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Tips for Creating A Compelling Product Vision

Published on 8th October 2014

Achieving product success is not easy. In order to succeed, you need a clear vision of where to take your product. This article sharesseven tips to help you create an effective product vision that inspires and guides the stakeholders and development team

Describe the Motivation behind the Product

Having an idea for a new product is great. But it’s not enough. What you need is a vision that guides everyone involved in making the product a success: the stakeholders, for example, people from marketing, sales, and support, and the development team.

This is where the product vision comes in: It describes the overarching goal you are aiming for, the reason for creating the product. An effective product vision provides a continued purpose in an ever-changing world, acts as the product’s true north, provides motivation when the going gets tough, and facilitates effective collaboration.

To choose the right vision, ask yourself why you are excited to work on the product, why you care about it, what positive change the product should bring about, and how it will shape the future. Say I’d like to create a mobile app that helps people better understand what and how much they eat by integrating with leading smartwatches and smart scales. Then the vision for this product could be help people eat healthily or simply healthy heating.


Think Big and Look beyond the Product

It’s rather common in my experience to restate the product idea as the vision. But this creates a vision that is too narrow, and it severely restricts your options to reach it. Therefore, do not tie the product vision to the actual solution. Make your product vision big and keep it independent of the product.

Take the sample vision stated earlier: Healthy eating is not attached to a specific product idea. This allows me to change my strategy to attain the vision, if necessary. I might, for instance, write a book on healthy eating or run healthy eating classes instead of developing an app. Such a change is also referred to as “pivot“.

What’s more, a big, broad vision makes it easier for the stakeholders and development team members to buy into it, and it provides continued guidance: An effective product vision should last for five to ten years.


Distinguish Product Vision and Strategy

While the product vision describes the ultimate goal of a product, the product strategy expresses the path of how to get there. Both are important to align and guide the stakeholders and the development team, but each has a different quality and purpose. I therefore recommend that you clearly distinguish between product vision and strategy. This enables you to change your strategy and pivot, as mentioned above, while staying grounded in the vision. 

At the same time, a vision is the prerequisite for choosing the right strategy. If you don’t have an overarching goal, then you cannot decide how to best get there. This is nicely illustrated by the famous conversation between the Cheshire Cat and Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Asked which way Alice should take, the cat replies: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where,” says Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” responds the Cheshire Cat.

A handy tool for describing the product vision and the product strategy is my Product Vision Board. Its top section captures the vision, and the ones underneath state the strategy required to realise the vision. You can download the tool for free from romanpichler.com/tools/vision-board.The Product Vision Board


Employ a Shared Vision

The most beautiful vision is useless if the people involved in developing and providing the product don’t buy into it. In order to create alignment and facilitate effective collaboration, the product vision must be shared–everyone must have the same vision. Without such a vision, people are likely to follow their own goals. This makes it much harder to achieve product success, and stakeholder management can consequently feel like hearing cats.

A great way to establish a shared product vision is to involve the stakeholders and development team members in creating it. Invite people to a joint workshop. Use the product idea as an input and ask the workshop attendees to capture their motivation for working on the product. Then compare the different visions, look for common ground, and combine the different ideas into a vision everybody agrees with. The following picture illustrates this approach.

Creating a Shared Product Vision

You can employ a similar approach for an existing product: Invite the right people, ask them to write down their visions, and compare them. If the visions are very similar or even identical, then that’s great: You are all in alignment. But if that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.


Choose an Inspiring Vision

“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you,” said Steve Jobs. An effective product vision should therefore motivate and inspire people.

I find that a vision focused on creating a benefit for users and customers is particularly powerful, as it provides a deep motivation and a lasting inspiration: It guides the individuals when they are doubtful or low on energy much more so than a money- or self-centric vision can.

There is nothing wrong with making money, and every product needs a viable business model, of course. But I find that working on something people believe in and think of as meaningful and beneficial really helps them excel. Additionally, such a vision facilitates the creation of an ethical product, a product that does not harm the users and the planet.


Keep your Vision Short and Sweet

As your vision is the ultimate reason for creating the product, it should be easy to understand and remember. Other artefacts including a product strategy, a business model, a product backlog, and a marketing plan provide the necessary details. Your vision should be short and sweet, it should be easy to memorise and recite.

I like to employ a simple slogan—like healthy eating—to capture the vision. It can take me several iterations to get to such a vision but I find it worth the effort. As Leonardo da Vinci put it, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”


Use the Vision to Guide your Decisions

Use the vision to guide your product decisions and to focus everyone on the ultimate reason for creating the product. While the vision alone is not enough, it is a first filter for new ideas and change requests:

Anything that helps you move closer to your vision—be it a new feature, a change of direction, or a new technology— is likely to be helpful and should be considered. Anything that doesn’t help you progress towards the product vision is not beneficial and should probably be discarded.

Post a Comment or Ask a Question

19 Comments

  • Bob Lambert says:

    Hi Roman
    Thanks for all of your articles and blogs, I’m new to product ownership so its all really helpful.

    I do have a question though with regards to sharing the vision – once I’ve created the it and am happy to start driving it forward, how would you recommend I get other teams to get more involved, especially if its not a vision that they share or isn’t their main priority? You mentioned visioning workshops but i really to get them all involved to bring it to life – any pointers?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your feedback and sharing your question. If your product has dependencies to other products, and other development teams have to develop or adjust their code so that you can progress your product, then I suggest getting together with the individuals who mange and own the other products. Identify the dependencies, discuss how you can best address them, and adjust your product roadmaps accordingly. You may benefit from involving the person who manages the portfolio your product belongs to in order to help set priorities across the different products.

      Does this help?

  • Swetha says:

    Hello Roman,

    Great article! I thoroughly follow all your articles and they give me clear idea of the prduct life cycle even though am a budding product owner.
    Yesterday I attended an interview for a Digital Product Owner role and there was a question
    ‘Can you describe me your Product Vision journey?’
    I tried to explain almost in a similar way as you explained above (because i read this blog for my interview purpose;)) but i think the hiring manager was not convinced at the point when i said ‘i will try to align my vision statement with all stake holders and come to a common understanding about the product goals’.

    My question is: Does the Product Owner alone identify the product vision by analyzing the target customers, needs and business goals? How in reality will this happen?Does he simply write it in piece of paper and then share it with other stakeholders? or will he conduct some brainstorming sessions with all stake holders/customers and then come to a common alignment on vision? Is it okay for the product owner to consider other’s vision statements also while defining it? or PO should be confident enough to get his vision statement right and try to get others inclined to it?

    I was never involved in deriving the Product vision, strategy or the business goals, as my Product Manager does it (may be) and hence am not very clear on these aspects in real time.
    Thanks a lot for all your articles, I learnt most of the product management aspects from your content and they help me a lot while preparing for interviews.

    Also, I would like to seek your advise on how to progress my career in Product Management?

    I played as an associate PO to a ‘Product Manager’ for 2 years now, where my responsibilities included:
    – Gathering requirements from the customer and translating them into functional requirements/user stories.
    – Gathering high level estimates to the features and provide inputs to the Product Manager.
    – Assisting the Product Manager in gathering information for some discovery topics.
    – Documenting epics, feature requests, user stories and providing the acceptance criteria and ensure the dev team is clear about the goal of the story.
    – Participating in all scrum ceremonies
    – Participating in all product board, solution board meetings and providing my bit of inputs/feedback for betterment of product
    – Defining the sprint goals for each sprint and ensure the dev team has sufficient backlog to work on for the successive sprints.
    – Providing workarounds/suggestions to the dev team when they face any issues on the solutions
    – Working with the UI/UX team to rebuild some of the product features for better usability and customer experience.
    – Clarifying the customer queries when needed and providing support to the dev team regarding all the clarifications related to any feature.
    – Conducting UAT when the new features are rolling out.
    – Ensuring whether the features met customer requirements and providing feedback to the dev team.
    – Communicating with the customers about the product status and the release dates
    – Monitoring the production bugs and prioritizing them for the fix.

    When I attended the interview yesterday, i realised that am still not ready to take up the full fledged Product Owner role and I understood the gaps where I have to groom – Building Product vision, strategy, building product roadmap, prioritization of features, understanding the business value of feature etc.
    May be I will gain this knowledge only through experience and I should be fortunate enough to work closely with a person in any org where I can learn and grow as an end-end Product owner.

    Can you please advise me on how to proceed further in the product management/product owner career with my current strengths?

    Thanks a lot!
    Swetha

    • Hi Swetha,

      Thank you for sharing your feedback and questions. I like to use a product vision to capture the ultimate purpose of a product and describe the positive change it should bring about. If I wanted to develop an app that helps people become more aware of what and how much they eat, then the vision could be “help people eat healthily” or just “healthy eating”. I also like to describe the vision collaboratively and give the development team and stakeholders an opportunity to influence it. This increases the chances that the vision is shared or agreed and provides a common overarching goal.

      To come up with a vision, ask yourself what the purpose of the product is, why you ultimately want to provide it. I view traget group, value proposition, stand-out features, and business goals are as separate from the actual vision, as they make up the strategy of a product, as I mention in the article. You may want to look at my book Strategize, which discusses vision and strategy in more detail.

      It’s great that you are aware of some gaps and weaknesses in your product management knowledge–that’s the prerequisite for becoming a better product professional. It also seems that you have identified the product role you would like to play, which is very helpful, as it gives you focus and direction. You should now consider prioritising the gaps and weaknesses in your knowledge in order to select the right learning and development measures like reading articles and books, attending training courses, and watching talks. Working with senior product people is another great way to increase your knowledge and skills, as you mentioned, and I would encourage you to take advantage of it.

      You may also want to talk to your manager, as the individual should support and guide you and help you select the right learning and development measures. You may also want to take a look at my articles “The T-Shaped Product Manager” and “Growth Mindset in Product Management“, which should help you with your learning journey.

      Hope this helps!

  • Marsya says:

    Thanks a lot for this article. It feels great to be reminded that there are many ways to Rome. First, you have to be aware that you are going to Rome tho.
    I have a question. Some said that if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough. So what do you say about having a simple vision?
    Sorry if it’s a weird question. Keep writing!

    • Thanks for your feedback and sharing your question Marsya. A vision can be simple and ambitious at the same time in my mind. Take “help people eat healthily” as a sample vision. The vision is stated as a simple slogan, but it is big and ambitious at the same time. I like to suggest that a vision should be big enough to provide guidance for at least three to five years. Hope this helps!

  • YASEMIN YILMAZ says:

    Hi Roman,

    Your style of writing is so good, clear that I want to thank you. Your articles have been very helpful for me thank you so much

  • Jason Yip says:

    I’m with Yoav. ““Help children enjoy music and dancing” is a mission statement. A product vision should help people see the future we intend to create which is typically more than a statement.

    Mission addresses “I don’t really get why we’re doing this…”; vision addresses “I’m not really clear what the end-game looks like.”

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. A mission or strategy describes how an overarching goal should be achieved in my mind. A vision, however, is a big, inspirational goal that communicates the purpose for offering a product and describes the positive change it should create.

      Personally, I don’t find it helpful to work with visions that paint a picture of the actual solution and describe what the product might look like and do in say five years time. Instead, I try to I like to keep my visions solution free. This allows me to pivot when necessary.

      But you have to decide for yourself what kind of vision works best for your product.

  • Jason Schuy says:

    What a great article! It stimulated a lot of thoughts and has helped us to consider an approach to get everyone on board. Thank you so much for providing this guidance!

  • yoav says:

    Hi Roman,

    Thanks for this great article. I have a feeling that at times you’ve mixed between a mission and the vision. The way I see the difference is as follows:
    – The mission is why the product/ company exists. You have the example of TOYSRUS. To me that sounds like a mission vs a vision.
    – A vision, especially for a product, is more along the lines of ‘how will the world look when our product is successful and by such , goals can be derived from it.

    I totally agree on your split with the strategy split.

    Thanks,
    Yoav.

    • Hi Yoav, Thanks for your feedback. I am afraid I disagree with your vision-mission distinction. I view the vision as the ultimate reason for creating a product; it describes the positive change the product should bring about. The product’s mission is its strategy, the approach you choose to realise the vision. My vision could be, for instance, to help people eat more healthily. The strategy or mission could be to create an app that makes people aware of what, how much, and when they eat (possibly by integrating it with a smart watch and smart scales). Another way to look at it is to consider the product strategy as the path towards the vision, the overarching, aspirational goal you want to achieve. Hope this helps.

    • Adam Grzelec says:

      I agree. For me this distinction is much more intuitive. I use concept of “vision” as the “state after mission is complete”. But these is just conceptual incoherence. Thanks for great article(s)!

  • Great article, well summarised steps of how to succeed in product design. Many people think big with their ideas, but too fewe of them create it as a group or share their vision which can lead to the product failing.

2 Trackbacks

  • Bob Lambert says:

    Hi Roman
    Thanks for all of your articles and blogs, I’m new to product ownership so its all really helpful.

    I do have a question though with regards to sharing the vision – once I’ve created the it and am happy to start driving it forward, how would you recommend I get other teams to get more involved, especially if its not a vision that they share or isn’t their main priority? You mentioned visioning workshops but i really to get them all involved to bring it to life – any pointers?
    Many thanks

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for your feedback and sharing your question. If your product has dependencies to other products, and other development teams have to develop or adjust their code so that you can progress your product, then I suggest getting together with the individuals who mange and own the other products. Identify the dependencies, discuss how you can best address them, and adjust your product roadmaps accordingly. You may benefit from involving the person who manages the portfolio your product belongs to in order to help set priorities across the different products.

      Does this help?

  • Swetha says:

    Hello Roman,

    Great article! I thoroughly follow all your articles and they give me clear idea of the prduct life cycle even though am a budding product owner.
    Yesterday I attended an interview for a Digital Product Owner role and there was a question
    ‘Can you describe me your Product Vision journey?’
    I tried to explain almost in a similar way as you explained above (because i read this blog for my interview purpose;)) but i think the hiring manager was not convinced at the point when i said ‘i will try to align my vision statement with all stake holders and come to a common understanding about the product goals’.

    My question is: Does the Product Owner alone identify the product vision by analyzing the target customers, needs and business goals? How in reality will this happen?Does he simply write it in piece of paper and then share it with other stakeholders? or will he conduct some brainstorming sessions with all stake holders/customers and then come to a common alignment on vision? Is it okay for the product owner to consider other’s vision statements also while defining it? or PO should be confident enough to get his vision statement right and try to get others inclined to it?

    I was never involved in deriving the Product vision, strategy or the business goals, as my Product Manager does it (may be) and hence am not very clear on these aspects in real time.
    Thanks a lot for all your articles, I learnt most of the product management aspects from your content and they help me a lot while preparing for interviews.

    Also, I would like to seek your advise on how to progress my career in Product Management?

    I played as an associate PO to a ‘Product Manager’ for 2 years now, where my responsibilities included:
    – Gathering requirements from the customer and translating them into functional requirements/user stories.
    – Gathering high level estimates to the features and provide inputs to the Product Manager.
    – Assisting the Product Manager in gathering information for some discovery topics.
    – Documenting epics, feature requests, user stories and providing the acceptance criteria and ensure the dev team is clear about the goal of the story.
    – Participating in all scrum ceremonies
    – Participating in all product board, solution board meetings and providing my bit of inputs/feedback for betterment of product
    – Defining the sprint goals for each sprint and ensure the dev team has sufficient backlog to work on for the successive sprints.
    – Providing workarounds/suggestions to the dev team when they face any issues on the solutions
    – Working with the UI/UX team to rebuild some of the product features for better usability and customer experience.
    – Clarifying the customer queries when needed and providing support to the dev team regarding all the clarifications related to any feature.
    – Conducting UAT when the new features are rolling out.
    – Ensuring whether the features met customer requirements and providing feedback to the dev team.
    – Communicating with the customers about the product status and the release dates
    – Monitoring the production bugs and prioritizing them for the fix.

    When I attended the interview yesterday, i realised that am still not ready to take up the full fledged Product Owner role and I understood the gaps where I have to groom – Building Product vision, strategy, building product roadmap, prioritization of features, understanding the business value of feature etc.
    May be I will gain this knowledge only through experience and I should be fortunate enough to work closely with a person in any org where I can learn and grow as an end-end Product owner.

    Can you please advise me on how to proceed further in the product management/product owner career with my current strengths?

    Thanks a lot!
    Swetha

    • Hi Swetha,

      Thank you for sharing your feedback and questions. I like to use a product vision to capture the ultimate purpose of a product and describe the positive change it should bring about. If I wanted to develop an app that helps people become more aware of what and how much they eat, then the vision could be “help people eat healthily” or just “healthy eating”. I also like to describe the vision collaboratively and give the development team and stakeholders an opportunity to influence it. This increases the chances that the vision is shared or agreed and provides a common overarching goal.

      To come up with a vision, ask yourself what the purpose of the product is, why you ultimately want to provide it. I view traget group, value proposition, stand-out features, and business goals are as separate from the actual vision, as they make up the strategy of a product, as I mention in the article. You may want to look at my book Strategize, which discusses vision and strategy in more detail.

      It’s great that you are aware of some gaps and weaknesses in your product management knowledge–that’s the prerequisite for becoming a better product professional. It also seems that you have identified the product role you would like to play, which is very helpful, as it gives you focus and direction. You should now consider prioritising the gaps and weaknesses in your knowledge in order to select the right learning and development measures like reading articles and books, attending training courses, and watching talks. Working with senior product people is another great way to increase your knowledge and skills, as you mentioned, and I would encourage you to take advantage of it.

      You may also want to talk to your manager, as the individual should support and guide you and help you select the right learning and development measures. You may also want to take a look at my articles “The T-Shaped Product Manager” and “Growth Mindset in Product Management“, which should help you with your learning journey.

      Hope this helps!

  • Marsya says:

    Thanks a lot for this article. It feels great to be reminded that there are many ways to Rome. First, you have to be aware that you are going to Rome tho.
    I have a question. Some said that if your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough. So what do you say about having a simple vision?
    Sorry if it’s a weird question. Keep writing!

    • Thanks for your feedback and sharing your question Marsya. A vision can be simple and ambitious at the same time in my mind. Take “help people eat healthily” as a sample vision. The vision is stated as a simple slogan, but it is big and ambitious at the same time. I like to suggest that a vision should be big enough to provide guidance for at least three to five years. Hope this helps!

  • YASEMIN YILMAZ says:

    Hi Roman,

    Your style of writing is so good, clear that I want to thank you. Your articles have been very helpful for me thank you so much

  • Jason Yip says:

    I’m with Yoav. ““Help children enjoy music and dancing” is a mission statement. A product vision should help people see the future we intend to create which is typically more than a statement.

    Mission addresses “I don’t really get why we’re doing this…”; vision addresses “I’m not really clear what the end-game looks like.”

    • Thanks for your comment, Jason. A mission or strategy describes how an overarching goal should be achieved in my mind. A vision, however, is a big, inspirational goal that communicates the purpose for offering a product and describes the positive change it should create.

      Personally, I don’t find it helpful to work with visions that paint a picture of the actual solution and describe what the product might look like and do in say five years time. Instead, I try to I like to keep my visions solution free. This allows me to pivot when necessary.

      But you have to decide for yourself what kind of vision works best for your product.

  • Jason Schuy says:

    What a great article! It stimulated a lot of thoughts and has helped us to consider an approach to get everyone on board. Thank you so much for providing this guidance!

  • yoav says:

    Hi Roman,

    Thanks for this great article. I have a feeling that at times you’ve mixed between a mission and the vision. The way I see the difference is as follows:
    – The mission is why the product/ company exists. You have the example of TOYSRUS. To me that sounds like a mission vs a vision.
    – A vision, especially for a product, is more along the lines of ‘how will the world look when our product is successful and by such , goals can be derived from it.

    I totally agree on your split with the strategy split.

    Thanks,
    Yoav.

    • Hi Yoav, Thanks for your feedback. I am afraid I disagree with your vision-mission distinction. I view the vision as the ultimate reason for creating a product; it describes the positive change the product should bring about. The product’s mission is its strategy, the approach you choose to realise the vision. My vision could be, for instance, to help people eat more healthily. The strategy or mission could be to create an app that makes people aware of what, how much, and when they eat (possibly by integrating it with a smart watch and smart scales). Another way to look at it is to consider the product strategy as the path towards the vision, the overarching, aspirational goal you want to achieve. Hope this helps.

    • Adam Grzelec says:

      I agree. For me this distinction is much more intuitive. I use concept of “vision” as the “state after mission is complete”. But these is just conceptual incoherence. Thanks for great article(s)!

  • Great article, well summarised steps of how to succeed in product design. Many people think big with their ideas, but too fewe of them create it as a group or share their vision which can lead to the product failing.

  • […] Learn how to create a product vision that motivates and aligns people, acts as the product's true north, and facilities collaboration.  […]

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