MVP can be a huge win for businesses and product owners when it validates assumptions and allows continuous delivery of value to users
There has been plenty written about MVP and plenty of analogies to help explain MVP, yet many companies and product owners continue to struggle with what it is and how it works.
This stems partly from the old days when, if IT didn’t deliver everything, they were probably never going to deliver it.
Also, in large organizations, requirements are crafted by several business units which might get together over a period of time to define the requirements, not from an MVP perspective, but rather a full product delivery perspective. This model of Wagile makes it difficult for the product owner to go back to ask for the business to determine MVP.
Here are steps the program manager can take to combat MVP misconceptions and help organizations and product owners get the most out of Agile:
Clearly Define MVP
Make sure your product owner understands the definition of MVP; make it contextual to meet the particular situation and organization. MVP is determining and delivering features for a product that will allow the business to continue to build and learn. This is a huge win for the business and the product owner, because it validates assumptions made and allows for the continuous delivery of value to the users.
Business Processes Should Support MVP
MVP is very much in the lean, fail fast, startup mode of software development. It is a welcome idea for those that are in that mode, but can be challenging for those that are not. If your product owners still have the waterfall mindset, they fully expect to define all the requirements and have developers deliver all the requirements. If the business processes do not support Agile, that will need to be addressed first. This might require bringing in Agile coaches to help the business transform their mindset and processes. Without taking this step, the organization will continue to struggle to realize Agile benefits.
Get Buy-in from the Product Owner
Help the product owner make the necessary mind shift. Trying to deliver all features at one time will mean a product that might not meet user needs and takes longer delivery cycles. Helping product owners shift their mindsets will require coaching and alignment as the product features are defined and groomed. The program manager can continue to ask, “Is this MVP?”, so that a distinction is made between the product vision and MVP.
Have a Product Roadmap and Release Plan
A product roadmap and release plan are crucial to inform business stakeholders when they can expect capabilities to be delivered. The roadmap must be owned by the product owner. It might seem like a contradiction to have a roadmap if requirements are continuously changing; the key here is the level of granularity of the roadmap. The roadmap should focus on goals and benefits and should be communicated and updated regularly. If Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) is not the delivery mechanism, then a release plan will communicate when features will be delivered, allowing the business to plan all supporting functions like marketing, training and communication. If delivering through CI/CD, then features will be released as they are.
The best way to build trust is to deliver on product goals and benefits. Agile teams that work closely with the product owner will build trust that they will meet organizational goals. The program manager needs to not only manage and coach the team, but also ensure product owners understand their roles and can execute. An experienced program manager steeped in Agile can do this and recognize when additional help is needed for the team, the product owner or the organization.
When delivering using Agile, the product owner is in the driver’s seat to determine what needs to be delivered, while IT has more flexibility on executing to fulfill those needs. Help them understand that and you unlock a lot of value.
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