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Product vision is one part of the trifecta that makes up a good product. The two other parts are the product strategy and the product roadmap. Interlinked and interdependent, these three attributes ensure that the final product meets the user's exact needs. How do you, as the Product Manager, make sure you’re defining and harmonizing these three parts? Keep on reading to learn more!
Too often, product teams make the mistake of creating in a vacuum, focusing on building the product without making reference to the drawing board. Establishing a Product Vision and aligning the team to it is a great way to avoid the setbacks that come from doing this.
We often hear Product Vision as if it’s this vague term… though, at its core, product vision is really just a set of descriptive statements that convey the purpose of the work being done. It can differ from the company vision in that it is on a smaller scale and at the product level whereas the company vision tends to be more detailed and include things such as the goals, scope and future of the company.
This distinction between the Product vision and the Company vision is more common in multi-product companies for example Google, which offers many products ranging from its search engine to its Calendar. The Company’s vision statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” and then the product vision for the search engine is “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.” Single product companies though would very likely not differentiate the two.
The best product visions are within the reach of the team, descriptive, aspirational and tied to the corporate vision and ultimately, the best way for a Product Manager to align the team to the vision is to ensure that it ticks these boxes. After a vision has been established then the team can proceed to launch a Product strategy that will allow them to achieve their mission.
MAKE THE VISION EASILY ACCESSIBLE
As a Product Manager, the most important step in aligning the team to the product vision is to ensure it’s accessible and unforgettable. Make sure that the vision is not a secret and that everyone can keep track. Members of the team need to be able to look at the vision as something worth investing their time in.
Many Product teams decide to have their vision statement visibly displayed on a wall. You can also perhaps add it at the bottom of emails just so that the team sees it frequently enough. This helps everyone internalize it and reminds them of what they’re doing and why.
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MAKE YOUR STATEMENTS CLEAR & DESCRIPTIVE
It’s a tough job to make something concise, clear but still descriptive. Thus the Product Manager has their work cut out for them. They have to first understand the product vision for themselves before selling it to the rest of the team.
Whatever words they choose to use to describe the product vision, they must remember to make it actionable and relevant. The vision must be clear in such a way that the members of the team read it and instantly know their place in building the product.
Consider Amazon’s product vision for example: “to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” Upon reading it, the members of the team understand that this Product must be designed and engineered in such a way that the customer feels like the focus; that the Product should be easy to use and prompts made available so that people can find items they want and even discover new things they didn’t even realise that they wanted; and that the range of items being offered should be practically endless.
There is no room for ambiguity in a product vision, especially because as much as possible, the Product Manager wants the team to work without being micromanaged. This brings us to the next point.
THE BEST VISIONS ACT AS GUIDE RAILS
The Product Vision should act as guide rails for the team. A product team is made up of professionals who work cross-functionally as part of the team. But Product Managers are never in charge of all the people they need to rely on to get things done, so collaboration is the name of the game.
Each person will make decisions relating to the role they play on the team and the Product Manager cannot handhold each team member through every single decision. This is why the Product Vision ought to be phrased in a way that helps the team in decision making. When faced with two alternatives, it’s the option which brings you closer to your product vision that you must choose.
From the dev team to designers, content writers, documentation specialists, sales managers and more, the Product Manager will need to be the central figure who brings it all together and the Product vision is a tool through which he can achieve this.
MAKE THE PRODUCT VISION ASPIRATIONAL
The product vision needs to be something that inspires the team to keep working on the Product. It also needs to be forward-thinking otherwise you as the Product Manager might have to establish a new vision every few months. Thus, it must be realistic but also aspirational enough to convince the team to come in early and execute their work even till the most minute details.
Frankly, people might work on a product whether or not they believe in it. But there’s often something to be said for the way that people work when they believe in the work they’re doing and feel like it’s worth their while.
TIED TO CORPORATE VISION
In circumstances where the Product Vision is not the same as the Company vision as was highlighted in the opening paragraphs, then the Product Vision must have a clear relationship with the company vision. Imagine how chaotic it would be if a company said that its vision was one thing, yet each product that came out of the company did not tally with that vision.
For the success of the company, it’s important that there is a coherent line linking the product vision to the company vision. This reduces confusion for the team and keeps everyone on the same page.
Product visions give the team direction. Without a clear vision, the team will encounter a wide range of issues from stagnancy to irrelevance. So as the Product Manager, involve the team. The keyword here is the word team. The Product Manager should never work in isolation and so it is important to Invite stakeholders and teammates such as developers, designers, researchers, business and marketing people to share their expertise under your supervision.
Have your vision reviewed and be open to collaborating with other stakeholders so that in the end, everyone feels some form of personal responsibility towards the vision.
Create a vision that resonates with both the company’s employees and its customers and don’t worry if there’s a need to modify your product vision a couple of times, everything is a work in progress. Above all, make your product vision simple, descriptive, aspirational and relative to the company’s overall vision and everyone will align with it.