Choosing Features for your Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Pooch-A-Tronix!

Make One Small Decision at a Time

The Pooch-A-Tronix is an example of a grand dream that many entrepreneurs and builders have: a market-busting product ten times better than whatever is on the market now. To fulfill that dream you don’t need an elaborate plan. User feedback will guide you, but you should make a good first step.

  • Would the feature differentiate me from competitors?
  • How closely does the feature align with my goals for my business?
  • How frequently would the consumer use the feature?

Qualify Features using a Matrix

To capture the list of features and the answers to questions about each feature you can use a matrix — a grid. Let’s see how that matrix could make it easy for you to decide what feature(s) go into your MVP.

A simple matrix of features and questions to answer.

Categories by which to Qualify a Feature

For the Pooch-A-Tronix we would consider each feature one at a time. For each feature, we answer one simple question at a time. To determine whether a feature is worth implementing, we need to consider whether the feature makes business sense, and whether it’s possible to implement the feature.

  • Differentiation from competition
  • Feasibility of implementing the feature
  • Concreteness of feature definition
  • Legal liability
  • Strategic value of the feature to your business
  • Frequency of use of the feature

Differentiation from Competition

Ask yourself whether the feature is truly new. You may think you need to include a food bowl in the Pooch-A-Tronix, but the food bowl is not a differentiator. Every dog feeder includes a food bowl.

  • One of a kind: it doesn’t exist in the market [and the idea excites prospective customers]
  • Unusual: the feature exists in few products in the market, but it’s not unique
  • Common: many products have this feature
  • Unwanted: the feature might seem cool, but no one actually wants it (This comes up more often than we often expect)
  • Uncertain: honestly, you just don’t know the answer here. Acknowledge that and move on.
  • Green Means Go!
  • Yellowish green indicates a feature that could be competitive, but isn’t unique.
  • Orange indicates a problem. For example, if a feature is common, you should consider not implementing it in your MVP. You might only include the feature if it’s required to support other, more interesting features.
  • Pink is a show stopper: no one wants the feature; it’s too hard to implement; or maybe it would be too expensive.
  • Black indicates uncertainty and/or the unknown.

Feasibility of implementing the feature

Can you develop the MVP feature on your own? Or do you need a team? Or would implementing the feature, no matter how cool, be difficult even for a team?

Concreteness of Feature Definition

Is the feature concretely defined? “Beep when dog food is delivered to the bowl.” Choosing the right beep could take time, but the feature is clear.

Legal Liability

If you sell anything for any amount of money, no matter small that amount of money, then you’ll need to consider the legal liability.

Strategic Value

Is this feature critical to the long-term plan for your business? It would be cool to diagnose a dog’s feeding problems. However, if you want Pooch-A-Tronix to be The Fun Feeder rather than The Diagnostic Feeder, diagnosing feeding problems isn’t key to your strategy.

Frequency of Use

If a feature won’t be used at least once a day, consider not including that feature at all.

A matrix with one feature per row. The columns are Differentiator, Feasibility, Concrete, Liability, Strategic, and Frequency. For each column there is a constrained list of answers specific to that category.
A few features qualified in our different categories

All Pooch-A-Tronix Features Qualified

In the screenshot below, fourteen features have been qualified in our six categories. There’s a Notes column to provide a little extra info.

Look for “Green Means Go!” All the Way Across

Once you’ve filled out your spreadsheet, the Big Decision becomes simple: check for Green Means Go indicators all the way across.

Dog Food Catapult.

DOG. FOOD. CATAPULT!!!!

For the Pooch-A-Tronix feature list there is a clear winner: Dog Food Catapult! Green all the way across.

Eighty-four Questions and Answers.

One Clear Decision.

Breaking down the question “What feature should I implement first” lead to no fewer than 84 questions and answers.

Pooch-A-Tronix?!? Um … what about Food-A-Pult?

Identifying the first feature for your MVP could also lead to rebranding your product.

  1. Gather a bunch of ideas for names.
  2. Brainstorm a list of categories by which you could qualify the appropriateness of each name: uniqueness, strategic fit, etc.
  3. Rate each name for each category.
  4. Look for green all the way across!

Monday.com: Spreadsheets, Interactions, & Integrations

For project management I use Monday.com. The selection matrix for the Pooch-A-Tronix is adapted from a Monday “board” I created in 2020 to identify what my MVP should be.

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Gary Bartos

Gary Bartos

Founder of Echobatix, developing assistive technology for the blind. echobatix@gmail.com