What is product vision?
Have you ever been lost on a road trip or while exploring a new city? It can feel a little thrilling and lead to discoveries as you go. But wandering aimlessly is not sustainable if you have a destination in mind.
The same is true in business — you need to know what you are trying to achieve in order to create real value. You need a north star that everyone at the organization is moving toward together to achieve your goals and serve your customers.
Product vision is part of that guiding constellation. Connected to the company's overarching mission, a strong product vision helps you build a product strategy that is forward-looking and customer-driven. It is the core essence of where you want your product to be in the future and what you are building.
Without a clear vision, many product teams have trouble seeing the big picture. They change course often and tend to disagree on what to do next. It can feel disorienting and demotivating when you cannot tie your work to the value it provides. Even more, it is a bad situation for your product and customers too. You cannot deliver the experience that customers want if you are not clear on why you are providing it.
Vision brings the future into everyday work. It helps the entire organization understand the larger purpose of the product. When done right, it inspires and motivates everyone to do their very best work.
Who is responsible for product vision?
Product vision is typically led by the chief product officer (CPO) or VP of product — with support from other executives to ensure it supports the company vision. Company vision is the umbrella that sits over product vision. Where the company is heading long-term will directly impact where the product needs to go to support that.
At a single-product company, product and company vision may be the same. At organizations with a product portfolio, each product or brand may have its own vision. Product leaders are responsible for knitting together these visions to create a cohesive whole. And product managers are ultimately in charge of executing against the defined product vision(s).
If you are working on a product that does not have this kind of clarity, it can be frustrating. But you can be part of leading the change.
What are the steps for creating product vision?
Establishing product vision — or refreshing a stale vision — is a collaborative effort. Begin by getting support from your manager and the product team. You can also talk to other teammates, team leaders, and even current and prospective customers. The following steps can help you get started:
Vision starts with knowing your customers and what they need. You have to deeply understand their challenges and how your product will help. If you are working on establishing product vision for a new offering, research the market to understand who your target market is and what they need. If you are refreshing the vision for an existing product, speak directly to customers and to customer-facing teams like support and sales. Their insights can broaden your understanding of who you serve.
Seek answers to these questions:
Why does our product exist?
What does our product do better than others in the same space?
What are our competitors doing?
What do our customers think of our product and company?
What do our employees think of our product and company?
What are the market opportunities over the next year? Three years? Five years?
What are the most critical challenges we anticipate facing in the next few years?
What are our revenue goals?
Take what you have gathered and try to synthesize into a sentence or two that describes your product's value. For example:
The [target buyer/user] who [has this problem] will use [name of your product] to achieve [the key benefit or value you will provide] because [explanation of why other offerings fail] and will feel [the following emotion].
You can also use a product positioning statement to capture this information:
For [group of users] that [need/want], [company/product] is a [category/solution] that uniquely solves this by [benefit].
These exercises help you zero in on the most important information. But they are not synonymous with a product vision statement. You may need to dig deeper to uncover a vision statement that feels true to your organization.
For example, our vision at Aha! is to help teams build lovable products and be happy doing it. This vision reflects our values and is succinct — so it is memorable and actionable for our team.
Product managers are the greatest ambassadors of the product vision. But you also want other teams to believe in the vision too. As you fine-tune your vision statement, take time to circulate it around the organization and ask for feedback. Does the vision resonate with everyone? Is it easy for teams to articulate how their work impacts the vision?
Be prepared to workshop the vision with key stakeholders and make adjustments. You want to choose a statement that feels inspiring and durable — something that everyone can rally around for the foreseeable future.
A strong vision becomes the cornerstone for everything you do. Formalize it in writing. Add it to your website or internal wiki. Reference it often. Vision is not something to define once and forget about.
Once documented, make your vision accessible to other teams and top of mind when building product plans. Product management software makes it possible to set strategy, prioritize work, and create visual roadmaps to chart the progress of your product against your vision.
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