A minimum marketable feature (MMF) is the smallest set of functionality in a product that must be provided for a customer to recognize any value. In this context, a feature is something within the product that is individually perceived as having value by the user. The term marketable means that the feature provides significant enough value to the user to encourage them to buy the product. The value may be in revenue generation, competitive differentiation, cost savings or improved customer loyalty.
MMFs should address a certain need, solve a specific problem and be of high quality and usability. The MMF concept can be applied to both external products that are intended for sale outside the organization and internal products that are used inside the company to support the delivery of products and services. The concept supports the belief that software released to the customer should provide some added benefit, no matter how frequent the releases are. Each new version should enable the customer to accomplish something they were not able to do before.
The goal of MMF is to deliver value to customers by focusing on the features with the highest value, launching products faster and reducing the time to market. This will, in turn, increase the organization's return on investment (ROI).
Product discovery and the MMF
The MMF concept is a strategy used in agile marketing. Identifying the MMF is an important step in the product discovery timeline. Product discovery is the process that helps companies ascertain that they are creating products that are both usable and useful. The product discovery process works through four important areas:
- product strategy
- product definition
- presentation and feedback
Identifying the MMF is the final step in the product strategy. This process includes:
- defining the goal;
- creating a vision statement;
- addressing problems as opportunities for improvement;
- asking internal experts for help and advice and
- identifying the MMF.
Determining the MMF will enable a company to know that although their product may be incomplete and will not immediately unseat market leaders, it is marketable to a key portion of their customers because it resolves problems early adopters of the product may have had. Therefore, the company can confirm that they have created a product that they can successfully release and start selling to customers.
It is important to realize that the minimum viable product (MVP), another key concept in product discovery, is what helps an organization discover the MMF. The MVP is the version of a new product that enables a team to collect as much validated learning as possible about the customers while exerting the least amount of effort, time and money. The MVP should help answer the question: Is this the right product to build?
The MVP might not even be a product -- it could simply be a prototype. All that matters is that the MVP helps gather relevant information or raise key concerns to assess the possible viability of the product hypothesis. Metrics are used to track the interest of customers and unveil which features receive the most attention. These metrics and feedback are then used to determine the MMF.
The metrics are often gathered through the process of user interviews, writing personas and segmenting potential customers. If users are asked questions about what they want, such as what feature they would buy by itself, then developers can start to groom the product backlog into a more specific collection of marketable features.
Benefits and risks of the MMF
Some benefits of finding and utilizing MMFs include:
- The MMF is a small, self-contained feature that allows companies to develop the product quickly while still delivering significant value to customers.
- Focusing on one feature instead of a huge product allows a company to speed up the release to market timeline.
- The MMF guarantees that products are being built and updated with features that are actually useful and beneficial to users and nothing extra.
- Identifying MMFs is the best way to plan future releases. The MMFs can be prioritized by companies, allowing organizations to earn money by releasing a version of the product with one MMF while, at the same time, learning from the release and working on subsequent features. Larger features can also be sliced into smaller user stories for delivery and feedback purposes across several iterations when using timeboxed
Some risks of using the MMF concept include:
- Sometimes, companies will deliver what they believe to be an MMF and then stop all progress. Developers do not attempt to make any further changes to the product despite feedback received about additional needs that could be addressed with the product.
- The MMF is frequently erroneously referred to as the MVP. The primary difference between these two concepts is that while MVP focuses on learning more about the ultimate product, MMF aims to deliver value to customers. The confusion between MMF and MVP only becomes harmful when a company starts focusing on delivering a product without considering whether it will correctly satisfy users' needs.
Example of an MMF
An example of the MMF concept in action is the release of an initial project with some solid, core features followed by the progressive release of additional features along the way. This is frequently seen with updates to cell phone operating systems (OS). A smartphone will immediately work when taken out of the box, but the user will receive incremental updates from the software provider that build on top of the existing OS. Theoretically, each OS update should improve upon the preceding version and add a new feature that increases functionality.
This benefits companies because they are able to reduce the waste that results from designing and releasing a huge product in which the majority of features are later found to be never or rarely used.