Joe Leech

Introducing Maximum Viable Product (MaxVP)

We have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), now it’s time to define a Maximum Viable Product (MaxVP).

Eric Reiss, pioneer of the Lean Startup defines a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) having just those features that allow the product to satisfy a user need, and no more.

I’ve worked on many projects where we’ve defined the bare minimum feature set for the product to have any kind of success. I’ve yet to work on a project where we define the most we could or indeed should do to maintain the success of our product.

Introducing The Maximum Viable Product

We can define the Maximum Viable Product as a product that has just those features that allow it to be successful and no more.

The MaxVP is reached when your at the top of your game. Your product hums like a finely tuned engine. Business is booming.

But there’s that fear it’ll end. Maybe competitors are snapping at your heels or your internal process are at max. The most common course of action is possible the worst course of action. Keep adding features.

At what point does the addition of extra features detract from those features already present. This is not just the law of diminishing returns. Adding more bells, whistles and enhancements can mean that finely tuned engine that is your product sputters and stalls.

More features does not equal better

Adding in features is good right? It shows your product is evolving. Well not always.

Jobs to be Done can help here. Customers don’t choose our products based on features they choose our products based on their desired outcomes.

There is a point where the feature set we have meets our customers needs, our MaxVP. Where adding more features begins to have a detrimental effect on the user experience.

Any more and you hit feature rot.

“Every feature that’s squeezed in, in the name of giving your design a competitive edge, has been making your design less competitive.”

Jared Spool

Each additional feature we add chips away at the user experience.

It’s the reason Netflix doesn’t do music streaming. They could be they don’t. The relentless focus on being great at one thing is what drives so many successful businesses. read Jim Collins Good to Great for many more great case studies.

Finding our way

In product planning we have the concept of the product roadmap. The planned features and enhancements laid out chronologically. In 2 months we’ll add feature X. Then we’ll work on feature Y.

Yet we forget what a roadmap is. It is simply way of getting to a final destination. That final destination should be defined as the product vision or purpose and within that a series of product goals.

Fictive Kin, developed Slash Purpose to help organisations to define what is they and their products should do.

When we plan we need to define the purpose of our product. A set of criteria for us to judge when our product is at maximum viability, where nothing more can be added without a detrimental effect on the user experience.

Symptoms of Max VP

It’ll be a feeling. The team won’t be excited anymore. You’ll be copying features from your competitors. You’ll feel like you’ve lost your edge.

In the course of my job I see this again and again. More often than not the cause of a poor user experience in a mature product is the addition of superfluous features. Features for the sake of features.

The team can’t get excited about copying a me-too feature a competitor has introduced, adding a feature everyone knows is a bad idea because, well, there aren’t any new ideas to do instead. Innovation is not existent.

When Max VP is reached there is only one course of action before team morale hits rock bottom, go back to the drawing board.

This doesn’t mean we stop

In 2012 37 Signals, the creators of Basecamp rewrote the product from the ground up.

They realised they had hit the limits of the original Basecamp. Adding more features and enhancements was not going to improve the product. They realised they needed to start again.

Reimagined, rethought, and redesigned from the ground up. Everything was reconsidered. Every idea, every flow, every concept. Jason Fried, 37 Signals

Don’t stop when you hit Max VP. Go back to your original purpose, re-evaluate what makes your product the success it is. Focus on what makes your product great, not on adding features for evermore for the sake of it, you’ll have a better product and an happier product team.


I wrote an earlier version of this post at cxpartners.

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