What is a minimum viable product (MVP)?
A minimum viable product, commonly referred to as an MVP, is the minimal experiment or product required to validate whether it would be worthwhile to invest in developing a more fully-fledged version of a specific product or feature.
That an MVP can be either an experiment or a product is some cause for confusion.
MVP as experiment
The concept of MVP was introduced in book Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The book is an adaptation of lean product development, and takes the concept of reducing waste even further, by pushing as far as possible to defer even developing the product.
In this original sense of the concept, where the MVP is more of an experiment than a product, the MVP is a technique for solution risk validation in the Discovery step of the product management process.
MVP as small feature
The term MVP has also come to be commonly used more generally as a push to release minimal versions of new features, to not waste development efforts on over-designing and over-engineering a sophisticated feature beyond what is useful to users.
Here, the idea is more to release a minimal version of a feature, and to collect feedback on it, before investing to develop it further. Such an MVP is often restricted to a limited set of users in a beta release, as it is intended primarily for testing and generating user feedback.
User story mapping is a common and effective technique for collaborating with team and stakeholders to find such a minimal viable feature. It is a core part of the Refinement step of the product management process.
Beyond the MVP
If the MVP was an experiment, and it was successful, then the next step is to build an MVP version of the product or feature tested.
If the MVP was a product or feature, and the feedback received was that user would like it, but that what was developed was not quite enough, then the next step is to build the minimum lovable product (MLP).