Defining product vision on wipeboard

Agile: Defining the Product Vision

Overview

When creating a strategically sound product, it is important that the product team need to understand where their resources should be focussed, which features are to be prioritised, their target market and which strategic basis they should set priorities and make decisions. Defining the product vision can help the product team understand this.

Definition

The product vision describes the purpose of the product, why it is being created, and what it aims to achieve. Also referred to as a product vision statement, it should be aspirational, motivational and clearly communicate the end goal of the product and what is hoped that it will achieve longer-term.

Clearly defining the product vision helps to remind stakeholders what they are trying to achieve and serves as a guide to reaching that end point.

Process

When creating the product vision, there are a number of factors that should be considered:

What is the motivation?

Just having a new product is not enough, there needs to be a reason why the product is being created. Identifying this, guides everyone involved in the project’s success, creating a purpose, providing motivation and facilitating effective collaboration.

Look past the product

The product vision should not be confused with the product itself. The product vision goes beyond the product and identifies its purpose and the change that it will instigate. Developing a board game for example, may drive a product vision of bringing families together, not a focus on the practicalities of the game.

Vision or product strategy?

The product vision should not be confused with the product strategy, they are separate plans and should remain that way. Keeping the strategy – the path to reach the goal – separate allows for changes whilst remaining grounded in the vision.

Having a vision allows the selection of the correct strategy, if there is no long-term goal then it cannot be decided which is the best way to get there.

Create a shared vision

If everyone isn’t on the same page regarding the vision, particularly the product makers, then it will be difficult to create alignment and facilitate effective collaboration. This can be avoided by conducting a collaborative workshop to collectively decide on the product vision rather than trying to sell an already formulated vision.

Think big, but keep it short and sweet

The aim of the product vision is to be aspirational, therefore it should be broad, ambitious and engaging. Taking the earlier example in this post of creating a board game to “bring families together” goes beyond the product, and even the game playing experience, aiming for more. Being broad and ambitious also gives options if the development of the product doesn’t go to plan.

The product vision does however, need to be easily communicated, understood and memorised. Detail can be captured in other business documentation, such as the product strategy and marketing plan, it doesn’t need to be included in the product vision.

Use the product vision to guide decisions

The product vision should be used to guide product decisions and be a central focus for everyone as to why the product is being created. Any ideas or changes should be considered against the product vision first and foremost, if an idea moves the product closer to the vision then it should be considered, if not, then it shouldn’t be taken any further.

Benefits

There are a host of benefits associated with having a product vision.

  • Ensures that the product develops in the way that is intended.
  • Motivates and inspires the product team.
  • Creates a shared understanding of the direction in which the product is heading.
  • Supports the Product Owner’s strategic decision-making in terms of how to progress with the product.
  • Helps to develop a more effective product road map.
  • Aligns team and stakeholders across the organisation.

Conclusion

A product vision is vital for any organisation developing a product. Having an over-arching vision, which is shared by the whole product team makes for more effective collaboration, provides motivation, and helps the whole team stay on track.

Although the Product Owner has overall responsibility for driving the product vision to completion, everyone in the organisation should be influenced by the vision and keep it in mind when performing their jobs.