MVP vs big bang release

With any new technology advancements in an organisation, there is always an urge to make a big announcement and launch a shiny new solution. Big bang releases give the impression that the world (or at least your customers) will be in awe and feel excited to take on your new offering. But the reality is that most successful software solutions have many “launches”, many iterations, and many invaluable learnings from being nimble and humble – by putting small scopes of useful software in front of users and adapting based on the findings.

Scope: Guessing what’s valuable

MVP

It’s no coincidence that MVP stands for both “minimum viable product” and “most valuable player”. Building an MVP is an exercise in hypothesising what the most valuable areas of a solution are in addressing a target audience’s needs and truly solving problems for them.

Every analysis and design exercise, even the ones that take end-users into consideration, are flawed. They work off what people say and do, and perceptions of how things work. But solutions are really hypotheses of what could work. Until a solution is in the hands of its users, it’s theoretical. The learnings can only truly begin afterwards.

 

Big bang

With big bang releases, scope is rigorously defined and executed on, without testing the assumptions made that created the scope. What we might think are the right solutions are often not, and this is only realised after a significant investment is already made.

Learning: Understanding what actually is valuable

MVP

By deploying a solution to a group of users quickly, we gain two primary benefits:

  1. Short feedback loops and learnings: Feedback loops help guide solutions towards what truly solves the problems at hand, or even highlights that the problem doesn’t really exist in the way we thought. By putting working software into the hands of users quickly, and carefully measuring their success, we can iterate quickly with gradual investment into the project. Furthermore, from a technical perspective, deploying iterative versions of solutions help avoid over-architecting technology, and creating systems that are hard to change and adapt.
  2. Advocates for the solution in the long-term: By allowing real-world users access to the solution early, you create a sense of ownership and acknowledgement. Users understand that you authentically care about solving their problems, can contribute to shaping the solution, and will help with change management and adoption of the solution as you progress.

 

Big bang

Typically, big bang releases set a high expectation that usually fall short. Learning only happens after a long period of time and significant investment. Reworking large solutions based on the learnings after a big release is also particularly challenging both from a technical and human perspective. Solutions would have already been architected to support all the assumed features and capabilities, and changing those fundamentals sky-rockets costs – all while adding little to no value towards the problems being solved. Furthermore, unsatisfied users are difficult to retain or capture again after their expectations were not met.

 Software solutions should centre around real problem-solving, validating assumptions, and iterating on releases. The only sustainable approach in an ever-changing world is starting small, testing your thinking, and gradually gravitating towards the optimal solutions through iteration.

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