Creating and managing a successful product requires a lot of time and energy. In order to be fully committed, you have to be convinced that what you are doing is right and have a clear vision of where to take your product. This post shares eight tips to help you create an effective product vision that inspires the development team and the stakeholders.
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: product management, development, marketing, sales, and support. The product vision is the overarching goal you are aiming for, the reason for creating the product. It 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. One of my favourite vision statements comes from Toys R Us. The company’s vision is to “put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces”. The statement concisely captures the intention behind the company’s products and services and describes the change the users and customers should experience.
If you choose the company vision for you product, then that’s fine. Otherwise make sure that the two visions aren’t in conflict other but aligned.
Look beyond the Product
Be clear on the difference between the product vision and the product and don’t confuse the two. The former is the motivation for developing the product; the latter is a means to achieve the overarching goal.
Say that I want to create a computer game that allows children to choose and interact with characters, select different music tracks and worlds, choreograph their own dances, and play together with friends. This might be a nice idea, but it is not the actual vision.
An effective product vision goes beyond the product and captures the change the product should instigate. A vision for the game would be “Help children enjoy music and dancing”.
Distinguish between Vision and Product Strategy
Your product vision should not be a plan that shows how to reach your goal. Instead, you should keep the product vision and the product strategy – the path towards the goal – separate. This enables to change your strategy while staying grounded in your vision. (This is called to pivot in Lean Startup.)
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 you 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 both the product vision and the product strategy is the Product Vision Board. Its top section captures the vision, and the ones below state the strategy to realise the vision. You can download the tool for free from romanpichler.com/tools/vision-board.
Create a Shared Vision
You can come up with the most beautiful vision for your product. But it’s useless if the people involved in making the product a success don’t buy into it. To leverage the vision as the product’s true north, to create alignment, and to facilitate effective collaboration, the product vision must be shared – everyone must have the same vision. Without a shared vision, people follow their own goals making it much harder to achieve product success.
A great way to create a shared product vision is to employ a collaborative visioning workshop. Rather than formulating a product vision and then selling it to the key people you create it together. 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 goals into a new one everybody agrees with.
You can employ a similar approach for an existing product: Invite the right people, ask them to write down their vision, and compare them. If the visions are the same or very similar, then that’s great. If not 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. Your vision should therefore motivate people, connect them to the product, and inspire them.
I find that a vision focused on creating a benefit for others provides a particularly deep motivation and a lasting inspiration. It guides me when I am feeling doubtful much more than a money- or self-centric vision can. There is nothing wrong with making money, of course, and every product needs a viable business model. But I find that people excel because they believe that they are doing something meaningful and beneficial.
Going back to the computer game example used earlier, an alternative vision for the game could be “Diversify and grow the business”. But such a vision is not inspirational and motivating enough in my mind. It would not lift me up in moments of doubt. Rather than stating business goals in the vision, I like to capture them in the product strategy (using the business goal section of the Product Vision Board).
If you are not sure then I recommend that you include the beneficial change the product should create for others and for your business without trying to quantify or detail those benefits. Otherwise your vision may no longer be able to guide you when you pivot.
Make your product vision broad and ambitious so that it engages people and it can facilities a change in the strategy. The vision of the computer game example “Help children enjoy music and dancing” is a broad and ambitious vision, for instance. It does not refer to the actual product idea or a specific target group, and it is not satisfied with creating a fun gaming experience. It aims for more.
If it turns out that the idea of developing a computer game for children is ill conceived then there are still alternatives to make the vision come true. I could, for instance, decide to open up a dance school or create a virtual dance course. (Given that I am an exceptionally bad dancer, I seriously doubt that I’d be good at either. But at least I have some options.)
Keep your Vision Short and Sweet
As your vision is the ultimate reason for creating the product, it should be easy to communicate and to understand. 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 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 said, “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 certainly 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 helpful and should be considered; anything that doesn’t, is not beneficial and should probably be discarded.
Post a Comment or Ask a Question
I am a newbie product owner 😉 Very helpful this article. THANKS. Love the examples that you give. Do you also have some filled in vision boards? I am struggling with how to describe things. So examples would really help.
Thanks for your feedback and question Brenda. Great that you found the article helpful. You can find a sample product vision board in the article The Product Vision Board together with more advice on how to apply the tool. Hope this helps!
Thank you so much for making this very easy and fun to go over.
You’re welcome Hajar and thanks for your feedback.
Timeless piece of work, thank you! Years after you first posted this, I am now evolving into Portfolio Management and have found this of great and immediate value.
Thanks for the feedback Dudu. I am glad that you found the article helpful!
That is one of the best articles that I have read during my journey as a product guy.
You’re welcome Arash and thanks for the feedback. Great to hear that you liked the article.
Great article Roman. One question for you. What suggestions do you have for someone creating a product vision for a product that is ultimately going to be sunset? Currently it is the cash cow for the organisation but is on older technology and will be replaced by a different product in the next 5 years. Ultimately the goal is keep customers happy until a time in which feature parity exists with the new product built on newer technology within the cloud.
Thanks for the feedback and your question Brad. The vision should be (largely) independent of the life cycle stage a product is in, and I would not expect the vision to significantly change when a product enters the maturity and decline stages. To come up with an effective vision, try to describe the positive change that the product has brought about or the ultimate reason for it to exist. Defending market share, keeping the customers reasonable happy and satisfied, and using the product as a cash cow would be strategic goals for the maturity stage, as I describe in the article Strategic Options for Mature Products. Hope this helps!
I have a similar question to Brad but rather than a product that’s about to be sunset, how does the vision differ for a product that is mature. The examples that are given seem to be for new products.
Thanks for sharing your question Chloe. If you are about to sunset a product, you’re unlikely to require an inspiring product vision that guides you. A vision tends to be especially useful when you work on a new or changing product. Hope this helps.
First of all, I’d like to thank you and say that your blog is awesome for people that, like me, are trying to be aware about the best practices on product management. If this is your mission, assuming your are a product, you are doing pretty good.
I have some questions.
I’m a product manager of a team that doesn’t have a product yet. My challenge is to build something from the scratch, including the team. I confess that I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to understand how a product could fit on this business that already exist (a digital marketing agency that aims to create methods and technologies for other agencies like us). It’s very complex to get into the details, but I really don’t know where to go, or how to go. I started look at your blog and started to build the product vision, since I understand it’s where all it starts. But I’m not sure how to answer the bottom part of the board, like:
– Target group: It is the group that I intend to reach with a specific solution from a problem hipotesis. Right?
– Needs: Should I write down the needs that I think they have or should I go and make some research with the target group?
– Product: Should I define it after the end of the costumer interview (Discovery)?
Because if I had to guess all these answers, the work is easy. If I don’t, the work is kind of huge. What would you recommend to a poor soul like me?
ps.: I’m afraid that I took a step larger than my legs.
Thanks for your feedback and question. The target group are the people who you believe will benefit from the product. These are the target users and they may include target customers. The needs describe the main reason for people to use or pay for the product, the problem they want to see addressed or the benefit they want to achieve. The product column, finally, should state the three to five aspects that make your product stand out. I explain the product vision board elements and how to use them in more detail in my aptly named article The Product Vision Board. I’ve also recorded a related video that you may want to check out.
If you are struggling to describe the target group, main problem/benefit, and standout features, then you will benefit from minimum upfront discovery work, as I explain in my article A Brief Guide to Product Discovery.
Hope this helps!
Roman, you are great! Thank a lot for the materials you provid!!!
You’re welcome Vitaliy! I am glad that you find my work helpful, and thank your for sharing your feedback.
Amazing article. I did try the vision board for a complex product and has been super helpful. Also tried the roadmap side, and it has led to some good conversations about the bigger picture. Could you provide any insight into breaking down MVPs and can feasibility analysis report be considered as an MVP?
Hi Sheela, Thank you for sharing your feedback and question. Lovely to hear that you found the product vision board helpful. An MVP should be an initial, good-enouigh version of your product that allows you to address the needs of the early market (innovators and early adopters). Please take a look at my article “The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product” for more information. Hope this helps!
Thanks a lot, Roman! This was super helpful!
You’re welcome Eli. Glad I could help!
Roman, thanks for your website and all its content – its a real thought-provoker and you have to be quite exceited how your thought leadership affects this domain!
My question is: in your approach, how would you describe the differentiation between a “Product Vision” and a “Product Canvas”? I can see that there is overlap in the descriptions and writing you’ve done on each, but wanted to understand the deltas between the two.
You’re very welcome Robert. Thank you for sharing your feedback and question. I use my product canvas as an alternative to a traditional, linear product backlog. I therefore view it as a tactical tool. The product vision, in contrast, is an inspirational goal that describes the purpose of the product, the positive change it should bring about. I like to capture product vision together with the product strategy on my product vision board. Form the strategy, I derive a product roadmap. I then use this roadmap to determine the right contents for the product canvas/backlog, as I explain in my book Strategize. Does this help?
I have started to read your book “Strategize” and it has really been very helpful for me. Quick question, if a company has multiple product lines, should each have its own vision and product roadmap?
Thanks for sharing your feedback and question. A product line, a group of related products that serve the same market like Apple’s iPhones, may have a shared vision. But if the individual products serve different market segments, address different user/customer problems, or create different benefits, then I would create separate product strategies and product roadmaps for each one. Using the toolset I have developed, each product line member would then have its own product vision board and GO product roadmap. But the vision statement may be shared across the boards.
Does this help?
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?
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?
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!
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!
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!
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
Thanks for your kind feedback Yasemin. Glad to hear that you find my posts helpful.
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.
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!
Thanks for your feedback Jason. Glad to hear that the article was helpful.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the feedback. Glad you like the article.