Are you building a minimum lovable product?
May 30, 2023

Are you building a minimum lovable product?

by Claire George

A delighted smile, big hug, spirited “Thanks, mom!” When my children were quite young, it was often the intangible rewards that resonated most with me. When you feel that your efforts are recognized, you have fuel to keep going. Most of us can relate in our professional lives — making an impact and knowing your work matters is powerful. This is especially true for product builders.

We all want to achieve something lasting — to build something that creates value and makes us proud.

It is no wonder that product managers often feel significant pressure. Especially in a down economy. There is greater expectation from customers, more accountability to meet business goals, and dwindling resources to do so — rushing to market with the basics is just not enough for success. You can no longer afford to deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

That is why most product managers have embraced the concept of a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) instead. We started to promote this concept 10 years ago and it resonated with many of you. Aiming for lovability means you care deeply about delivering immediate and tangible value to your customers.

Love can feel like a squishy metric for such consequential work. But it is possible to quantify and measure an MLP — you just need a consistent method for doing so.

We defined a product development model at Aha! that is centered around value. The essence is that you emphasize value delivery — to the business and to customers. Value is determined by your strategy, with product teams estimating and measuring at critical points in the product development cycle. It is the best way to gauge the lovability of what you are building as you are building it.

Our product team does this with a product value scorecard. We use the dynamic scorecard functionality that is included in Aha! Roadmaps. But even if your team is not yet using purpose-built product development software, you can benefit from scoring as a way to quantify and measure your MLP. Here is how we recommend you should work:

Estimate value

You need lovable ideas. But you also need to be grounded in reality. Balance the excitement by estimating the value of raw concepts early. Build this into your team's idea management process and make it a shared mindset. We suggest ranking all incoming feature requests and ideas by a value score and reviewing often.

Do not worry about getting the first estimate exactly right. The most common gap is how much effort will be required. It is hard to ascertain without more research and input from engineering. You can vet strategic alignment and customer impact though. Think of the score as dynamic — keep updating as fresh learnings emerge.

Involve the team

You need to give love context. Just because something scores high initially, does not mean it is worth investing in if it will eat up all of your engineering time. And just because you speculate that many customers will benefit does not mean that you are right. There are always tradeoffs and more research is needed to vet the value estimate.

Expose your assumptions. Use the uncertainty revealed in that initial score to drive the group's effort. As you engage with customers to better understand impact, update the score and share how (and why) it changed during team meetings. Over time, teammates can reflect on past value scores. Evaluate together how accurate those estimations were and where things went awry.

Compare estimates to actuals

You need to see if anyone loves you back. Up to this point your scorecard has been an informed — if somewhat one-sided — hypothesis. The real proving ground is in the go-to-market release. As users begin interacting and engaging with what you delivered, compare performance metrics to your value estimates.

This part is admittedly challenging. Get comfortable with nuance. Do not discount qualitative feedback — expressions of love via social media and even in support tickets. Take note of whether the responses are in line with value estimates. As you track quantitative data (such as product usage, new purchases and upgrades, and customer retention) see how reality aligns with your expectations.

Love grows from purpose, connection, and appreciation. But it only grows if you make a conscious decision to cultivate it over time.

You want to be sure that what you are working so hard on delivers the value that will inspire that customer love. Do not let the momentum fizzle out. The most important thing is that you create accountability and incorporate continual improvement into what comes next.

Scoring throughout the product development process helps channel everyone's effort towards that goal. It also provides your team with a way to define and quantify how close you are to achieving success — building confidence that the lovability of your product will hold.

Rise to your next product challenge. Try Aha! software today.

Claire George

Claire George

Claire is passionate about helping product development teams learn how to bring their strategy to life. She is the director of product marketing at Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software. Claire has 20 years of marketing and software experience. Previously, she led product marketing at an agile-based work management platform.

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