Disciplined Agile

MVPs and MBIs

Two of the key aspects of the DA™ mindset for Product Management are to take an experimental approach and to release a product incrementally. Experimentation is supported through the development of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and incremental releases of value by Minimum Business Increments (MBIs). These concepts, and more, are overviewed in Figure 1.

MVP Chart

Figure 1. The relationship between MVP, MBI, MMR, and MMF (click to enlarge) 

Let’s define what these terms mean:

  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) . An MVP is an investment in learning, an experiment where your goal is to explore what a potential customer wants.  To run this experiment you'll create a version of a product via the least effort possible so as to be used for validated learning about your potential customers. MVPs are experiments to explore a hypothesis about what your customers really want. They aren't to the “real” running version of your end product because they aren't at the level of quality or scale that you would produce for the end product. Having said that, I have seen MVPs evolve into a real product, or more accurately a real MBI, but more often than not they evolve into something more along the lines of a prototype (which is fine because they're an investment in learning and were never meant to be the real thing). A team typically runs the experiment with a subset of your potential customers to test a new idea, to collect data about it, and thereby discover customers are actually interested in. Note that the term MVP was coined by Frank Robinson at SyncDev in 2001 popularized by Eric Ries in Lean Startup in 2011.
  • Minimum business increment (MBI) . An MBI is the smallest piece of value that can be realized by a customer (internal or external) that is consistent with the strategy of your organization. An MBI adds value for your customers and leads to valuable feedback to the product team that the right functionality is being built and is being built in the right way. An MBI is a solution that contains all of the pieces that are required for value realization by customers. An MBI, when it is done right, is both an MMF and an MMR.
  • Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF) . An MMF is the smallest piece of functionality that can be delivered that has value to its customers, and thereby value to your organization. An MMF is a part of an MMR. The term MMF was first proposed by Denne and Cleland-Huang.
  • Minimum Marketable Release (MMR) . Successful products are deployed incrementally into the marketplace over time, each “major” deployment being referred to as a release. An MMR is the release of a product that has the smallest possible feature set that addresses the current new needs of your customers. MMRs are used to reduce the time-to-market between releases by reducing the coherent feature set of each release to the smallest increment that offers new value to customers. An MMR is one or more MBIs (ideally it is one).

In DA, we prefer to focus on the terms MVP and MBI because when you’ve streamlined your way of working (WoW) you discover than an MBI is an MMF that you release (so it’s also an MMR). Concepts like MMF and MMR are steps along the path to MBIs. For a more detailed discussion, please read Defining MVP, MBI, MMF, and MMR .