding extensive infrastructure or equipment which may be required to support the new product or service in it’s steady state, think critically about the timing of such acquisition and whether an interim solution would be more prudent.

Regardless of how you employ the minimally viable concept, be sure that your organization is able to both understand and articulate where you are today and where you are headed with the new product or service.  The sales team which doesn’t believe in the product will not be able to sell effectively.  The same is true for the customer support team that is unnecessarily apologetic, and the marketing or communications function that doesn’t accurately or effectively communicate where your product is in it’s evolution.

Flatiron Resources is skilled at identifying opportunities to utilize this often approach and helping align the organization towards achieving success.