Working on a product without a decent product vision resembles going into the street with eyes closed. To advance a product (or life), direction helps keep things going and makes actions meaningful. On the other hand, a leader has the responsibility for leading and guiding others as well. POs and managers need to keep business plans and customer requests in mind while motivating everyone to work towards a common goal. Without direction, a team can’t follow. This article will show how a product vision should look, how to create it, and communicate it to all stakeholders in play.
What is Product Vision?
Product vision imagines a product direction in the long term. Basically, it represents the desired state for a product in the future, e.g., the ultimate choice for people who would like to live a gluten-free life or aim to significantly increase the mobility of people in wheelchairs by creating a solution for them.
Here you can find a list of statement examples.
Typically, product vision defines two to five years’ time or even more – depending on the industry and the product life cycle. Statements or a product vision board can express it.
Some people neglect to build a vision, calling it just a bunch of nice unrealistic statements nobody will care about. Those people couldn’t make a bigger mistake.
If done right, a team can define the product’s goals -> create a strategy to reach them -> come up with tactics -> and break it down to the daily tasks they need to fulfill to get closer to the vision. Articulate WHY the product exists and not HOW to reach those goals.
After preparing the vision, start working on a product roadmap and/or create a product backlog (in agile environments).
Why Product Vision is Important
APO clarifies why certain tasks need doing and get all stakeholders behind one vision so everyone can work together to reach it.
Imagine a pirate captain communicating direction (vision) clearly to the crew (investors, business owners, developers, designers, etc.) and enabling them able to row with the same intent and rhythm to the same destination. And reaching the land of a thousand treasures!
Vision should be a basis that guides decisions and helps prioritize features or tasks. Does this feature/element/add-on contribute to the goal? If not, channel energy into activities that truly matter. To read more about the details, check out my fellow designer Katica’s super-detailed article about feature prioritization techniques.
Motivation also plays an important role here: remind the team at times of the direction so they understand how their roles and daily activities contribute to the bigger picture. This helps them focus more on the work that really makes a difference (in terms of product development).
Some tasks might not seem fancy to everyone, but they predicate customer happiness and a successful product.
How to Create A Vision
A number of tracks lead to coming up with a winning product vision.
First, actually, sit down and brainstorm on what problems or pains customers face and how the product solves them or what the product should achieve. Though some might find it obvious, it poses more challenges than expected.
Who should take part in the process?
The complex task of vision creation requires teamwork. Invite teammates or other stakeholders who can contribute to the bigger picture by providing professional knowledge, passion, or visionary skills. Developers, designers, researchers, business, or marketing people could all fit there.
But make sure to lead the creative flow and push the team to come to a final understanding.
Cover the following points to start formulating the vision (by Roman Pichler):
- Who is the target audience?
- Which customer needs can the product satisfy?
- Which product attributes determine the satisfaction of those needs?
- Who is competing, and how do they perform? (internal, external competitors)
- What timeframe and product development budget determine the project?
Let’s see how to draw up a decent vision!
After gathering a team of people in mind, work on the visionary statements, and lead a workshop on the topic.
Form smaller groups where people can discuss and brainstorm on different questions. At the end of the first session, each team should come up with a list of agreed-upon and shareable ideas or answers. After every team has presented their ideas, put the ideas up to vote so as to select only the best ideas.
Use different methods and games to utilize the team’s abstract thinking – always keep track of the progress and make everyone involved.
This article covered product vision workshops pretty well.
Product vision board
This board handily captures the whole concept of the product. The product vision board consists of (at least) 4+1 main elements:
- Target group: Define the target audience whose needs the product will satisfy.
- Needs: What do these customers need? What solvable pains and challenges do they face?
- Product: Define the product, generic attributes, or features that can contribute to customer happiness.
- Business goals: Have a clear picture of how the product will benefit the company and what the business goals and aspirations led to its creation.
After figuring this out, vision forms the fifth element. At that point, briefly express the purpose of the product and how it will affect customers or the market.
Feel free to revisit this board any time change becomes necessary. Conduct further market research, user tests, and other ways of validation; multiple things might change here. Keep everybody up-to-date on the current state of the vision.
Product vision template
When aiming for something short and catchy, use Geoffry Moore’s product vision template as well. The basic formula runs as follows:
- For [target customer],
- Who [customer needs to be solved],
- The [product name]
- Is a [product category]
- That [benefits, unique selling points].
- Unlike [competitor product],
- Our product [main difference].
With this tool, grab the essence and the uniqueness of the product while defining the aims. This method can work well in an agile environment as well.
What Makes A Good Vision
A vision doesn’t have to turn into a 20-page bible or a shiny poster glued to the wall. Make statements convincing and effective.
The father of visions, Roman Pichler, calls the ideal product vision:
- Clear & stable: Every participant should find it easy to understand, so avoid empty phrases that don’t say anything (aka bullshit).
- Broad & engaging: It should depict a higher picture that everyone can relate to and that inspires people to give their best to make it happen.
- Short & sweet: It needs to get straight to the point.
Additionally, make it:
- Achievable: Although a vision should be a futuristic idea of what the product might become, set a goal that can be actually met.
- Insightful: Craft the idea based on users’ needs and motives and define the main reason behind the product’s existence.
Let’s take Tesla’s product vision as an example in the short and sweet category:
See how Ikea wants to elevate people’s lives:
How To Communicate The Vision
Finally, present the product vision to everyone involved in the development. Stakeholders must know the direction they are heading so they can maintain confidence in their daily tasks and decisions.
Share the vision in any form – presentations, boards, posters, one-on-one meetings, etc. If you opt for the presentation route, you can check this collection of presentation templates for business for ideas and inspiration.
Transmit the message so everybody understands it and can connect to and be honest about it. Encourage questions and present use cases: bring examples of how vision affects business strategies or lower-level decisions.
Speak the language of the product vision’s audience and show them how they can contribute to the betterment of the product.
Product Vision 101:
1. Gather all information available on personas, client needs, and business goals – make it available to everyone.
2. Create a workshop to brainstorm and collect ideas.
3. Create a product vision statement or board.
4. Communicate the final product vision to all participants.
5. Change the vision when necessary.
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