What Is a Minimum Viable Feature?
A Minimum Viable Feature (or MVF) is a small-scale feature that can quickly be built and rolled out—using minimal resources—to a target population to test the feature’s usefulness and adoption.
An MVF should provide clear value to users. User feedback, in turn, should provide valuable guidance on future feature iterations and product development.
Why Is an MVF Important to Product Management?
An MVF, sometimes referred to as an experimental feature, is similar to a minimum viable product (MVP) but at the feature level. An MVP can help an organization understand whether the problem it seeks to solve is one people need help with. On the other hand, an MVF can help an organization determine whether the proposed solution is the right one.
Startup mentor Greg Meyer writes:
“A Minimum Viable Feature is not just the lowest common denominator of the thing the customer wants you to do and the way you want to do it. It is a carefully considered construction that delivers the job the customer wants to accomplish while laying the groundwork for how similar customers might want to use that capability.”
The MVF approach provides the opportunity to test an idea by building just enough of a feature to assess its usefulness without allocating the full force and expense of the product team’s resources. User feedback gleaned from the test can then inform decisions that help the team build a better, more polished product.
Best Practices for a Minimal Viable Feature
To be successful, an MVF must provide clear value to users and be easy to use. While an MVF requires minimal resources, industry and production-quality standards should guide design and reliability.
When choosing a user group for an MVF, consider customers who are early adopters, loyal customers who’ve shared insights previously, or members of a customer advisory board. They are more likely to provide useful feedback. Users from these categories are also more likely to be flexible and forgiving. Results will help you make strategic product decisions that will improve future iterations or determine whether or not to build the full feature or product.
Key Benefits of a Minimal Viable Feature
Building an MVF delivers two key opportunities:
- Test an idea with minimal resources
- Accelerate learning about a feature’s usefulness and adoption
Because an MVF uses minimal resources, it also reduces wasted engineering hours. It enables a product team to get a new feature to early customers as quickly as possible and establishes trust that an organization understands its users’ problems and helps solve them.