Why The Scoping Stage is Crucial when Creating an MVP

Poor scoping is one of the top reasons why potentially great MVPs fail. Here's everything you need to know to set yourself up for success and nail your project scope when creating an MVP.

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by Julian Alessandro


If you're reading this, it's because you already understand the value of using a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to validate your new business idea. And now that you're ready to get started with your MVP development, it's time to decide how to go about it.

MVPs are as diverse as the ideas that give birth to them, although they all have one thing in common: they are only as good as the quality of their scope. But don't worry. Great scoping is not rocket science, and we're here to help. Keep reading to learn more about how the scoping stage can impact the success of your MVP, and the essential steps to getting it right the first time.

Table of contents

That sketch sitting in your library? It’s time to share it with the world. From idea to launch, we can design, architect and code your MVP vision into reality in 3 months or less.

The purpose of an MVP 

The purpose of an MVP is to test assumptions, validate your idea, and gather user feedback with minimal investment. Among many other benefits, it helps you optimize product development, gain trust from investors and target your marketing efforts once it's time to launch. 

To learn more about the practical aspects of the MVP development process, you can check out the case studies below. These are real stories of how we helped our clients' ideas come to life through the MVP approach. 

The importance of project scoping when creating an MVP

No architect in their right mind would agree to start building a house without a blueprint. And no serious entrepreneur should start building an MVP without proper scoping.

Good scoping is so critical to the success of your MVP, because it's when you make a plan to ensure that you actually keep it both "minimum" and "viable". It's the blueprint that tells you what really needs to be done and how to do it efficiently. 

This is the time to decide on the essential features of your MVP, so that it gets you the answers you're looking for, while also delivering on your value proposition. Here, you'll also forecast potential issues and define strategies to deal with them. 

Rushing through your scope is, in fact, the best way to end up spending precious time and money on things that don't really matter, and running out of resources before you even get in the game. So be agile in your development, but don't be afraid to invest time in getting your scope right. We can assure you that your dedication at this stage will save you a lot of time, money and trouble in the future steps of your MVP development process

MVP scoping challenges 

Scoping an MVP can be just as challenging as it is important. 

At this phase of the project, you can expect to have to deal with issues like:

  • Making your goals fit into your budget

  • Trying to cater for the conflicting interests of different stakeholders

  • Ensuring that your plans are feasible from a technical standpoint and that you have the right team to make it happen

  • Striking a balance between development speed and quality 

While all of these problems are extremely common during the scoping stage, your number one challenge will likely be defining your MVP's core features

Most people tend to overcomplicate things and add features which are not required to achieve the goals set for their MVPs. Others are able to stick to a small set of features, but not the right ones. 

The key to preventing these issues is being aware of your limitations and not being afraid to ask for help. If you're unsure of your ability to deal with the challenges above, look for a development partner to guide you through them. 

But be sure to enlist a genuinely seasoned team when hiring MVP development services! Over the years, we've taken on several clients struggling to scope projects on their own, but also many who were in trouble for working with inexperienced external partners. 

At NaNLABS, we work closely with clients to scope and develop truly customized MVPs and use our experience to target issues before they even come up. And it's amazing how so many of our clients have expressed the huge difference it made to collaborate with a team that has "been there and done that" several times over.

So keep it in mind: nothing trumps experience when it comes to MVP development, and if you haven't done it before, rely on the expertise of those who have.

How to scope an MVP development project

Scoping an MVP requires a systematic approach, so below we'll explain what you should focus on at this stage and why.

Working backwards from goals to features 

Before you can pick a route, you need to decide where you're going, right? So start your scoping by brainstorming and defining your goals, and not your dream product features. 

What are you trying to achieve by creating an MVP? Is it to acquire your first users? To validate a hypothesis about a customer pain? To gather evidence that will help you secure investment?

There will always be a never-ending list of cool features you can add to a product, but don't let your emotions guide your decisions. Clearly define the main objectives of your MVP and work backwards to determine what your product must have to achieve them. And then stick to that. No more, no less.  

Your MVP scope draft 

Your scope draft is the sketch you create before beginning to work on your masterpiece. It should include an outline of the path customers will take when using your product, and detail the features involved in each step of that journey. 

Put yourself in the end customer's shoes, and detail this pathway based on all use cases. Consider the relevance of each step of the user journey and determine if there isn't an easier way to achieve the same outcome. 

You might even realize that certain steps aren't actually required, or significantly impact the user's experience. So don't be afraid to cut back! 

Although this first draft should be a representation of what you want your product to look like, it's essential to be realistic when creating it. 

Reduce your scope! 

Even when you try to be extra pragmatic about it, your first MVP scope draft will likely still be a lot less minimalistic than it should be in order to honor its name. And that's okay.

Once your draft is done, go back to it and measure it against the goals you've defined in the beginning. This is arguably the most crucial part of the scoping process and could truly make or break your entire project. 

Our recommendation is to be ruthless in cutting the fat and stick only to what is absolutely necessary to your MVP's success. 

When in doubt about which features should stay and which ones should go, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this feature essential to achieving the main goal of my MVP?

  • Is it directly connected to delivering my value proposition?

  • Will including it impact the time and cost of building my MVP in concerning ways? 

In addition to truthfully answering those questions, listen to the advice of your development team and only then make up your mind. 

There will be a time for bells and whistles later on, but not while creating an MVP. No matter how exciting a feature may be, if it's not critical to achieving your main goals, it doesn't belong in your MVP! 

Define your budget & timeline 

Here you need to get clear on your budget and discuss with your development team what's actually possible within your means.

Determine your priorities and create a detailed timeline, including the different phases of the MVP development process. Outline the expected outcomes of each phase and the resources required. 

This step of the scoping process is all about following basic project management principles and requires the same pragmatic approach as the previous ones.

At NaNLabs, we propose to all of our clients a period of 90 days from ideation to launch, because we know it can be done and with the highest quality. In fact, we've done it in as little as 45 days! But remember: being agile can never mean being sloppy or negligent. 

Understand how much your budget and the skill of your team can achieve, and in which timeframe. Work from this starting point and build a detailed workflow that everyone can commit to. Being realistic at this stage can do wonders for keeping your anxiety in check and your team's morale high, throughout the entire project.  

Building flexibility into the planning stage 

Although planning is certainly critical to your MVP's success, there will always be unforeseen circumstances. So make your peace with it. That's simply the nature of things!

Good scoping actually already accounts for the fact that not everything can be predicted, and that doesn't need to be a problem.

Your priority is to watch out for 'scope creep', which is the tendency to keep expanding your project's scope beyond what's originally agreed. But apart from that, you shouldn't be afraid of making adjustments. And there are many ways to make your project more adaptable from the get-go.

Adopting an agile approach in your MVP development, as we do at NaNLABS, allows you to make timely changes when required, keeping delays to a minimum. And an experienced development team can also help you select technologies that are not too restrictive in case something changes. 

Key Takeaways 

Scoping is a make-or-break stage of creating an MVP, but aligning your decisions with the main goals of your project will help you stay on the right track. Plan carefully and factor in the need for flexibility to make adjustments easier, while still keeping an eye out for scope creep. There will always be troubles along the way, but with proper scoping and the support of an experienced team, your MVP stands every chance of being a rocking success!

That sketch sitting in your library? It’s time to share it with the world. From idea to launch, we can design, architect and code your MVP vision into reality in 3 months or less.

Frequently Asked Questions About Planning & Scoping an MVP

  • How do you scope an MVP?

    To scope an MVP, define clear goals and prioritize minimal features aligned with your value proposition. Collaborate with the development team to set a feasible budget, timeline, and stay flexible to accommodate unforeseen circumstances while avoiding scope creep

  • What is the ideal timeline to develop an MVP?

    The timeline can vary depending on the complexity of the project, team efficiency, and other factors. Generally, an MVP can be developed within 90 days, but check with your development team to understand how fast they can go, while still maintaining the quality of the work. 

  • What is scope creep?

    Scope creep refers to the continuous expansion of a project's requirements and features beyond its original scope.

  • What are the stages of planning an MVP?

    Planning an MVP includes 4 stages: defining the project's goals, creating the MVP scope draft, trimming the scope to focus on critical features, and defining a budget and timeline.

  • What is an MVP scope draft?

    An MVP scope draft is a preliminary sketch that outlines the path customers will take when using the product and details the features involved in each step of that journey. It helps to determine the essential features needed to achieve the main objectives of the MVP and ensures a realistic approach to product development.

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