Last week I wrote a post describing the difference between product strategy and product roadmaps. All too often product roadmaps are created without the benefit of a coherent product strategy which informs planning and resource utilization. It is also often the case that organizations point to tactical product roadmaps as their product strategy. Our survey data shows that only a third of product organizations actually have a coherent and actionable product strategy. A rather low number given how important it is. Even more overlooked is a product vision.
What is a Product Vision and Why Should I Have One for My Product?
A product vision encompasses the general idea of what the product does for whom and with what high-level benefits. The vision is intended to be enduring throughout the product lifecycle. The intent is to keep product management’s efforts focused in a consistent direction over the life of the product or at least the foreseeable future.
For products that do not have an upgrade cycle, the initial value proposition will likely be its ongoing product vision. For products and services that evolve with ongoing updates and development activities, the product vision helps to maintain a common overriding theme that all future development will respect.
The product vision is not a list of features or capabilities. It describes what the product does for a specific target market in terms of benefits. Here’s an example, our product encourages healthy exercise in the home for an aging population and is gentle on the joints, fun to use, and affordable. Much can be interpreted from this vision that can be implemented through a variety of features, while also putting boundaries around it and implying what the product is not.
The vision can also put stakes in the ground relative to competition that will force the product team to constantly stay ahead of their competitors by finding ways to make their product a market leader.
The product strategy should then go on to further describe, in general terms, how to achieve this product vision.
A product vision is a very useful tool for ensuring that your product develops in the way you intended. While a product vision can stand on its own it should serve as the cornerstone supporting your forward-looking and aligned product strategy and tactical product roadmap. This holds true regardless of which product development methodology your product team utilizes to actualize the product vision.
The best way to summarize this point is encapsulated by a recent comment from my last post on product strategy. Their quote, and I paraphrase here, was “relying upon a product roadmap in lieu of a product vision and strategy will get you somewhere – but it will likely be not where you intended to go.” Well said!
Source: The Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge, Greg Geracie and Steven Eppinger