Good Questions: MVP – defining where to start

A mini-series by Katie Stotter, Strategy Lead

Asking good questions, often, can help you find value, keep things moving, gain alignment, and so much more. Good questions create clarity, challenge assumptions, and allow teams to test the boundaries of a piece of work. In this short series, we share our experience of how to ask the right questions and give you the confidence to be curious and provocative to get results.

We’re big believers in experiments at &us. Experiments are great because they mean that you can learn as you go and then iterate quickly based on those learnings. But that also means that it’s important to start small by fixing your sights on a Minimum Viable Product.

“Minimum viable product” or MVP is a term originally defined by Frank Robinson and later popularised by Steve Blank and Eric Ries as part of the Lean Startup methodology. Ries defines an MVP as the version of a new product that allows the team to gather the maximum amount of proven customer knowledge with the least amount of effort.

Here are four essential questions to help you define an MVP that makes a meaningful impact:

Question 1: What’s a worthwhile business problem to focus on? 

Good solutions solve real needs. Start by identifying a business problem that needs solving–for example, perhaps you want to reduce the amount of time customer services representative takes to resolve a customer’s issue. You identify that a lot of time is spent searching for information as the representative must access several different systems to find the details they need. At this point, you might think creating a unified interface might be a great solution, but remember–start small! You don’t need to tackle the problem all in one go. Perhaps you could start with pulling data from just two systems into the same interface?

Question 2: Who’s it a problem for? 

You don’t always need to start with a problem that affects a large group of people. If you focus on a smaller user group first, you can always scale the solution later. Taking our customer services example above, perhaps you could start with a subset of their team who are serving particular kinds of customers or taking care of particular queries. Take the time to define the audience, their needs, and their context (how / where / when the problem is happening). By understanding their needs, you can better understand how to solve for them.

Question 3: What is the smallest, most meaningful thing we could do to solve this problem for them? 

Now you’ve taken the time to understand your users’ needs, and the problem at hand, pick off a smaller, manageable chunk to test whether your hunch is correct, and learn more. This question gets us to our actual MVP. 

To take our same example, this might lead you to decide on creating a single view of the data from the two most frequently used systems for customer services representatives, who are dealing with wholesale customers with a common technical issue.

Question 4: Who else would benefit from the same solution or a similar solution? 

This question helps us stretch beyond the MVP, to imagine the next step of our roadmap and scale our solution. 

These four questions should help you to decide what your MVP should be, it will help you start small, show progress often and hopefully get everyone excited about experimenting and learning.

If you’d like some help to get started, get in touch with us.