Delivering a minimum viable product as the Met’s flagship app

Loic Tallon, Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA

It was a journalist who first used the term minimum viable product (MVP) for the Met app, and this was received with discomfort by some internal stakeholders. Throughout its development, we had never referred to the Met app as a MVP. Our approach was to promote the product development philosophy of it being "Better to plant something small and water it, than plant something big and have to prune it."

The Met app was a "flagship" project for the institution, was funded by a significant and high-profile grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the app was launched with much fanfare. Many museum colleagues felt that the ambition and launch of the product were everything other than "minimum viable".

The MVP concept is detailed in Eric Ries's book "The Lean Start-up". He promotes a product development process in which you design a product, work out the kinks, see how people use it, and build and iterate off of that. An MVP is not about being cheap, it's about being less wasteful and still doing things that are big. This approach has been adopted by many of today's most successful start-ups.

For the Met app project, the team determined that to be successful, we needed to borrow from this type of start-up culture and develop the product in a nimble, MVP manner. Working in this manner within one of the largest institutions in the world, with the internal expectation that comes with delivering a flagship product, and as a relatively newly-employed team has its challenges. This paper will explore these challenges with the aim of forwarding a practical framework other institutions might follow when adopting an MVP approach for new product development.

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