The Product Vision Board

Posted on Tuesday 10th May 2011

Summary

The vision plays an important role in bringing a new product to life: It acts as the overarching goal guiding everyone involved in the development effort. Equally important is the product strategy, the path chosen to attain the vision. Without a shared vision and strategy, people are likely to pull in different directions, and the chances of creating a great product are rather slim. While vision and strategy are key, describing them can be challenging. This post introduces the Vision Board, a tool that makes it easy to capture your vision and product strategy.

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A Sample Vision Board

Towards the end of 2012, I was exploring the idea of creating a software-based version of my Product Canvas tool that integrates seamlessly with JIRA and GreenHopper. To get started, I created the Vision Board shown below.

SampleProductVisionBoardDigitalCanvas

The Vision Board captures my assumptions about the users and the customers of the new tool, the needs the product should address, the key product features, and the value the product should create for my own business, Pichler Consulting. (I explain the sections of the board in more detail below.)

As you may have noticed, I have kept the information on the board concise and coarse-grained. I did not, for instance, write personas and user stories, or create a design sketch. There are two reasons for this: First, I did not know enough about the users and customers at the outset to write personas and to describe the product in more detail. Second, I find that more information is best captured by other tools: the Product Canvas or the product backlog, and the Business Model Canvas.

The board proved very valuable for me: It helped me think through my idea, and it allowed me to share my thoughts with my team, and with our development partner. Additionally, the vision board helped me investigate the greatest risks by testing my assumptions, as I explain below. I now use the Vision Board for any new idea be it writing a new book, creating a new brochure, or updating a training course, and I help my clients apply the board.


The Vision Board Explained

The Vision Board is the simplest thing that could possible work to capture the vision and the product strategy. It uses five sections as shown in the following diagram and explained below. You can download the template from the tools section of my website or by simply clicking on the picture below.

VisionBoardStructure

Vision Statement is a concise summary of your idea that describes your intention and motivation. I also find it helpful to limit the vision statement to two sentences.

Target Group describes the market or market segment you want to address. You should state who the product is likely to benefit, who its users and its customers are.

Needs describes the product’s value proposition: the problems and pain points the product removes, and the benefits or gains it creates for its users and customers. The section should make it clear why people will want to use and buy your product, and what the product’s value proposition is.

Product summarises the three to five features of your product that make it stand out and that are critical for its success. These are likely to correlate to its unique selling proposition, and they should address the needs identified.

Depending on your product, the features may relate to functional properties (“mobile data access”), the design and the user experience (“cool, slick design that supports the brand and appeals to the target group”), or the technologies (“4G provided”).

Don’t make the mistake of listing lots of features. Stick to a maximum of five. Capture the product details at a later stage in your Product Canvas or product backlog.

Value explains why it’s worthwhile for your company to invest in the product. The section states the desired business benefits, for instance, increase revenue, enter a new market, reduce cost, develop the brand, or acquire valuable knowledge. The latter can be just as valuable as the former: When Toyota shipped the Prius in 1997, for instance, the car was not earning any money. But it immediately developed its brand (“green car company”), and had gained an advantage in hybrid technology.

There are, of course, other tools available that help you capture your ideas including Ash Maurya’s Lean Canvas and Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas. I may be biased but I really like the simplicity of the Vision Board: I find it always beneficial to consider the target group, needs, key features and business goals when exploring an idea. Filling in all the boxes on the Lean and the Business Model Canvas is often but not always helpful. But you can happily use the Vision Board as a stepping stone towards creating he Lean or the Business Model Canvas (as I explain in more detail below).


Research and Validation with the Vision Board

The Vision Board is not only a thinking and communications tool, it also allows you to test your assumptions, and capture the newly gained insights. To get started, I find it helpful to identify the greatest risk or biggest uncertainty on the board. This creates focus, and it enforces a fail-fast: figuring out quickly what works and what doesn’t, which assumptions hold true, and which don’t.

When I was working on my digital canvas idea, for instance, the greatest risk was initially misunderstanding the user needs, and potentially building a product that does not provide much value. I consequently decided to test my user needs assumptions before exploring further what features the tool should provide, or how the product should be implemented. I hence started carrying out a series of problem interviews, structured conversation with a prospect to understand the individual’s problems and goals without referring to the solution, and engaged in a few direct observation sessions.

These measures helped me understand the target group better, and assess how much value a product canvas app with JIRA integration would provide. It also made me update and change the board to reflect my latest thinking, as the following picture shows:

I suggest you follow a similar approach when you work with the vision board: Identify your biggest risk, and attack this risk first. Don’t be afraid to fail: Early failure saves you time and money.


The Vision Board and the Business Model Canvas

I find that the strength of the Vision Board is its simplicity: It captures the core ideas necessary to create a new product — the customers, the problem, the solution, and the desired business benefits. But it does not detail how the benefits are achieved.

This is where the Business Model Canvas comes in: The canvas states how the product creates value, and it covers additional aspects including the customer relationship, the partners, and key resources. The following pictures illustrates how the Vision Board and the Business Model Canvas can be used together:


The Vision Board and the Product Canvas

The Product Vision Board describes the vision and the product strategy, but it’s not well suited to capture the product details. I therefore recommend that you derive a Product Canvas from your vision board, once you start validating product risks, as the following picture shows:


Physical or Electronic?

I have a preference to work with a physical Vision Board that’s put up on the office wall where everyone can see it. Simply download the Vision Board template, print it out and get started!

If you require an electronic version, then try Jolien Coenraets’ Google Drive template. I created the vision board above that captures my digital Product Canvas idea in PowerPoint by the way: I had to work with an electronic version, as my team is distributed, and the Google Drive templates had not been developed.


Learn more

You can learn more about the Vision Board by attending my Agile Product Strategy training course. Please contact me if you want the course delivered on-site or as a virtual training.

This post was last updated on 28 March 2014.

45 comments on “The Product Vision Board

  1. Hi Roman,

    Poor visioning is a common weakness for Product Owners according to a survey I’m conducting on Linked In (along with involvement in planning).

    Is the business model optional in innovative product development or public sector work when revenues are not key but service?

    Some products have been known to focus on fulfilling needs rather than worrying about revenue streams and have been successful? They seem to have faith that revenues will follow (I’m thinking Google Maps here and such), I might be being a little idealistic!

  2. Hi Arran, I also recommend to my not-for-profit clients to consider how a new product or the next product version will benefit them. In that sense, the business model question still applies.

  3. Great post Roman! We started using SCRUM about half a year ago at our company and as product owner I’ve been busy aligning our stakeholders and visualizing our product strategy. This is a very helpful post. Thanks!

    By the way, if you would like to know how I’ve implemented your product backlog board. Check it out on http://bit.ly/eUoc26.

  4. Lane Halley says:

    Great post, Roman, thanks! I agree that simple, evolving tools that are visible to the entire team are really useful. I’ve shared this link with a team I know who is struggling with creating a shared vision. They have many of these elements, the just don’t have a discipline about putting them together in a visible place.

    You might want to check out something similar I did for a recent Lean Startup weekend.

    http://www.theapprenticepath.com/2011/04/05/our-lean-startup-machine-sketchboard/

    best wishes,

    – Lane Halley

    • Thanks for the feedback, Lane. I enjoyed your lean startup sketch board. Nice idea to integrate a sketch of the ecosystem including buyers and sellers – something that I do as part of the business model discussion on my vision board.

  5. [...] 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 [...]

  6. [...] See my vision board for a handy tool to capture and display the relevant information. [...]

  7. [...] your product backlog from the product vision or the product roadmap. Your product backlog should describe one [...]

  8. Jonesy says:

    This is great and I can see how this works for a new product. Does this work for existing products that are being enhanced or developed further though?

    • Hi Finn, Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it also worthwhile creating a vision board for a product update if the update addresses a new market segment, if additional needs are addressed, or if the business model changes.

  9. [...] capture your ideas about user needs, the product, and the value created for the company, try my Product Vision Board. The board captures assumptions about the target group, the user needs, the top three features, and [...]

  10. Andrea Heck says:

    Hi Roman,

    I have used your Product Vision Board successfully with a smaller internal project group which wanted to transform into a Scrum team.

    After they had learned about Scrum, we needed just a few hours to set the vision, find out that they actually have a few different customer groups, and define the topmost features.

    One of the most interesting discussions was the one about their value contribution and their business model, where they saw they had a rough idea, but would need to investigate more to come up with something supported by numbers. Even as internal team, they realized, if they can present that, it does not only make themselves happy, but also convince the management of their usefulness ,-)

    Thank you very much for providing your Product Vision Board!

    Best Regards
    Andrea

  11. Quora says:

    How do product managers generally write their specs? What are some good techniques?…

    Before starting write the actual spec I usually try to spend a bit of time working out the following: * Product vision – What are we trying to achieve with a specific product or service? What is the overall objective from a business perspective? How is…

  12. [...] Keep the overall product vision in mind together with the desired user experience: the kind of product being developed and the [...]

  13. [...] the target group, the user needs, and the business model, you may have to adjust your vision board [...]

  14. [...] derive the backlog from the Product Vision Board for new products. [...]

  15. [...] visualise them by pinning them on the wall or the product vision board [...]

  16. [...] target group, the needs to be addressed, the key features, and the business model contained in the product vision board have been validated [...]

  17. [...] Product Vision Board to express the vision and the product strategy [...]

  18. John says:

    Roman in a book that im reading about customer development it mentions a product vision as one of the very first things to do, it also recommends agile development and it being well suited to the customer development process, and the book also recommends the business model canvas, i can see how this will benefit me in the future, the combination.

    Thanks for this article, a hope to create one similar to your example when im ready to.

    • Hi John, Glad you’ve found the post helpful. Product vision board is maybe a misnomer, as the board captures the product vision and the product strategy. Let me know how using the board works for you.

  19. [...] four areas became columns on the Vision Board. As good Scrum Masters and Product Owners, we radiated this information through the organisation by [...]

  20. [...] for the class, I found an article by Roman Pichler in which he introduces the concept of a Product Vision board, which is a collection of the following [...]

  21. Synesthesia says:

    [...] The Agile Product Vision Board [...]

  22. [...] material for the class, I found an article by Roman Pichler in which he introduces the concept of a Product Vision board, which is a collection of the following [...]

  23. Amanda Fong says:

    Hi Roman! Thank you for this really great post. I’m discovering a year later… but it’s still incredibly relevant.

    To share my experience with you, at Planbox (we make an cloud-base agile project management tool), we work with agile- gotta live what you preach! We have an informal version of the Product Vision Board, and are currently working to formalize it.

    What’s great about the Product Vision Board (or at least our informal version of it) is that it does not only help build the product, but it’s a great reference for presenting the product when you hire new team members. It also greatly benefits the marketing and sales functions, when you need to prepare for a pitch, develop your marketing messages, etc.

    Amanda Fong,
    Community Manager at Planbox

  24. [...] I have developed a tool called the Product Vision Board. The board captures important assumptions that influence the product success [...]

  25. [...] вы хотите сделать его еще более наглядным, то тот же Роман Пичлер предлагает использовать доску, как средство визуализации Видения [...]

  26. [...] Le Product Vision Board, dérivé de la Product Vision statement de SCRUM, [...]

  27. [...] the sprint goal helps you address the most important challenge, and it moves you closer towards your vision or release goal [...]

  28. [...] The product vision board captures the product strategy. It's powerful questions facilitate successful innovation. (Hoy facilité una reunión para ayudar a crear "shared-vision" en un proyecto usando el Product Vision Board.  [...]

  29. [...] to reach the vision [...]

  30. [...] Here is a simple way to communicate the new product story that every one understand.  We use the Product Vision Board method to help our clients design their next product for their [...]

  31. [...] gemeinsame Ausarbeitung einer Produktvision. Beim strukturierten Erarbeiten dieser Vision ist das Product Vision Board von Roman Pichler ein bewährtes Hilfsmittel. Neben dem Vision Statement und aufbauend auf [...]

  32. [...] I employ the Product Vision Board and the Business Model Canvas. The former helps me capture my vision and the key elements of the product strategy [...]

  33. [...] Product Vision Board ist etwas, das durch Roman Pichler in seinem Beitrag “The Product Vision Board” bereits ausführlich erläutert wurde. Diese Methode bedient sich dem Storytelling und [...]

  34. [...] like to capture the insights above on the Vision Board [...]

  35. [...] I have heard about the agile business gap in relation to product management. Agile has proven to be great for software product development, there’s a burgeoning agile marketing community, and agile product visioning can be done with the Product Canvas tool. [...]

  36. [...] Finding the gaps in the agile business gap – product positioning Leave a reply I have heard about the agile business gap in relation to product management. Agile has proven to be great for software product development, there’s a burgeoning agile marketing community, and agile product visioning can be done with the Product Canvas tool. [...]

  37. [...]Product owner and team capture their assumptions about the market by using a tool like the Vision Board [...]

  38. [...] Tools like the Vision Board [...] help you determine what success means for your product [...]

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