MVP Mindset – Part 3: Product Feature Tool

The Entrepreneur Tool Kit provides resources for validating, building, and iterating products, including the popular step-by-step Guide to Early Product Development. This article is part of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Tool Kit series. Click here for Part 1 – MVP Mindset Reduces Risk and Inefficiency and here for MVP Mindset Part 2 – Case Studies.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) methodology is used to help startups create products that people want to buy.

Eventually, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is all about focus and narrowing up, but not in the beginning. An effective MVP process starts by considering all the features a product could possibly have. Then, using an extensive and iterative process of surveys, interviews, and customer validation, narrowing down all those possibilities to an MVP to validate the hypothesis.

Moving from Brainstorming to Validated MVP

Identifying and differentiating product features and benefits is a cornerstone of the MVP process.

  • Features are often defined by the things (functions) a product does.
  • Benefits are customers’ outcomes or reactions to those features.

Don’t confuse the two.

A feature of Google Search is Google’s proprietary indexing and ranking algorithms. A benefit of Google Search is that it is easy to get relevant search results quickly.

A feature of iPhone XR is an A12 chip using 7nm architecture. A benefit of iPhone XR is that it runs graphics up to 50% faster and saves on battery.

Product Feature Exercise: Planning an MVP that Is Just Enough

Every member of the startup team can participate in this exercise. Bring every product idea you ever had, grab two colors (we use blue and orange) of Post-it® notes and some Sharpie®s, and let’s get to work.

Step 1: Create a product/solution statement. Below is an example; you can find additional examples in MVP Mindset Part 2 – Case Studies.

Problem: Current restaurant cleaning products fail to effectively remove fatty deposit and are environmentally harmful.

Solution: The company developed a plant-derived, all-natural and food-grade surface-cleaner that is applicable to all restaurant cleaning situations (excluding raw meat) based on technology licensed from The Ohio State University.

Step 2: Brainstorm every possible feature for the product described by your problem/solution statement. If you already have a feature roadmap, start pulling features from there. Hash out ideas/functions that you have been debating for months. Don’t argue over what is feasible or right. Write each idea on a Post-it and stick it on the wall.

Step 3: Cluster any features that seem similar. Eliminate duplicate features. Name the groups based on the benefits they provide (for example cost reduction, improved operations, increased user satisfaction). Write each group name on a blue label. Post one above each cluster.

Step 4: Place the groups in chronological order left to right (as best you can).

Step 5:  Within each group, prioritize the features vertically by necessity (from always to never). Multiple features can be grouped at the same level of necessity.

Step 6: Work as a team to determine where you believe your MVP line will be. Describe the product features that you placed above the MVP line. Explain why one or two of the features were placed outside the MVP line. How did your team come to that agreement?

Step 7: Invite peer review from customers, advisors, and business Will your MVP deliver value to the customers? Is there anything you can trim or simplify? What are your criteria for that? Did your MVP feature set agree with your customers?

Using the MVP approach gives startups the potential to speed up time-to-market and drive down long-term costs by prioritizing features that benefit customers most.