Considering digital product development? Start Lean!


Written by Karl

April 09, 2020 | 4 min read

Being lean or creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) seems to be one of those buzzwords that everyone sprinkles into their modern business vocabulary with careless ease. However, using cryptic abbreviations isn’t necessarily the equivalent of expertise - it is often quite the opposite. So what is an MVP, how can you be lean and why should you start your digital journey from there? 

The term MVP is rooted in the startup culture but has gone mainstream in the last 5 years. There are also popular business books that you can read about lean startups and lean product development. Lean product development mainly means starting with an MVP. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a development technique used during uncertain circumstances (hint: coronavirus crisis), budget constraints or when there's a need for an iterative or agile approach. If you don’t have enough information about your end-users’ wants and needs, an MVP allows you to test fast and cheap. Moreover, if needed, it also helps your product fail fast (and cheap) - which is never a bad thing. To test the product and market, a product is built with just enough features to satisfy early users, and to provide feedback for future product development.

At Thorgate, we like to call this practice of preparing an MVP plan, a Lean Requirements Workshop. As the main goal of an MVP is to find out what works, the solution may consist of a combination of different digital products. Both minimality and viability are the core terms of this concept. 

Why everyone should start with an MVP 

MVPs are not only for startups, they’re for anyone who wants to begin digital product development. This includes traditional manufacturing companies, banks, and even public sector organisations. We must admit, for the latter, it might not be ideally suited due to bureaucratic procurement and budget rules, but with the current crisis E-governance is priority for many, and the lean way should definitely make this adaptation easier.  

The main reason to start with an MVP is of course the money. Especially in the current economic environment, this agile process keeps you from wasting money on pointless development and helps you learn by doing, making the process iterative and hence, lean. If you’re not exactly and entirely sure what you need, always start small. 

It’s also a great way to test out your development partner as well. Having good chemistry, collaboration and matching vision does play an important role in the development project’s success. With so many IT-companies out there, if you don’t have a long term trusted partner (or if this is your first project ever), it’s better not to commit right away.  

Additional read: Why it's important to hire the right team to speed product development 

How to do the MVP right? 

MVP is the cheapest functional option that gets a solution up and running. If you’re not sure if the people would use it or how exactly would they use it, you can test a hypothesis in the cheapest way possible. 

An MVP can just be a design prototype or even as simple as a well crafted Google Sheet. At Thorgate, we did a lean requirement workshop for a healthtech startup in Cambridge called HealX. We made them a design prototype, after which we and HealX understood that it doesn’t even make sense to develop the product as it doesn't solve their problem. This saved the client hundreds of thousands of pounds! 

“Thorgate really helped us structure our needs and has been a constructive partner throughout the process”    
- Michael Motskin, Head of Digital Strategy at HealX

The key to a good MVP analysis and development is strong cooperation between actual product users and product professionals. They should both be included in the process as early on as possible. Collecting and implementing user feedback is essential to building a product that users need and use. 

Including analysts, product managers, designers and developers can save a lot of money and headache early on. The product team has probably seen many digital projects during their career and can both suggest solutions and bring out common errors in the ideas. As development is the most expensive part of building a digital product, it’s critical to run all ideas past the people who will actually build the product and can make suggestions regarding the overall architecture. 

To help you define a good MVP, ask yourself the following questions. 

  1. Who is it for? Who are your product users? Are all those users necessary in the first phase? Maybe you can leave out some parties for the first phase?
  2. What do those product users want the most? What are the 20% of the functionalities that give 80% of the results? What can you leave out? 
  3. How could you test this hypothesis the most efficient way? Could you test it on a design prototype at first? Or start with a web app instead of a mobile app? 
  4. Could you use some other tools to get the same result? Maybe you don’t have to build everything from scratch? (E.g. using a cloud-based calculation sheet instead of a custom dashboard.)

Let’s get you started 

So if you have an idea and you'd like some consultancy, followed by a lean requirements workshop and an MVP to help you build your product in the cheapest way possible, you can get in touch with Thorgate.

At Thorgate, we always build digital products in three stages:

a) Product Analysis (MVP scoping) 

b) Design and

c) Development.

We don’t write a single line of code before the first two are done since our experience shows that writing code is too expensive to do it on a hunch. All our projects start with an MVP workshop that helps us determine project scope for the specific project/client. 

In summary - money spent on knowing what does or doesn’t work is not money wasted. 

If you need to discuss with someone experienced in product development, feel free to get in touch with me directly via I am always happy to help!

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