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Use Product Journey Maps to plan your next MVP

    Product Journey Maps are a great tool to identify the list of capabilities customers care, prioritize them in multiple releases, and clearly visualize what the MVP should look like. It’s a tool that can be used by product managers, startup founders, and anyone interested in planning a new product or service. In addition, they create alignment and transparency among all the people involved in a new product development project, providing a space to have conversations about priorities and trade-offs.

    The value of an MVP

    A few months ago I was giving a speech on Product Journey Maps at an Agile conference and a developer approached me saying: “I wish I had known this a year ago!”

    He later explained that about a year before he had been contracted by a company to build a new complex system, and do it all at once. The company gave him a comprehensive list of requirements that clearly explained what the customer wanted, and requested a deliverable within six months. He explained to me that by the time he was done building the system as specified in the requirement document, the company had gone bankrupt. He sighed, then added that he never got paid. “If I had known how to plan an MVP, I would have suggested that to my customer, and I would have built only a small piece of the whole system”, he added.

    Ever since Eric Ries popularized the concept of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), companies, startup founders, and consultants all strive to build an MVP first. The MVP is a hot buzz word these days, yet the reality is that often the real meaning of an MVP is misunderstood. Many consider an MVP as a “Beta release”, or the minimum set of capabilities they can get away with. They trim down the list of features of their product so that they can build it quickly. There are certainly advantages at trimming down the first release and get to market quickly, but the features in an MVP should be chosen carefully based on a set of hypotheses that the team needs to validate.

    It’s always said that customers are not looking for features, but they want to solve their problems and they care about the overall experience. Even a great product that provides a terrible experience won’t survive long in the market. What these people forget to consider is that an MVP is not intended for launching a product quickly, but rather to learn as much as possible from their customers. The goal of an MVP is to identify the minimum set of capabilities needed to validate a core set of hypotheses about your business and test for market-solution fit. If these hypotheses don’t hold true, you basically have no business – you need to pivot. The sooner you validate your business idea, the sooner you learn if your business is viable or if you need to change direction.

    How a Product Journey Map helps

    Working on a Product Journey Map is a great way to bring people together in the same room (virtual, if necessary), align on priorities, and define what can be done to build an MVP.

    Capital One success story

    We used this tool at Capital One to create alignment and to plan the release of a new strategic enterprise tool. At the start, it was a huge, multi-year endeavor and we didn’t have senior leadership support (i.e. budget) to cover it all. So we said, “what is the minimum we can build to deliver an experience that our users would like and to validate a key hypothesis we have on this product?” If that held true, we could go back to senior leadership with a case for an increase in budget.

    In 4.5 months we were live in production with an MVP. It did only one thing, but it was the one thing that in our mind was the most important to validate because it could potentially change the paradigm of how our bankers interacted with our customers. We validated it and got feedback from both bankers and customers that we were on the right track. This set the wheel in motion for building a bigger and more complex tool that later was considered the largest Saleforce implementation in the Financial Services industry to date.

    The Product Journey Map allowed this to happen by creating alignment on the objectives, defining the priorities, and keeping the focus on the MVP first, and future releases later.

    Product Journey Map at Capital One
    Product Journey Map for a large software project at Capital One, with an 18-step journey and 7 User Personas

    G4S success story

    At G4S, a large multinational physical security provider, an innovation team was stuck. They had an idea for a new platform and had been talking about it for months, but somehow couldn’t come to define a plan for action and get the process started. The project felt overwhelming and different stakeholders had different ideas about it, further contributing to the paralysis.

    We organized a 2-day Product Journey Mapping workshop with a group of stakeholders and the innovation team. We split the participants into two teams and had each team conduct activities to define their ideas and priorities, and then share with the other team. This provided the space for a more open discussion of ideas without a dominant voice in the room.

    At the end of the workshop not only we had a clear plan to build an MVP and future releases, but also we had broken down the work into a backlog of User Stories that the development team could begin building right away.

    Download our How-To Guide to Product Journey Maps and MVP and get you started on the process. You can always reach out if you need help.

    Workshop on Product Journey Maps and MVPs
    Workshop on Product Journey Maps and MVPs, to learn how to use the tool and plan a new product

    Learn how to create a Product Journey Map and download our How-To Guide to Product Journey Maps to get started on the process. You can always reach out if you need help.