Principle two: Create a true MVP (Part Two)

  • Ideation and hypothesis building
  • Validation
  • Mapping the backlog
  • Refining the backlog

Map the backlog (or feature/story mapping)

I personally think a visual map is more effective than a spreadsheet for initial backlog mapping, it allows us to structure the epics and features in an easily digestible manner, backlogs can be rearranged or restructured and it is a good way of understanding overall backlog size.

  1. List features vertically under the epics
  2. Feature titles should be simple one-liners
  3. Capture all ideas at this point, try not to get too concerned about size, unless it gets unwieldy or takes too long

Refine, refine, refine

Once you have a backlog all mapped out, it’s time for the fun bit… you have to carve out a lean MVP from that backlog.

STEP 1: Cut out the nice to haves….

  1. Draw a line to the right of your current backlog
  2. Go through each epic and ask how it helps achieve the goal, if the team feels it doesn’t add enough value, move the epic and all features beneath it to the right side of the line
  3. Draw a line under the current features
  4. Go through each feature under the remaining epics and ask how it helps achieve the goal, if it doesn’t add enough value then move the feature below the line
  5. If you can’t make a decision whether something should be in or out, move it into a grey “should have” section and come back to it later.

STEP 2: Estimate and break apart

Go through the remaining items and estimate however you feel is best. Some teams use story point, some teams use t-shirt sizes, others just an arbitrary scale. I personally think the quickest way to estimate is t-shirt sizes. This needs to be done as a cross-functional group, with the PO available to answer questions. Capture feature priority (based on user/business value), decisions, assumptions and hypothetical solutions for later.

2.1 Find creative solutions to complex backlog items

The solution doesn’t need to be the most technically advanced solution or a super slick fully automated process, it just needs to do the job and get the product into the market as quickly as possible while delivering on the success metrics agreed.

2.2 Break down features into granular atomic components

Often a feature can have a large surface area of functionality and it’s hard for the team to decide if it should be in or out of scope. Break the feature down into logical parts and then reprioritise what should be in or out of scope. Quite often you’ll find that the feature can be broken down into many parts and only a small percentage of those needs to be built for the MVP.

STEP 3: Plan

This doesn’t have to be exhaustive, you just need to get an idea of the key risk areas, sequence of events, external dependences and a gut feeling that given a certain team size you can fit the amount of work defined into the timelines available.

Conclusions…

In these articles, we’ve discussed the high-level stages a team needs to move through to define a truly lean MVP. The team needs to…

  • Perform research to inform production definition
  • Ideate and hypothesis solutions
  • Validate hypothesis and assumptions
  • Map the MVP backlog
  • Refine the backlog to focus in on the core value of the MVP

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