The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) unraveled


Sensemaking in the Agile Forest


By Henny Portman

The Netherlands

The agile concept MVP unraveled

The agile concept of Minimum Viable Product or MVP was conceived in 2001 by Frank Robinson and made popular ten years later by Eric Ries. The term MVP is popping up everywhere, but is it clear to you what is meant by MVP? In his book “The Lean Startup”, Eric Ries describes the Minimum Viable Product as follows:

  • An MVP helps entrepreneurs to learn as quickly as possible
  • It is not necessarily the smallest predictable product
  • Its purpose is to test a business hypothesis.

It all sounds clear, but what does it really mean? A few examples to clarify.

MVP or not?

A marketing manager of a financial institution has a great idea for a new financial product. She manages to get everyone on board and sets to work with several financial whiz kids to develop the financial product further in a few weeks. The management remains enthusiastic, and they decide to build and launch the product. The marketing manager starts a six-month project and develops the product. Parallel to this, the project team sets up an advertising campaign. The product launch takes place with a lot of fuss, many guests and champagne. Three months later, disappointment dominates. The product was not selling. A lot of development time and money had been wasted. Could it have been done differently?

A marketing manager of a financial institution has a great idea for a new financial product. She predicts that 15% of the visitors to their customer portal want this product. To test this hypothesis, this marketing manager has a button placed on the home page of their customer portal in a few hours. Pressing this button takes you to a screen where the product is explained in more detail and where you can leave your email address in case you are interested. Only 0.02% of the visitors show any interest. The marketing manager discards the idea without having wasted development time and money.

Some well-known organizations

The MVP of Dropbox was a simple movie explaining the Dropbox concept. After measuring and comparing the number of positive reactions with the prediction, the development was successfully started.

Zappos, the online shoe shop, tested the concept of selling shoes online by using a simple website with pictures of shoes made in different shoe shops. If a customer wanted to buy a pair of shoes, Zappos would buy them in the shoe shop and then send them out. Beforehand, nobody believed that there would be people who wanted to buy shoes online. However, the simple website showed the opposite. And based on valuable feedback from the first customers, a successful organization was created.


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Editor’s note: This is the second article in a series by Henny Portman, one of the world’s leading authorities on “agile”. Based in The Netherlands, Henny coined the term “agile forest” in 2019 to describe the many agile frameworks that have emerged over the last 20 years.  This series is intended to help readers better understand the agile concept, navigate through the ‘underbrush’ and more successfully apply whichever framework is selected for their projects.

How to cite this article: Portman, H. (2022).  The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) unraveled; Sensemaking in the Agile Forest, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/pmwj120-Aug2022-Portman-Minimum-Viable-Product-unraveled.pdf

About the Author

Henny Portman

The Netherlands


 Henny Portman, owner of Portman PM[O] Consultancy and was partner of HWP Consulting, has 40 years of experience in the project management domain. He was the project management office (PMO) thought leader within NN Group and responsible for the introduction and application of the PMO methodologies (portfolio, program, and project management) across Europe and Asia. He trains, coaches, and directs (senior) programme, project and portfolio managers and project sponsors at all levels, and has built several professional (PM(O)) communities.

Henny Portman is accredited in a variety of qualifications, including P3O, PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PRINCE2 Agile, AgilePM, AgilePgM and AgileSHIFT trainer and an SPC4 SAFe consultant and trainer. He is a P3M3 trainer and assessor and PMO Value Ring Certified Consultant (PMO Global Alliance). On behalf of IPMA, he assesses mega and large projects for the IPMA Project Excellence Award. In addition to this, he is an international speaker, author of many articles and books in the PM(O) field, and an active blogger (hennyportman.wordpress.com).

Henny can be contacted at henny.portman@gmail.com.

To view other works by Henny Portman, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/henny-portman/