You’ve heard of “the big picture.” It can be a long-term business goal, or simply a view that expands a perspective to include greater context. Either way, it’s a critical perspective for any organization that wants to plan for the future.
Having a “big picture” is another way of saying that a business has a vision, for itself, the marketplace or a product it is working on. For now, let’s look at how having a vision for a product is key to understanding how it should be created and what purpose it will serve.
Creating a product vision is the first step in any successful product launch. While often a vision is considered personal, a business is a collection of people and systems working towards a common goal. Therefore, a product vision must be created to relate to the whole organization. How can you develop a product vision that appeals to everyone, from the people who are making it to the customers that it’s targeting?
What Is a Product Vision?
A product vision is the core of the product. It states where the product is intended to go and how it will deliver results in the future. Without a product vision, your team is working without a lodestar and are sure to get lost or take unnecessary detours.
You can think of a product vision answering these three questions: what are you doing, how are you doing it and why are you doing it?
Objectives, Customers & Competition
In order to communicate a product objective, one must first identify its key goals, such as how it will benefit the company and the customer. In terms of the customer, who are they? What are their needs and how does the product respond to those needs?
Then there’s the competition. Who are they and how does their product compare to the one you’re envisioning? This is when you can state how your product is differentiated from the competition and why it will be more attractive to customers and thrive in the marketplace.
What Are the Desirable Qualities of a Product Vision?
While a product vision describes the essence of your product, it should be more than just that. A good product vision will be aspirational, offering reasons as to why the team is working on the product now, and for whom. It should motivate teams to see this not merely as another job but a mission that fulfills an important need.
The product vision is also a way for a manager to stay present in the project without micromanaging. That is, it offers guide rails to keep the product team on track even in the absence of a manager. The product vision is internalized by the team, so they instinctively understand the reason for the product, which will then inform their work at the task level. Therefore, with a strong and clear product vision, you can trust your team to make the right decision.
Actionable & Relevant
The word vision might sound abstract and lofty, but a quality product vision is actionable. You’re not daydreaming or playing fantasy games, but in the process of making a real product. Therefore, the product vision must be practical.
That said, it is also a part of a larger vision, the goals and overall vision of the corporation in which it exists. If the product vision doesn’t dovetail with the corporate goals, then it’s going to fail. The product’s success is tethered to the company’s support.
Drafting the Product Vision Statement
Once you have an idea about the product’s objective, you need to draft a vision statement. This statement must convey the product’s quality, maintenance needs and longevity. Write in the present tense to create a more impactful statement.
The statement helps to define the future state of the product and focuses on conditions that will exist when the product is ready for the market. Be specific; don’t generalize. Don’t get too technical, either, as that might limit the vision.
The Elevator Test
The draft is ready for the next step once it can pass the elevator test. That is, can you explain the product in the time it would take to ride an elevator to your destination? If you can pass this test then your product statement is clear, concise and engaging. It should be brief and still capture the main thrust of the product in a way that is easily communicated.
Once you have a draft, review it. Is the statement clear and focused? Make sure it’s in language that the audience, which is your company, can understand. It should also have a compelling description of the product and how it meets customer needs. The objective should be achievable and able to deliver value consistent with the larger business.
Once the vision statement has been reviewed by those who created it, share it with others in the organization, such as project stakeholders, the development team, the Scrum master and Agile mentor, if you’re working within a Scrum/Agile framework.
Why Is a Product Vision Important?
A product vision is key to a product’s success because it conveys purpose, the byproduct of which is motivation and productivity, all crucial elements to any product’s success. It tells a story and makes people think, as well as exciting them about the process of making the product.
Beyond motivation, the product vision answers practical questions concerning the development and deployment of any product, such as who the target audience is and what needs the product addresses. Furthermore, it addresses the timeframes and budgets required to develop and launch the product, which will be of importance to any stakeholder or shareholder.
How Making a Product Vision Board Helps
A product vision board is a hands-on tool to better collect the data necessary to make a strong product vision. It promotes collaboration among the people in the company that the product vision is meant to speak to and establishes buy-in and a common goal for team members.
A product vision board is a collection of the following elements: a product vision statement, target audience, user personals, user personas, the needs that are being met by the product, high-level product features and the value of the product to the company.
The people involved in filling in these blanks in the product vision board include the product owner, stakeholders and the product team. The collaboration between all these groups makes sure that the product remains on point as it evolves in the discussion towards a final product vision.
But the product vision board isn’t only a means of thinking and communicating ideas, it can help test assumptions and capture new insights as they come up in the development process. While digital tools are available and can be used later on, the product vision board should be analogue. Having a physical board on the wall is more effective in sharing the strategy and making it accessible to all.