ProductTank: Avoiding the MLP trap

I love getting the chance to sync with product people. A conference, a webinar, or, in this case, a product meetup. 

In June, I was fortunate enough to attend a ProductTank event, with a talk from a Senior Product Manager at Flo Health, who gave a fascinating insight about avoiding the MLP/MVP trap. 

ProductTank: A history 

ProductTank are volunteer-led events run in locations all over the world - originally stemming from Mind the Product, a conference for product people.  

The meet-ups give product people the chance to connect with peers in their local community, network, and hear inspiring stories from their industry. 

The IRIS team has been an ever-present at the Birmingham events that ProductTank run for while now - Brum is our home after all - but if you’re not local, you'll also find ProductTank events in cities all across the UK and locations across the world. 

You can find your local ProductTank here.

How are IRIS involved? 

At IRIS, we’re hugely passionate about the growth of the product community, and our beloved Birmingham. 

Coming from the product world ourselves, with our close links with 383 Project and Canvas Conference, it’s our mission to be a positive influence on the community by Building extraordinary product teams for our clients. 

We love meeting new product people, learning about their teams and personal aspirations, chewing the fat on product and the sector, and ProductTank is an amazing, and local, platform to do this.  

We want to help show our support to the Birmingham event's growth, and so became its headline sponsor this year.

Our sponsorship means we can help the organisers secure a classy venue, and more importantly attract great speakers! 

The speaker at our last event - Alison Paul, Senior Project Manager at Flo - was no exception, travelling from London especially - obviously to see what she was missing out on in the 2nd city!  

Alison’s talk was killer, here's what we found out!

Alison’s talk 

There was heaps of inspiration that we could take away from Alison’s presentation, who based her talk around the development cycle of the Flo Chatbot. Covering how they created prototypes, user tested and adapted to support business growth. 

Alison explained that they didn’t have the luxury of time to do months and months of discovery when looking to improve the chatbot, and resorted to lean discovery and lo-fi prototypes to conduct user testing. This helped them get to a concept quickly and showed promise, and importantly, traction with their users. 

Once this was established, they could create a hi-fi prototype, which helped map the possible future - bringing the concept to life was the first step for the development team to get strong senior buy-in.

Knowing they needed more traction for the senior buy-in, they pitched the chatbot evolution as a growth strategy. Using the prototypes, they were able to show the potential in the data from testing, and the market opportunity for their new chatbot.  

The team were able to support this through showcasing problem definition, potential HowMightWe's, user needs, a hypothesis and linking the development to business goals and to company OKRs - so it’s aligned and people around the business understand why they were making the changes. 

As the title of her presentation suggests, it wasn’t always plain sailing in development. And there is, inevitably, tension when working between creating a decent user experience and remembering the purpose of an MVP. 

She explained how easy it was to fall into the trap of an MLP (Minimal Loveable Product - similar to an MVP, but with more thought and care taken in design and UI. It aims to solve the problem, but also delight the user) when trying to create the MVP. 

Alison was challenged by her peers to keep out of the MLP trap and answer the following questions to not get carried away with development: 

  • Do we really need it? 
  • Can we launch without this?
  • What are we testing?

She found that asking these questions really helped scale back to an MVP - Alison even admitted that she herself had never really understood what an MVP was and had been unknowingly creating MLPs for years. 

But by not falling into the MLP trap, you can be more objective about what you are creating and think - ‘what is enough to release in the MVP to gather potential positive user indications and ship a product quickly in order to learn?’ 

Join us next time

If you missed Alison’s talk, don’t worry, there is plenty of opportunity to join IRIS and ProductTank throughout the year!

If you want to be part of our growing ProductTank & IRIS community, we would love you to come along to our next event. 

You can sign up and join us here.

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Glen Duncan

28th June