Product Marty Cagan

Viable Product vs. Minimal Product

To continue on the series of articles describing the critically important concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in this article I wanted to contrast the concept of Viable Product with what I call “Minimal Product.”

So often I meet teams that tell me that they have identified Product Market Fit, and I ask them how they have validated this, and I’m told that they’ve tested their prototype on customers and the results are excellent.  But then I ask them how they tested for this, and they proceed to describe a series of tasks that they measured whether or not users could successfully use the product.

Essentially, they have determined that their proposed product works and is usable.  Or at least, it could work if the customers either choose to use it, or somehow had to use it (e.g. their employer made the purchase decision).

Unfortunately, there are countless products that would work if people choose to use them, but the problem is that people don’t choose to use them.  Maybe because they don’t like the pricing.  Maybe because they are happy with what they use today.  Maybe because it is very hard for them to switch even if they wanted to.  Or any number of other reasons why they don’t buy the product.

This is why I consider the most important question not “could you use it?” but rather “would you use it?” (see

I use the term “Minimal Product” to refer to this smallest possible product that actually works and is usable.  Unfortunately, that’s often a long way from a Viable Product which not only works, but is something that people actually choose to buy and use and can actually sustain a business (see

So often teams confuse the two, and then they’re surprised when the product doesn’t sell.  Or they’ll blame marketing and sales.

Moreover, it is this “viable” part that’s usually the hardest part of the equation, and is the highest risk, so it’s where you need to focus most of your time in discovery.

NOTE: Updated in January of 2014 to reflect consistent nomenclature (MVP Test vs. Product Market Fit vs. Product Vision).