Wither the MVP, rejoice in the old fashion art of product development

Music: Why must I chase the cat

Read this article  by Bill Aulet which was posted in Venture Beat. While phrases like “Minimum Viable Product” and “Lean Startup” are in vogue these days. Aulet takes us back to yesteryear. Back to a time where a product was a combination of assessing the market, querying potential customers, and most importantly, having some significant vision.It seems that lately, the “product” cycle is more about rapid iteration. I won’t deny that this approach facilitates some forward progress. However I need to also comment that it does tend to drive things in the direction of micro-iteration, which then consumes development resources in ways which generate lots of lines of activity in support of “features” while  at the same time taking resources away from deliberations and thinking which might foster the development of a truly innovative product and/or additions to them.

I liken it to the hardware world when the first PALS (Give me a 22V10 or give me death) and FPGA’s (Field Programmable Gate Array’s) came on the scene. Both of these were a type of hardware device which could be programmed to function in whatever way the designer desired. If, after programming, you didn’t like what it had, you could “erase” it and try again. This was a boon for hardware developers. Gone were the multi-month waits after taping our chip to get an actual piece of physical hardware back.You could literally try two or three implementations of a design out each day.You could fix bugs rapidly. You could add a “feature” in as fast as you could think it up. Oh my, “Slap me, I must be dreaming”, or so we thought.

That’s where the problems began. It was precisely because you could iterate rapidly (in hardware development terms) that features were added which maybe weren’t necessary even thought they added to the overall feature count of the product. Worse still, there was a marked drop in quality as the game became about spinning and getting something into the lab quickly to “show”. What is now called an MVP I supposed

In Mr Aulet’s piece, he points out how  becoming enamored with getting something built, coded etc.., can get in the way of the real work of true product development.To wit, you become a slave to the release cadence.

It’s great to see the software side of the business get some exposure and lead the charge forward. I hope part of the charge forward includes reflecting on lessons learned from others. One can only hope…

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