How to develop a product vision in 7 steps

Developing a product vision

I am a big fan of Google’s vision statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It’s both, high-level and specific, and withstands the test of time.

A vision statement is a foundation for a successful product strategy. A product vision represents the core essence of its product or product line. It also sets the direction for where a product is headed or the end state for what a product will deliver in the future.

The hardest part about creating a product vision is that it needs to resonate with all stakeholders — they have to be convinced that your development plan is aligned with company goals and is right for your customers. passing on a clear vision across your entire organization is crucial for creating a successful product. The product vision is what guides everyone involved in making the product a success: product management, development, marketing, sales, and support.

“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.

How to develop a product vision. Man using compass on a mountain.

7 tips on how to develop a product vision

 1. Start with asking yourself why you need a product vision 

To understand the importance of having a vision statement, consider how difficult it would be to develop a good product without one. For example, the product vision I'm defining will help me:
  • develop a better product roadmap.
  • improve strategic decision-making throughout the development process.
  • align teams and stakeholders across the company.

 2. Don't be afraid to think big and create new value 

Too often I see product visions that are not nearly ambitious enough, the kind of thing we can pull off in six months to a year or so, and not substantial enough to inspire anyone. Too many companies focus their efforts on protecting what they have rather than constantly creating new value for their customers.

 3. The product vision needs to inspire. 

As the legendary VC, John Doerr, said “we need teams of missionaries, not teams of mercenaries.” Martin Cagan explains the difference between the two:

"Teams of missionaries are engaged, motivated, have a deep understanding of the business context, and tangible empathy for the customer. Teams of mercenaries feel no real sense of empowerment or accountability, no passion for the problem to be solved, and little real connection with the actual users and customers.

Remember that you want product teams of missionaries, not mercenaries. More than anything else, it is the product vision that will inspire missionary‐like passion in the organization. Create something you can get excited about. You can make any product vision meaningful if you focus on how you genuinely help your users and customers."

 4. Embrace relevant and meaningful trends 

Too many companies ignore the trends far too long until it’s late. But the problem lies not in identifying them but applying them to your organisation. You have to understand how they can impact your company and solve customer problems in new and better ways.

If you are in a large company, it’s never easy to drive substantial change. There is always a long roadmap, process or office politics that will not allow these trends to be applied or even taken into account. You will to take responsibility, take small steps towards your goal that will not disturb anyone. So once you are there and the end benefit is evident to everybody, it will be more comfortable to onboard people with your vision.

 5. Evangelize continuously and relentlessly 

There is no such thing as over-communicating when it comes to explaining and selling the vision.
Its primary purpose is to communicate this vision and inspire the teams to want to help make this vision a reality.

After you develop a product vision

 6. Make sure you share it often 

The job of the Product Owner includes sharing the Product Vision. And sharing the vision again. And again. And again. It's important for people to know why you're doing the things you do. It helps the Development Team in making technical choices about architecture for example. It helps the stakeholders in understanding what would be valuable for the product. It helps users to understand why they should use and/or buy your product. 

 7. Adapt the product vision based on learnings 

Developing an awesome Product Vision is rather complex. It's not predictable, nor easy, nor something you do 'first time right'. It's also not something you should do on your own. So in order to develop the Product vision, collaborate with your stakeholders, Scrum Team, customers, and users! Don't try to get it right the first time! Take a couple of iterations to improve your vision. Make it better over time!

'Don't be afraid to pivot!'. Some of the most successful like Facebook or Netflix started out with a totally different purpose (vision) in mind. Only because the original purpose failed and the companies adapted their vision, they have now become some of the most successful companies of our time. So don't be afraid to change direction! As you're learning from customers and users, adopt their feedback and embrace that changing your vision might just be a great idea!

Bonus: Vision statement examples

 Google Product Vision Statement 

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

 Disney Product Vision Statement 

To make people happy.

 Ikea Product Vision Statement 

To create a better everyday life for the many people.

 Microsoft Product Vision Statement 

Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

 Nike Product Vision Statement 

Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)

 Ford Product Vision Statement 

People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.

 Honda – in 1970 Product Vision Statement 

We will destroy Yamaha.

 Apple Product Vision Statement 

To produce high-quality, low cost, easy to use products that incorporate high technology for the individual.

 Tesla Product Vision Statement 

To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

 Sony Product Vision Statement 

To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.

Facebook Product Vision Statement

To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

 Heinz Product Vision Statement 

Our VISION, quite simply, is to be: “The World’s Premier Food Company, Offering Nutritious, Superior Tasting Foods To People Everywhere.” Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth.

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