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Potential Shippable Increment (PSI) is not always a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

As a young father, one day I was wasting my lunch time watching a funny moment on a baby video, while taking tips to teach a thing or two to my own munchkin. (Back to post? Good, read on). At that very moment, overheard a fellow Scrum Master explaining to one of his team members what an MVP is, on a lunch break ! Still not sure if they were wasting their lunch time or I was. Anyway, the conversation was something like this:

Member: Bored of these new terms like PSI, MVP.. what’s the difference anyway? I keep hearing this from the new PO.

SM: Potential Shippable Increment, which is basically the same as the MVP thing you read on the book “The Lean Startup”. The POs can throw any of the phrases to specify a working software which is ready to ship.

Member: Ok, so Minimum Viable Product is like the new brand for PSI.. lol.. got it.

SM: Yeah, different POs uses different phrases, just go along. If he likes calling it PSI, let it be.

Eavesdropping paid off, that’s how I remember where I paused my video earlier. Instantly found an opportunity to arrange a training workshop on lean startup to explain where it all went wrong in the conversation. If you have already spotted where it went wrong, you already know where I am going with this.

Potential Shippable Increment (PSI)

I will quote directly from the Source

“Potentially shippable is a statement about the quality of the software and not about the value or the marketability of the software. When a product is potentially shippable then that means that all the work that needs to be done for the currently implemented features has been done and technically the product can be shipped but it doesn’t mean that the features implemented are valuable enough for the customer to want a new release. The latter is determined by the Product Owner.”

PSIs don’t always add value. A team can build a hundred things which have an awesome quality which may not be needed. On a lazy refined backlog these PSIs can cost a business a fortune. As a great agile team, may be you are good at delivering efficiently but if a PO fails to recognise the benefit of that work, all of that can be pointless.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

“A Minimum Viable Product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” – Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup

MVP does not always have to be a Working Product/Software

It can be an concept which has been drawn on a paper, modeled by a UX designer or simply a bunch of screenshots which we can show to the end user and see what they think about it. Sure, it can be a working software because sometimes it is always good to see a piece of work in action. But it’s not mandatory for the validated learning. You may not need to invest time and money on a product which initially have received a bad review from potential buyers. It’s about working smart, not hard.

Explaining the Differences

MVP of Cars

Concepts of cars displayed to see public reaction, most of the times they are not ready to be shipped. MVPs are often more attractive as they lack practical usability or lack context. Which is why they need early feedback from the end users of a business.

PSI of Cars

Shippable cars being demoed to generate revenue which might be a MVP, before becoming a PSI. PSIs form part of or all of the MVP planned to be implemented. Not every PSI looks as attractive as the original MVP, because validated learning makes us aware beforehand what works and what not. That’s where Empiricism adds value.

MVPs of Smartphones

Concepts of smartphones (We wish these were real)

PSIs of Smartphones

Shippable Smartphones on 2017 (so they say)

Conclusion

So, next time you hear someone saying MVP and PSI are the same, you can share this blog and save the time explaining why they are not. There is a reason Product Owners (alike) call them differently, as to them they are different. Some work items don’t need to be developed before a feedback, some do. Hopefully this clears the confusion and this post finds you well.

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