Product vision and strategy
The Product Vision describes the future we are trying to create through our product and how our product intends to contribute to our company’s larger purpose.
The Product Vision describes the WHAT and the WHY. It’s highly aspirational and long term, and as such realizing it may take several years (~5 years or more).
Amazon: 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.
LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.
Spotify: To enable people to have music moments everywhere.
The Product Vision states what the product could ultimately become in support of the company’s overarching purpose. It reflects a team’s core values, motivations and intentions. It’s often referred to as a team’s "True North," defining the product’s direction and guiding the team’s every decision and action.
Your product vision should communicate:
Ideation and experimentation alone will not enable us to create great products. Without a vision, we're left to aimlessly iterate towards some unknown destination. If we don't know where we want to go, how would we know if we're getting there?
Your product vision helps you tell the story of your product. It explains what you hope to achieve and sets the direction for where you are going.
A compelling product vision will:
Your product vision might be defined by business leaders like CEOs or VPs. If this is the case, you need to make sure you clearly understand their vision. Write down what you understand it to be and validate it with them.
Post your product vision somewhere in your workspace where it’s clearly visible to everyone! This way, it’ll be a constant reminder of what you’re working toward.
Getting to the right vision statement for your product can be challenging and take some time.
Keep it short and succinct. It's important that your product vision is easy to understand, remember and communicate. Try to keep it to one or two sentences.
Align it with your company vision. Your vision should clearly communicate how your product will contribute to your company’s larger purpose. If your company has one product, then your company vision also makes for a great product vision. If your company has a portfolio of many products, then you should align your product vision with the reason for being of your particular business unit or group.
Focus it on the user. The product vision should answer who the product is intended for, what needs or desires the product satisfies for its users, and what benefit(s) the user can expect to experience by using the product.
Stay away from specific solutions. Your vision should describe the positive impact your product is intended to have. Your vision shouldn't explain what your product is or how it works -- you will figure these things out through your Product Strategy and product roadmap. If your vision makes any statements about particular features or technology choices, it'll limit you later and prevent you from being flexible to new information and changing circumstances.
Make it big and ambitious. A bold product vision will help you remain flexible in what product strategy you pursue and how. It will enable you to expand and evolve both your product and your business over time as the market and what customers need and want changes.
Make sure it’s inspirational. The product vision should be something that people care about and can connect with. If the product vision clearly states the benefits you’re looking to create for others, you’re already halfway there. A vision that matters will motivate the team when things get tough, make people excited to work on the product, help you attract new team members and connect with the right customers.
Make it unique. Explain what sets your product apart from other alternatives, and why it matters. This too will help you connect with the right customers, as well as attract new team members who want to contribute to making the product vision real.
Iterate it. Make sure that even existing products, not just new products, have a clear vision statement. If your vision is no longer aspirational, motivational or rings true to customers, articulate a new and better vision statement.
It may feel challenging to come up with a good Product Vision. The more time you spend talking to your users, as well as stakeholders and sponsors, the clearer your vision will become. Use their feedback to understand whether your vision resonates, and iterate until you get to something that feels right.
Your Product Strategy is a high-level plan for realizing your Product Vision. It defines your path forward by addressing the challenges you must overcome and the initiatives you believe will help you do so.
The product strategy explains HOW we will realize our product vision. It might span several years.
Product Strategy is about figuring out what product to make such that we achieve one or more goals under conditions of high uncertainty. Consequently, strategy is also about knowing what not to build, what to say no to and why.
Your product strategy should always be in service of your Product Vision, which provides the context for why you're building the product in the first place. The vision is what inspires us, and the strategy is what gets us to the vision.
The Product Strategy covers a set of choices you make about the path forward:
Your strategy will, and should, change as you start to implement it. You will begin to see whether it's effective or not, and you will also learn more about your market -- and as you uncover new information and/or achieve your goals, you'll want to change or evolve your strategy.
Oftentimes, Product Managers are akin to Investment Managers. We're given a budget to deliver a product that meets both user needs and business goals. It's up to us to ensure that funds are used as effectively and efficiently as possible.
As Product Managers, we're inundated with request and ideas. How do we know what to say no to? We can’t do everything because the time, money and resources we have available to invest in our product are finite. Additionally, a product that does everything for everyone will do nothing well for anyone -- and by the time we launch it, our competition may have raised the stakes beyond our grasp.
We need some way of knowing that we're working on the right things and that we're making good progress against our vision. A Product Strategy helps us identify the right objectives and decide where to invest to best achieve those objectives.
It might be you, or it might a combination of you and the product sponsor(s).