In the context of Lean Product Development, there are now a number of acronyms in circulation among Product Managers and Agilists and many of them are similar and seem to overlap. In essence, they are all rooted in the belief that it doesn’t make sense to launch and release complete, feature-rich products which take many months (or even years!) to develop without first obtaining market feedback to validate that one has a good understanding of the problem to be solved and a viable solution for it.
Here is how I personally make sense of the various 3-letter acronyms and related concepts (full disclosure: this is my thinking and may not fully mesh with the official definitions):
- Experiments: When we put up experimental landing pages describing a product with means to “sign up” for more information etc, there is no product here, at best a description and/or depiction of a potential future product. While great for learning, I would not use any terms that include the word “product” because we really don’t have one yet. The same applies to mock-ups, prototypes, etc. Those make no product although these artifacts can be very useful learning devices. Experiments take place before an actual product exists.
- MVP (Minimally Viable Product): This is a production-worthy actual product with the smallest feature set to make it useful for users and allow the company to obtain feedback from the market, which can then be used to further iterate on the product, including more significant pivots. The MVP has hopefully been validated by earlier experiments before being built. One catch: If we release what we think is an MVP and the market response is horrible and it crashes and burns (it doesn’t meet market needs and fails defined product success measurements), I would argue it wasn’t actually viable to begin with. While not always fun, a failing MVP is a good thing (remember “fail fast”?) because the early learnings will result in significant savings because we don’t end up developing the full product, just find out months later that it fails. The MVP is about validation and obtaining market feedback.
- MLP (Minimally Lovable Product): Some found that certain MVPs were so minimalistic and spartan that they weren’t appealing to users. What was missing was the ability of users to form an emotional connection to the product. Hence people started using the term MLP to denote that the product must be enjoyable for the users. Then again, one could argue that maybe then the MVP as such wasn’t really viable since it was missing things to make the product compelling. The MLP emphasizes the emotional connection with the users.
- MMF (Minimally Marketable Feature): The MMF is very close to the MVP (at least in my mind), except it focuses on marketing the product. Maybe this distinction is more significant in cases where the users of the product are not the same as the people who buy and pay for it. The MMF is about wether a product is sufficiently developed in terms of feature set to be marketed and sold.
So really, apart from early experiments, MVP, MLP and MMF are all very closely related; they just seem to each emphasize certain aspects more than others.
Product folks out there, does this resonate with you?