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Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and Minimum Viable Capability Release

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Reference Source: DODI 5000.87 Glossary


MVP: An early version of the software to deliver or field basic capabilities to users to evaluate and provide feedback on.  Insights from MVPs help shape scope, requirements, and design.


MVCR: The initial set of features suitable to be fielded to an operational environment that provides value to the warfighter or end user in a rapid timeline.  The MVCR delivers initial warfighting capabilities to enhance some mission outcomes.  The MVCR is analogous to a minimum marketable product in commercial industry.


Reference Source: DODI 5000.87 Section 3.3.b


The PM and the sponsor will use an iterative, human-centered design process to define the minimum viable product (MVP) recognizing that an MVP’s definition may evolve as user needs become better understood. Insights from MVPs help shape scope, requirements, and design.


The PM and the sponsor will use an iterative, human-centered design process to define a minimum viable capability release (MVCR) if the MVP does not have sufficient capability or performance to deploy into operations. The MVCR delivers initial warfighting capabilities to enhance mission outcomes. The MVCR for applications programs must be deployed to an operational environment within 1 year after the date on which funds are first
obligated to acquire or develop new software capability including appropriate operational test. If the MVP version of the software is determined sufficient to be fielded for operational use, the MVP will become the MVCR.

MVP / MVCR Guidance

Reference Source: USD(A&S) Guidance

The MVCR is akin to the Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) or Minimum Marketable Release (MMR) in commercial industry terms. Definition and delivery of the MVP, MVCR, and product roadmap inform a key business decision at the start of the execution phase. Programs must distinguish between an MVP (designed to deliver early functionality to inform the development process) and an MVCR (designed to deliver the minimum set of operational capability that provides enough value to the Warfighter/end user).

Minimum Viable Product

The main purpose of the MVP is to validate the need for the capability and gain user feedback on the new capability. The MVP must be sized as a manageable, demonstrable set of scenario threads through a minimal set of features. The MVP, by definition, should not include all the capabilities identified in the product roadmap. The MVP accelerates the learning process by delivering the minimum functionality necessary to elicit meaningful feedback from users quickly and, thus, enable continuous learning and iterating by the product team. Feedback from users can also state that the product/service is not needed, negating the need for future iterations.

An MVP is typically defined during project initiation and refined during subsequent planning periods. If external resources (i.e., contractors, system integrators, end users) are part of the team they take part in the MVP definition process.

Generating an MVP requires that programs put product teams and processes in place and that the teams execute the necessary processes. While the MVP is typically deployed to a production environment, programs may have constraints and/or needs that require a staging environment or other option for MVP deployment. This is acceptable and should be identified at the outset.

The Product Owner / Product Manager (collectively referred to as the Product Management team, for larger systems/solutions) and development team(s) need to work together to identify and agree upon the product MVP. The Product Management team is responsible for ensuring that the MVP provides business value, and the development team determines if the scope of the MVP is reasonable to allow delivery within the set period.

Minimum Viable Capability Release

An MVCR is designed to provide minimum capability that a Warfighter/end user can employ operationally. An MVCR has three key attributes:

Minimalistic: MVCRs must contain minimal capabilities that must be fielded to ensure acceptable safety, security, and performance. For example, a program cannot field a major software upgrade for an aircraft without airworthiness designation. MVCR releases of any scope should be minimal (as small as possible) but not to the detriment of the operational mission.

Rapid Validation: The MVP strategy relies on rapid user feedback to shape a product quickly. MVCR capabilities must be evaluated by testable measures of effectiveness. An essential part of the MVCR strategy is to establish early testing and validation that provide actionable feedback for timely updates.

Architecture: MVPs are often built in a software as a service (SaaS) and open source development ecosystem that is inexpensive, well understood, and stable. Where the MVP strategy takes a long-term, stable, and enabling architecture for granted, the MVCR strategy recognizes that architecture must be modular, well defined, and enduring to support the entire software lifecycle.

Maximize Use of Prototyping, Experimentation, and Minimum Viable Products.

A prototype or MVP in the hands of operators and engineers would accelerate learning and design of solutions beyond a team conducting a CBA or AoA. Portfolios should use the multiple prototyping pathways to the maximum extent before establishing a formal program or follow-on increment to shape scope and requirements. Iterative prototypes and MVPs would improve opportunities to exploit leading technologies and the chances of delivering high-value capabilities to Warfighters. 

Section 809 Panel

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