MVP is an overused, confusing and misunderstood buzzword promoted by product managers. It means different things to different practitioners and stakeholder. Stop using it. In most cases doesn't even make sense!
In standard agile development Minimal Viable Product is typically referring to the next release. It is a list of features that the next release to customers needs to include. In project manager terms it means scope (So why not just say scope?).
Lean methodology such as Lean Startup, Lean Enterprise or Lean UX reframe the term MVP to mean experiment (or hypothesis) to drive the "build, measure and learn" cycle. In a lean context MVP refer the least work to validate an assumption quickly and cheaply. Lean MVPs include a video, a landing page, a smoke test, wizard of oz MVP, concierge MVP, a prototype or even a drawing. In lean it is common place to plan multiple MVPs to inform the team what to build as version one. This really confuses stakeholders who question "Your going to build 3 Minimal Viable Products in 12 weeks? Why?" - there is only one Minimum.
In an attempt to force the acronym to make sense some practitioners have added an "e" to give us Minimal Viable Product Experiment written as MVPe. At least this differentiates from scope and make it clear we are talking about an experiment.
The phrase was originally from tech start ups where MVP was the least scope required for a product to be valuable enough that customers will pay for it. Logically there can be only one Minimum Viable Product, release 2 is no longer minimum!
I prefer to avoid the phrase, it's loaded with confusion. I try to adopt the following:
- Minimum Viable Scope (MVS) (ie scope for next release)
- or in lean be simple and call an experiment - an experiment. If you feel queasy without a 3 letter acronym to add mystery and importance then knock yourself out and call it Product Value Experiment (PVE).
Product management is a practice that demands great communication, having to teach stakeholders what a phrase mean is a failure - so let's kill MVP!