Creating a useful product vision is simple – how to do it?

Having a compelling product vision is so important as it gives purpose, helps focus product related activities, and improves decision making. This is the case only if the vision is actually accepted and lived. The process of creating the vision is a point of leverage for achieving this. It greatly influences if and how the product vision will be lived after it is all said and done. How the product vision is created has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the vision. 

That is what we will cover today. How to create a product vision? It’s really not overly complicated if you keep three things in mind.

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Start with the users

As addressed before, the product vision is the distillation of the needs the product fulfills for users. It is the brief description of the value the product will generate for users in the future. Thus, in order to formulate a vision for the product, we need to first understand exactly that. 

What problems do our users have that our product will solve?

Now, building this understanding is by no means exclusive to creating a product vision. It is, in fact, a continuous process that should be ongoing at all times. There are many frameworks and methods from product management and the UX world out there that you can use to gain this understanding. I am not going to go into details on those here. Some that I have found to be quite useful are:

There are surely many more that I forgot. 

I have also had success by simply visualizing the things a user does before, after, and during the interaction with our product. For each step, we wrote down the problems the user has. We then ran through the steps again and tried to formulate what an optimal solution for that step would be (we turned the negatives into positives). I am not entirely sure if this is a method that has an official name but it greatly helped to distill what the main problems were that our product will solve.

Regardless of how you get to the understanding of the users’ problems, it is at the heart of the product vision. If you know this, all you need to do is formulate how the product will solve that problem. More on that in a bit.

Involve others

This is of paramount importance, involving those that will be working on product related activities when creating the product vision. The reason is simple: buy-in. If the vision is to serve its purpose of guiding all product related activities, the people doing those activities need to believe in the vision. 

The best way to achieve that is to involve them in the process of creating the product vision. I recently made the mistake of doing the exact opposite. With some external support, I came up with a good product vision.

However, buy-in wasn’t immediately there. I then had to spend that much more energy on communicating the product vision. Even with that extra energy it kind of fizzled. 

So, we are probably going to have to start over and create it again with those that will be using it. I will be involving the development team, key stakeholders from sales, marketing, and leadership, and possibly involve some customers directly. 

That is the easiest way to get the necessary people to actually believe in the product vision. Having them jointly formulate the vision creates a sense of ownership and buy-in.

Write it down

Finally, the product vision needs to be spelled out. It needs to be written down. This is no science but a bit of an art. You will need to find the words that feel like they fit your product best, that resonate with the team.

Likely, you will be doing this together with others in some sort of workshop and will need several attempts until you find something that sounds right. Creating the vision is an iterative process and there is no definite right answer for a “correct” one. It should, however, be written in present tense, be concise in length, but big and bold in aspiration.  

There are some frameworks that help in creating the vision. The most frequently deployed seems to mostly be credited to Geoffry Moore. It is simply formulating the product vision in the following structure:

For [the target user] who [has some sort of need] the [product] is a [type of product] that [offers some sort of key benefit]. Unlike [some other products] our product [has some sort of key differentiation].

This is a great starting point, as it gives some boundaries on what to formulate. You can then go from there. It can also be the final formulation. Check the example of the Microsoft Surface Pro vision in last week’s article:

For the business user who needs to be productive in the office and on the go, the Surface Pro is a convertible tablet that is easy to carry and gives you full computing productivity no matter where you are. Unlike laptops, Surface Pro serves your on-the-go needs without having to carry an extra device.

It is exactly in this format.

I haven’t used it myself but the Product Vision Board from Roman Pichler also seems to be very popular. It is a tool that helps capture both vision and product strategy andmight also be worth trying out.

It’s not rocket science

That’s it. Three pretty straightforward guidelines to creating a product vision.

First, gain an understanding of the problems your users and customers face (which you should anyway be doing) and understand how your product will solve those problems. Second, invite others on the journey to create the vision with you. Third and finally, jointly formulate a concise summary of the value your product will bring customers.

Not overly complicated. Surely, actually writing the words is the most difficult step. But with some practice, after a few iterations something always comes up that resonates and captures the essence. Remember, only rocket science is rocket science 😉

Coverphoto by FORTYTWO on Unsplash