Envisioning your Product

Posted on Monday 22nd February 2010

Summary

Being able to envision what a new product or the next product version should look like and do is essential for getting there. Unfortunately, Scrum provides little advice what information a product vision should contain. This post helps you create powerful visions that guide and galvanise the Scrum team and the stakeholders.

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Being able to envision what a new product or the next product version should look like and do is essential for getting there. Traditionally, organizations tend to carry out extensive market research, product planning, and business analysis activities up front resulting in a product concept or a market requirements specification. Some fall into the other extreme: They rush into the first sprint without having thought about the product’s customers and users and its value proposition.

Neither of these two approaches is desirable. The first one ignores the likelihood of change. It assumes that customer needs and how they are best met can be correctly predicted upfront rather than viewing flux and unpredictability as dominant factors in software development. The latter leaves the team without a common goal making it virtually impossible to understand what it takes to develop a successful product. Since envisioning the product results in a product vision in Scrum, looking at the product vision will help us understand what visioning should comprise in an agile context.

As its names suggests, the vision describes what we believe the future product will roughly look like and do — a sketch of the future product, as I put it in my book Agile Product Management with Scrum. The vision should act the overarching goal, galvanizing and guiding everyone involved in the development effort, and is the product’s reason for being. It selectively describes the product at a coarse-grained level, capturing the product’s essence—the information considered critical to develop and launch a winning product. An effective vision should answer the following questions:

  • Who is going to buy the product? Who is the target customer? Who is going to use the product? Who are its target users?
  • Which needs will the product address? What value does the product add?
  • Which product attributes are critical for meeting the needs selected and therefore for the success of the product? What will the product roughly look like and do? In which areas is the product going to excel?
  • How does the product compare against existing products, from both competitors and the same company? What are the product’s unique selling points? What is its target price?
  • How will the company make money from selling the product? What are the sources of revenue and what is the business model?
  • Is the product feasible? Can the company develop and sell the product?

How much effort is necessary to answer the questions above depends on a number of factors including the degree innovation and the complexity of your product. As the product matures, the visioning work tends to decline. (After the successful launch of a product, I usually employ the product roadmap to capture the goals for the upcoming product versions.)

To minimize the visioning work, focus your vision on the next product version, and envision a product with minimum functionality that addresses a narrow set of customer needs. Quickly release a first product increment, or demo it to customers and users to validate the vision. Listen to the responses to see if you are shooting for the right goal. Then adapt.

You can find more information on creating a product vision in my book Agile Product Management with Scrum. The book has a whole chapter dedicated to product planning and discovery in Scrum.

20 comments on “Envisioning your Product

  1. [...] Envisioning your Product « All Things Product Owner – Roman … [...]

  2. [...] here: Envisioning your Product « All Things Product Owner – Roman … Share and [...]

  3. [...] up-front work is expended to create a vision that describes what the product will roughly look like and [...]

  4. [...] up-front work is expended to create a vision that describes what the product will roughly look like and [...]

  5. [...] post Demystifying the Product Owner Role, the product owner in Scrum takes not only care of the product vision and the product roadmap but also leads the product backlog grooming activities. Since these include [...]

  6. [...] post Demystifying the Product Owner Role, the product owner in Scrum takes not only care of the product vision and the product roadmap but also leads the product backlog grooming activities. Since these include [...]

  7. [...] experience suggests that the x above comprises additional strategic duties including envisioning the product and maintaining the product roadmap as well as further tactical ones, such as collaborating with [...]

  8. [...] experience suggests that the x above comprises additional strategic duties including envisioning the product and maintaining the product roadmap as well as further tactical ones, such as collaborating with [...]

  9. innovation management…

    [...] Networks and Networking – It begins with a critical review of the literature on knowledge management, arguing that its focus on IT to create a network structure may limit its potential to promote knowledge sharing among social. [...]…

  10. [...] that you have a shared vision in place that describes the target customers and users, the needs the product is going to address [...]

  11. [...] that you have a shared vision in place that describes the target customers and users, the needs the product is going to address [...]

  12. [...] Networks and Networking – It begins with a critical review of the literature on knowledge management, arguing that its focus on IT to create a network structure may limit its potential to promote knowledge sharing among social. [...]

  13. [...] product owner is a visionary who can envision the final product and communicate the vision. But the product owner is also a doer who sees the vision through to [...]

  14. [...] product owner is a visionary who can envision the final product and communicate the vision. But the product owner is also a doer who sees the vision through to [...]

  15. Just what I was waiting for! I was researching articles for our blog when I came across your post (on Envisioning your Product All Things Product Owner – Roman Pichler's Thoughts on Agile Product Management and Product Ownership) which I found on Yahoo. We would love you to write for us, if curious. I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference. Nice comments here as well – Cheers from Internet Online Marketing Advertising Business

  16. [...] recent posting on deutschescrum brought up an interesting question: How much visioning is necessary in Scrum? Even though I find it impossible to give a general, precise and accurate [...]

  17. [...] recent posting on deutschescrum brought up an interesting question: How much visioning is necessary in Scrum? Even though I find it impossible to give a general, precise and accurate [...]

  18. [...] for the sprint. Ken Schwaber recommends in his book Agile Project Management with Scrum that a product vision and an initial product backlog should be available before the first sprint starts. Applying this [...]

  19. [...] your product backlog from the product vision or the product roadmap. Your product backlog should describe one product. It should focus on the [...]

  20. [...] prefer to derive the contents of the product backlog board from the product vision or the product roadmap and to focus its content on the items that are essential to develop the next [...]

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