Minimum Viable Products in the Medical Device Market

The Set Up

I was speaking with a prospective client recently. He wanted to know if I could help him define his MVP. MVP stood for Minimum Viable Product. A term he had picked-up at a lean start-up seminar. I told him that I could do that, if that was what he really thought he needed. I left him with a couple of questions and we agreed to meet again to discuss what it would take to define the MVP for him.

I asked him, “What was his objective of using the MVP style product devlopment process?”  His answer was, “I can’t afford to solve the whole problem, this way I can get something out generate sales so I can afford to solve the rest of it.”

The second meeting took over an hour and as hard as I tried I couldn’t get him to stop calling it the MVP. It set me to thinking about the term and the product that would result. Initially, I thought that I was just getting hung up in the words, (as a personal note I am trying to eliminate my need to be right).  So we laid out a plan to define the first of a multigenerational product development plan for his platform technology. He was delighted.

What is Meant by MVP?

When Eric Ries used the term for the first time he described it as: “A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

My client had gotten the impression that the goal of an MVP was about generating early revenue. Early revenue is a by-product. Nowhere, does Mr. Ries bring money into the picture. Validated learning is the goal of the concept. In the MVP concept, validated learning implies a real life use experience.

The Caution

We have to be careful when extending management (marketing) concepts a cross markets and industries. While there is a huge opportunity to learn from concepts formulated in other markets, sectors, industries and disciplines we can’t assume that they can be directly applied. We have to be good Marketers and review all the assumptions and environmental consideration and then apply them in our context.

We have seen where the application of Software or App development thinking has failed in the medical device space. How one manages the risk of failure is very different when the result is death or serious injury vs. being disappointed. MineCraft, the now very popular video game was launched commercially after only six-weeks of development and was barely functional. It was however a great application of MVP. It served as a proof of concept.

The risk of failure in MineCraft did not include death or serious injury to a real human.

The Concept

In Medical Device Commercialization, launch MVP is not an appropriate approach, unless you redefine viable to have a really big meaning. For med device dev. we should think of “complete clinical utility” (CCU). We can use a modified  concept of MVP to get us there. But if you do not deliver “completedoughnuts example clinical utility” at the time of launch you have delivered no real value to the clinician. By all means leave the sprinkles and glaze off, but give them a whole doughnut.

A Different Way to Think about MVP

Fully integrated multi-generational product planning. A documented, dataSlide1 driven, customer focused pathway to delivering 100% customer satisfaction in steps. This type of plan can span decades as with the Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD). Or, it can take just a few years as with the SMART Stent.

Back to the Story

Call it what you will, MVP, CCU, multi-generational planning it doesn’t matter. The basics of product marketing need to be satisfied. Product requirements need to be written.  Target the Complete Clinical Utility of the product first.  Use the MVP concept during the concept phase.

“Experience is what you get, right after you need it most.”

Make it a great day,

Tim Walker

Tim Walker is the Principal consultant for The Experia Group. A small consulting firm that specializes in providing experience and expertise during critical device commercialization phases to increase the probability of success. Contact The Experia Group for a free 30-minute consultation to determine if 30-years of experience can contribute to your success.

© 2016, The Experia Group, LLC