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Bridging Gaps Through Technology

Blue Pen beside Black Smartphone with a design notebookWhat has many people excited to start, in tears by the end, and is not a Tom Hanks drama? Your website redesign! People start out with such high hopes that they’ll have an amazing new website with lots of new features and a seamless user experience. Then with the blink of an eye the project is two weeks past due, at 180% of the original budget, and the vendor is requesting approval for ANOTHER change order. Now, before you start hyperventilating, let me hand you a figurative paper bag and tell you there is another way. Redesigning your website does not have to become a monstrosity of a project. Instead, your organization should consider using the minimum viable product strategy when developing your website.

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

A minimum viable product (MVP) is the simplest version of your website you are able to create that still has all the necessary features for you to continue to do business. For associations, this might mean that the site allows customer to purchase memberships online, to register for events, and to access any members-only benefits that your organization has promised. The site will have a new design, there will be a fully functional menu, and business can continue. At the same time, an MVP may not have every single widget built out. Some of the functionality may be fairly simple, and there won’t be every single feature that everyone has ever wanted. You basically ask the question, “Will not having this feature prevent me from performing business critical tasks?” If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need it initially to launch your MVP site.

What is the advantage of a MVP?

An MVP site allows your organization to make decisions based on information instead of speculation. You have a plethora of problems with your current site – the site is not mobile friendly, it lacks new functionality, it does not integrate with your other system, and the navigation is poorly thought out. To address these issues, your organization has compiled a lengthy list of necessary requirements. But are they all truly necessary? Probably not. With a MVP site you’re better able to test out functionality without committing to the feature, and without giving up a great deal of capitol up front.

Example:

Many associations believe an online community is exactly what every member wants. The problem is, will anyone bother to visit a community site to post? Instead of investing in a complex community platform up front without having tested their hypothesis, an association may be better off adding a basic community plugin to a WordPress site. Will the site have all the bells and whistles, no, but if no one comes to the site, you can pivot to apply those resources to another part of the site instead of wasting resources.

 

Succeeding with a MVP

The end is just the beginning – For many projects, they end once the system is delivered. With an MVP site, getting the site live is just the first step. From there, the team needs to continue building and testing in an ongoing basis. I would argue that for all IT projects there should be constant improvement, but there is no way around that process with an MVP project.

The right system – Ideally an MVP is done within a system that offers some flexibility. Some system that have a limited number of options. Changing directions after you start can be very challenging if not impossible. Instead, MVP tends to work best on a system or platform that can be customized. If you’re building a new website, consider an open-source system such as WordPress or Drupal. Open source offers a truly limitless number of options.

The right development partner – Because there is this ongoing process of improvement and development, your organization needs to have someone who can perform that work. That could be in the form of a technical staff member. It could also be in the form of a partner you are working with who can perform the work.

Managing resources – Throughout the process there is a temptation to just ask for new features to be done ASAP. Don’t. Always understand the level of effort for any new features prior to development. This ensures the budget stays under control. Establish a process for requesting new features that includes effort at the start of the project.

Managing expectations – For some customers and even staff, there may be confusion initially about what is going on. Sharing details before the project starts and during the project on the status of work. Explain why you’re using the MVP methodology, and how people can contribute will ensure long term success.

Ready to jump in?

While the process requires a change to how your organization approaches projects, the benefits are substantial. A more efficient use of resources means the ability to do more with less. When you’re done, hopefully creating a MVP will have made you the MVP off your organization.

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Justin Burniske

Justin Burniske

Justin serves as the Director of Enterprise Solutions at fusionSpan, bringing his experience implementing and overseeing an association management system for an education nonprofit. Additionally, he brings his positive, can-do attitude to any project on which he is working.Justin graduated from University of Maryland’s MBA program, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining fusionSpan, Justin taught middle school math and worked with education nonprofits. Also, he wants you to know he loves his family.

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