As a seasoned product manager, I’ve often found myself amidst product teams zealously working on features with no foundational ‘why’ to anchor their efforts. Surrounded by a swirling mist of corporate jargon and ever-evolving goals, teams often operate on a tapestry of assumptions regarding company expectations.
In this scenario, there’s no genuine North Star pointing out whether their product is truly on the right track. While metrics such as daily active users and subscriptions might offer some measure, they’re not the tales our products should narrate. A statement like “We aim for a product that 1,000,000 people use daily” is a metric, not a vision. Having a million users is just an outcome and it doesn’t speak to the impact you can have.
At the end of this article I’m going to give you the tools to solidify your product vision. I’ll even show you can use an AI tool to help you draft your vision statement in a few minutes!
Vision-driven product management
Every organization should have a vision. It’s always surprising to me how many oscillate with their vision or haven’t defined one that’s genuinely compelling. Or worse, teams within the organization don’t know the vision or simply can’t articulate it. Just as a company needs a vision, so does your product—and arguably, it should resonate even more!
First, what’s a company vision?
A company’s vision is its future-looking statement, outlining where it sees itself in the long run. In the absence of a clear company vision, try answering these questions:
- What’s your company’s purpose?
- Who do we serve and how?
- What does your company want to accomplish and how?
Creating an inspiring company vision involves:
- Envisioning the desired future state of the company and its impact on the world.
- Defining what success really looks like for the company.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the company vision in this article. My reason for discussing it is that your company’s vision ought to be clear to you and everyone in your organization. In other words, you need this anyway, but your product vision isn’t going to make any sense if you don’t have a company vision.
Some perspective before we continue…
A prevalent paradigm in the corporate landscape is an excessive focus on what companies aim to sell, often overshadowing the essence of who they’re selling to and why. At the core of every purchase decision is a simple yet potent question from the user’s perspective: “What’s in it for me?”
Crafting a captivating product vision necessitates a paradigm shift — from peddling features to emphasizing how a product genuinely enriches a user’s life. By centering the user in our product narrative, we transition from mere salespeople pushing products to advocates providing value. If we neglect this pivotal perspective, we risk meandering in the maze of aggressive sales pitches and endless debates over pricing, while missing the genuine opportunity to profit because we make a meaningful impact on the lives we intend to serve.
Okay, so what exactly is a product vision?
Now we’re ready to focus on the product vision. This is the compass for your product, providing direction in the vast expanse of possibilities. An effective product vision:
- Captures the essence of what the product aims to accomplish and for whom.
- Aligns team goals harmoniously with the broader company vision.
- Inspires the team by providing purpose and meaning.
Now, here’s how to do it!
This is the part you’ve been waiting for. I am going to give you a template to help craft your product vision. You just have to answer some questions first. Coming up with the answers may be challenging and you’ll spend more time on this than my template. Knowing the answers to these five questions is more important than the vision statement itself!
- User Definition: Who will derive value from your product? Is this group a subset of your company’s audience? If not, it’s worth reconsidering… seriously.
- Clear Objective: What’s the primary action your product enables for users? How is it delivering value?
- Pain Points: What user challenges or frustrations does your product address?
- Enabling New Capabilities: What do your users aspire to achieve or become through your product?
- Transformational Impact: Your product should present a pathway to solve or attain a goal for your users. Remember, it’s always about the user’s desired outcome, not merely product features. (Beneficial outcomes are the important things to focus on—the features just enable them.)
If you have your answers, you’re technically done. The point of this article though, is to help you craft a statement aimed at capturing the essence of the product while focusing on user needs and the transformational value they provide. Just plug your answers into this template and you’re off to the races!
[User Definition] has [Clear Objective] and [Pain Points]. These users want [New Capabilities] and [Our Product] has [Transformational Impact].
Here’s an example of how this might look for a product we all use, the refrigerator:
Modern households have a need to store food safely and efficiently and face issues with food spoilage. They want to maintain food freshness for longer durations and CoolTech Refrigerator ensures foods remain fresh and nutritious.
Next steps in your journey
As you embark on this journey of vision crafting, here’s some advice:
- You need a clear product vision, but it doesn’t need to be 100% perfect. Try it out with folks and see what resonates.
- Don’t treat this as an advertising pitch. You’re not writing a public press release.
- Use tangible imagery but don’t get carried away.
- Prioritize clarity. Avoid jargon and overly clever language.
As product developers, our goal is to create products that resonate with purpose and meaning. By reexamining the company vision and crafting a clear product vision, we can more easily navigate the road ahead, always keeping our North Star in sight. In addition, a well-defined product vision is the cornerstone for building a robust roadmap, which I plan to discuss in a future article.
“Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like.“Brian Chesky (Co-founder of Airbnb)
Perhaps this got your juices flowing or you’d like to workshop things further? Why not sign up for a FREE Integral Product Success Lab. We’d be honored to help you inspire your team or turn your ideas into highly valuable working software.
But wait, there’s more!
For a bit of fun, I shared my article with ChatGPT and asked it to generate some example product vision statements, using my template and tips. Notice how they are clearly written, providing us with excellent examples that articulate the customer need and value the products provide.
You could do something similar and feed it with information about your product. In just a few minutes you’ll be armed with a draft of your product vision that gives you and your team the focus and clarity you deserve.
I asked ChatGPT to generate some examples of commonplace products as well as well known software companies, using public information about the users, pain points, and impacts. Here are the results!
- Fictional Tech Product: FutureSight GlassesTech professionals have a need to stay connected without being distracted by their phones and struggle with multitasking. They want to receive real-time notifications seamlessly and FutureSight Glasses offer an immersive yet non-intrusive experience.
- Telephone: People separated by distances have a desire to communicate instantly and struggle with sending time-consuming written messages. They want real-time verbal communication and RapidTalk Telephone provides an immediate connection, bridging distances.
- Apple’s macOS: Tech-savvy individuals and professionals have an objective to operate seamlessly across devices and deal with compatibility and security issues. They want a unified, secure, and smooth experience and MacOS offers an interconnected ecosystem that prioritizes user security and convenience.
- Microsoft’s OneDrive: Businesses and individuals have a requirement to store and access files from anywhere and face challenges with data loss and multiple file versions. They want reliable, accessible, and collaborative storage solutions and OneDrive ensures data is synced, secure, and shareable across devices.
- Slack: Modern teams have a goal to collaborate in real-time and struggle with scattered communication channels. They want centralized, instant communication and Slack provides a unified platform where teams can streamline their conversations and boost productivity.
- Spotify: Music enthusiasts have an aspiration to discover and enjoy diverse music and grapple with limited music availability or purchase restrictions. They want a vast, personalized music library at their fingertips and Spotify delivers an expansive world of music tailored to individual tastes.