Personal Minimum Viable Product

When we think about working on a project, we think about what we need to get across the finish line. But how often do we stop to consider our personal work product? What minimum viable product is appropriate for the work we create and deliver?

What is a Minimum Viable Product or MVP?

Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is often used to identify the deliverables needed to get a new system into production with enough functionality to be productive but not every bell and whistle that would delay release. For example, we need all the coverages identified in the advanced product designer, but we might not hold up Production release to code workflows that only happen once in a decade. That might wait until a maintenance release or the next project phase.

Misunderstandings Lead to Project Rework

If we have learned anything from waterfall methodology, it’s that delivering exactly to spec is often only a starting point, with rework necessary because of misunderstandings. What we deliver to the client should be more than pixels; it should be a clear picture. In working with a project team recently, they provided some research to show from query results that an expected number of forms were in the database. It’s a true, accurate answer. But it’s insufficient. The business side user never queries the database directly. And the UI doesn’t coherently reflect the count from the database. And so the user promptly returned with a verdict of fail. Had the team viewed the work from the user perspective, they would have provided, not just the count, but the actions needed to show how the different UI screens correctly added to the result.

Demonstrate an Understanding of the Users’ Perspective

It’s not just about our work deliverables but how our work is presented and consumed. If we take the time to make sure recipients can follow the logic, with the tools they have, it saves not just research and rework time, it gives them confidence in our output. Recognition, by the users, that we understand their perspective is one of the most valuable commodities we can possess. We can make their job easier by providing the appropriate links to related pieces in our output or the context to make sense of the answer. If we know the output is going to be sent further down the line, give some thought to what context someone who wasn’t part of the discussions might need in consuming the result.

The Spec Alone is Not a Minimum Viable Product

Obviously, there is a balance to be struck on how much effort we put into something. A half-hour effort should not incur 3 hours of packaging. However, the minimum is not just the spec. It’s the explanation or unit testing, or simply providing context. The answer of 317 forms is just data. Stating 317 forms found out of 323 expected forms and here are the missing ones, is genuine information. It’s actionable information. That’s minimum viable product.

Setting a Higher Standard for Your Personal Work Product Benefits Everyone

It’s easy to forget that others were not part of the original conversations or privy to the tools and knowledge we have. MVP is the deliverable plus enough information to put it to use. When we view our personal work product from that perspective, it’s a higher standard and makes us that other MVP – most valuable player.

Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Companies. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, project management, configuration management, and automation.