When you’re making something new or reimagining an existing product, how do you know what to prioritize? How do you manage contradicting or vague input and expectations from senior leadership or stakeholders? How do you determine if what you are building will stand out from the competition? How do you know if you’re making the right thing for your users?
There is one tool we use that can answer many of those questions — Product Vision.
What is Product Vision?
If you’re new to the idea of product vision, don’t worry. Simply put, a product vision is a product’s long-term goal. The general idea when creating one is to look into the future and imagine where the product you’re developing (or re-developing) hopes to be or achieve in 2 to 5 years.
When product vision is successfully articulated and circulated within the team working on a product, it can help everyone make decisions on what to focus on and see how their work shapes the overall roadmap.
As an agency, we use product vision to communicate decisions and manage requests from client stakeholders. If a certain feature request doesn’t make sense within our agreed-upon product vision, we have an accessible way of saying “no” or at least “not right now.”
When we’re introducing the idea of product vision to clients, we emphasize that product vision isn’t the same as company vision. We think of the products we make as the tools a company uses to achieve its overall goals, but those products need to have their own individual goals, too.
As an example, Uber’s company vision is:
“We ignite opportunity by setting the world in motion.”
While the product vision for the mobile app many people use to get a ride is:
“Evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”
The app’s product vision clearly supports the company vision but the product vision sets up the team to add new features or make improvements to the experience with a focus on their primary users.
Product Vision MadLibs
To help our clients define their product vision and get everyone on the same page, one of our favorite workshops to run is something called “Product Vision MadLibs”.
Here’s how it works:
- For a small group (more than 2 people and fewer than 7), give everyone a templated version of Geoffrey Moore’s Product Vision Statement. For a larger group (7 or more people), break into teams of 2–3 and give each team a template.
- Give participants 7–10 minutes to complete their template individually or in their small groups (ideally using breakout rooms for groups if this is a remote workshop).
- At the end of the 7–10 minutes, reconvene to have each participant or group share their product vision statement.
- Once everyone has shared, discuss the similarities and differences between each statement.
- Give each person or team 4 stickers or dots for voting. From all of the product vision statements presented, they must vote (individually or as a group) on the unique selling points and main differentiators that most successfully articulate what makes the product necessary or significant to its target users.
Following the workshop, you’ll take all of the generated product vision statements and synthesize them based on what received the most votes and/or what resonated most in the discussion. You can then send this streamlined statement back out to participants or share it at your next meeting.
A few things we’ve found to be useful when facilitating the workshop:
- Try to keep participants from getting hung up on exact word choice since this isn’t a copywriting exercise. It’s up to you, and the team, if you want to wordsmith the synthesized statement to perfection or leave it in the template form.
- Encourage healthy disagreements and discussion. If one person or group has a completely different take on unique selling points from another person or group, talk about it.
- Keep an eye on the clock. As with any workshop, time can get away from you quickly and easily. This workshop generally takes an hour but it can feel action-packed and leave little time for discussion. Try to book 90 minutes if schedules will allow.
Elliott Mower is Mediacurrent’s Creative Strategy Director. He currently has an 846-day streak of completing the New York Times Crossword Puzzle and his favorite puzzle day is Sunday.