Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Concierge Minimum Viable Product

A phrase often heard in our boardroom is: "Where technology falls short, the creative experience does the rest" - meaning, technology can do a ton of heavy lifting, but if it becomes too complicated we can simply let people fill in the gap by guiding them creatively (storytelling with technology...another post entirely).

I recently was reminded of an amazing articulation of this idea by Eric Ries.  The Concierge Minimum Viable Product.  If an MVP is the minimum set of features a customer will pay for, a Concierge MVP takes this a step further by offering those features - even if the technology that would enable those features is not yet ready (it's not solely technology based, but I'll stick with the digital interpretation).

An example?
Shipping. If you don't currently offer integrated and automated shipping to local online customers, you can still offer a Concierge MVP by manually doing the shipping/ordering/etc. When it reaches a revenue level that allows this to become automated, you invest. It's all about staying lean.

A shift from financial limits to technology limits
I love the idea of a Concierge MVP when it comes to the Internet of Things. If the idea of a MVP is an approach to market entry when finances are limited, think of a Concierge MVP as an approach to market entry when technology is limited.

From an IoT perspective, allowing the human experience to connect technologies creates infinite possibilities for bringing the (currently) impossible to life.
  • We are years away from automated taxis picking us up, but Uber does a great job of providing a Concierge MVP - an automated transportation network delivered by humans. 
  • Sticking with cars - products like Automate - provide a ton of value by providing sensor data to drivers - but the driver still needs to monitor this data and alter their driving behavior. 
  • Look to fitness, shipping, and healthcare and you'll see dozens of examples  - apps or shoes that track footsteps (informs users, but requires a user to act), sensors to track the temperature of a shipping container (informs users, but requires a user to adjust temperature), or patient monitoring (sense user activity data/health indicators, but a doctor still delivers the care).
  • Augmented Reality is no different. Ideally, technology would be smart enough to understand the context around the user - but right now those tech features are limited - so the mobile experience leans on the customer to fill in where technology is absent.
The underlying theme is that some of the greatest innovations for the IoT  - connecting the digital and physical space - have already started. The Concierge MVP version is likely in-market, and perhaps that idea that you're waiting for technology to catch-up to is already possible with a bit of human interaction.