Minimum Business Increments (MBIs)

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Although Eric Ries didn’t originate the term its meaning is now generally taken to mean Eric’s use of it.  A minimum viable product is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.  MVPs in the Lean-Startup are:

  • Geared toward startups
  • Designed for the first time a product/service is released
  • Usually built by a small team that can already pivot​

Minimum Business Increment (MBI)

The question is, what do you do when:

  • You are an established company?
  • You are building enhancements to an existing product/service?
  • The teams required to build it are not aligned and don’t work together well?​

This is where the concept of an Minimum Business Increment (MBI) is more useful. It focuses on the realization of business value quickly. It is not a reason to deliver less, it is a reason to deliver sooner.

​An MBI is the smallest piece of functionality that can be delivered that has value to the business in that it:

  • adds value for the customers of the business
  • provides valuable feedback that the right functionality is being built
  • provides valuable feedback that the functionality is being built the right way
  • provides functionality that can be verified as an increment that can be delivered
  • enhances the ability of the organization to deliver value in the future

MBIs are created by first determining who your target audience is. This target audience may be external or internal. Then, decide on the scenarios for this market for the business objective in question.  Focus on the minimum business increment for the scenarios in question – and that becomes your MBIs. Very often you will commit to a series of MBIs as the desired functional implementation you want to do for an epic.  By building and delivering them incrementally you get both value and feedback quicker – providing you an opportunity to pivot.  Note that this business value should be based on what represents value for the business and its customers

Net Objectives uses the concept of the MBI to be used in established companies.  While conceptually similar to MVPs, they are more about the quick realization of business value than the discovery of what will be of value (although one must always be attending to this).

Examples of MBIs

It must be remembered that these are Minimum Business Increments. The value realized may be for the business, not a customer.  This does not just include paying down technical debt or Lean-Agile Transformations.  In product companies that are based on platforms, it could be improvements to the platforms.

MBI Thinking

“MBI thinking” means to attend, at all levels of the organization, to how we can realize value faster.  Where MBIs are first defined this means what are the minimum chunks of business value that can be realized.  But then, as the MBIs are decomposed into features and stories, the features’ and stories’ scope is limited to that of the MBI.  This means we only build what we need to realize value.

This markedly contrasts with most Agile decomposition methods of starting with epics and then pulling the most important features out of the epics. While this does limit scope, the features are often built fully scoped, instead of limiting them to a more focused target audience or purpose.

MBI thinking can also help manage WIP.

Note: If you are a premium content member you can get an example of this at the MBI Thinking Example.

To Learn More

Watch Introduction to Minimum Business Increments (15 minute video).

Read More Insights on Epics vs. Minimum Business Increments,  our short article The Business Case for Agility or the more in depth chapter from our book Lean-Agile Software Development on the Business Case for Agility.

Release Planning in Seven Minutes: Pareto vs Parkinsons. How the big picture and focusing on what really matters overcomes challenges in release planning. Pareto wins over Parkinsons!