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When you hear SharePoint MVP, don’t think of it as Most Valuable Player or even as Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional program. In the context of the business world when creating or delivering product, software and services, MVP stands for “Minimum Viable Product.”

In Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses,” he states that Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the “version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” If this concept of a MVP strikes a chord with you, I suggest reading Eric Ries’s book. It is a must read for people creating software in this age of rapidly changing technology and higher user expectations.

MVP Thinking

At ThreeWill, we incorporate “MVP Thinking” into how we build solutions for our customers. We have subconsciously done this from day one at ThreeWill. At ThreeWill, we value highly effective teams that can sometimes make a bigger difference than project teams triple the size. As early adopters of Agile and Scrum, we build out MVP solutions in small deployable increments that receive customer validation every 1-2 weeks. This is a fundamental component for how we approach software and services that are in the spirit of a SharePoint Minimum Viable Product. At the end of the day, we do not want to put in more than a week or two of time toward a feature that does not have high value to the customer. Ideally, we can avoid building any features that are not viable, but in the world of software, many people need to see it in the product before they know if they really want or need the feature. Short agile sprints allow you to validate your MVP after a minimal amount of time and cost.

So now that you are introduced to (or reminded of) the concept of a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), let’s pull this into the context of building solutions on SharePoint or Microsoft 365. At ThreeWill, we see that SharePoint and Microsoft 365 are incredible platforms to approach solutions that can turn out SharePoint Minimum Viable Products in a matter of weeks to months vs. months to years. Many solutions that start from the ground up, where a platform like SharePoint is not leveraged, lack the advantage of configurable solutions that can be a starting point to solve a business problem and then over time be extended and enhanced.

For example, a customer might have a need for a project management portal. Initially, there can be document management needs for organizing project documents or a shared calendar or task list. With SharePoint, you can address this need right out of the gate with a Team Site. Or with Microsoft 365, you can address this with the new Groups feature that pulls together a shared inbox, calendar, newsfeed and file share. Then over time, enhancements can come through workflows or custom App Parts that further streamline the automation that best supports the project management needs for the portal.

Don’t Turn SharePoint into a MOP

One of the biggest challenges with SharePoint is when organizations feel like SharePoint is the opposite of a MVP and more like a MOP (Maximum Overloaded Product). Having a very rich collaboration and content management platform like SharePoint can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. If you are not careful with SharePoint, you can overwhelm users and they will just avoid using the product. You can tell if this is taking place in an organization when you hear that SharePoint is hard or difficult to use (or hear things like, “no one uses our SharePoint; our IT team tends to make things difficult”). These frustrations come about when users get overwhelmed by the SharePoint feature bloat. Your average user is accustomed to a consumer software world where things are simplified and only the features they need are exposed to them – not the entire kitchen sink. A common pitfall with SharePoint is not addressing what needs to be disabled or hidden from the “out of the box” settings. As you probably have heard before, often the case with software is “Less is More.”

At ThreeWill, we find that approaching SharePoint solutions from a MVP point of view requires both simplifying the SharePoint “out of the box” experience along with building new features iteratively with customer validation (in 1-2 week agile sprints). Note that simplifying the “out of the box” experience might be as simple as hiding the SharePoint ribbon or simplifying the navigation. For example, below is an “out of the box” view of navigation and use of the SharePoint ribbon (first two screenshots) vs. a simplified and branded navigation with only the key features of a document library being surfaced (the last screenshot).

Figure 1 – Out of the box view of a document library with standard navigation
Figure 2 – Out of the box view of a document library with the full document library ribbon.
Figure 3 – Simplified and branded navigation with a simplified view of a document library
This is just a simple illustration, but the point is that an “out of the box” user experience can provide so many additional options that it can overwhelm the user and detract from the key elements of what matters most. Some of this effort can be as simple as configuration and can require some customization, but at the end of the day, you are trying to make things simpler for the end user. End users can get frustrated when they are presented several options/features when they only need 1 or 2. Of course these “free” features can be enabled, but should be done when the community of users are ready and need these features.

Hopefully, this has challenged you to consider “MVP Thinking” for your next SharePoint solution. In general, we approach SharePoint MVP solutions by understanding your business enough to pick the right starting point that will allow you to get to a MVP quickly, but at the same time allow you to grow with the solution as your needs grow. At ThreeWill, we want to see you get the point of getting value as soon as possible, and we find that the combination of Agile and “MVP Thinking” is a very effective way to get you there.

Does your organization approach SharePoint from a MVP perspective? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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