Product School

What is Product Vision in Product Management?

Product Vision is a strategic roadmap for a product's future. It fuels team motivation, aligns stakeholders, resonates with customers, and forms the foundation for Product strategy, roadmaps, and metrics.

Product Vision for Product Managers

What is Product Vision? 

Product Vision is a strategic concept that provides a long-term, overarching goal of Product in a company. It’s a high-level framework; all Product Teams and products in a company use the same Product Vision as a common north star. The only exception to this is when a company is very large (think Amazon large) and would benefit from added specificity. 

The Product Vision answers the question: What direction does my product need to go in to stay aligned with long-term customer and business needs? Vision will not provide exact next steps, but it will serve as a compass. 

The Product Vision describes what the product should look like and do in the future, in a longer timeline of 2-5 years for software products, and 5-10 years for hardware products. It should remain stable. Product strategy and roadmaps can change to address market and business developments, while the Product Vision stays unmoving.

In more practical terms, Product Vision:

  • Inspires and persuades: Show your team how they will change users’ lives for the better with the products they’re creating. When team members understand the ‘why,’ their performance on the 'what' and 'how' improve dramatically.

  • Serves as a foundation: The Product Vision is far-removed from features and functionality. It’s a guidepost for decision-making and strategic planning throughout the product development process.

  • Makes your efforts effective: Operating without a vision is dangerous. If you have no vision, you have no direction. And working without direction means your team is pouring its energy and resources into initiatives that are not proven or strategic. Vision helps you identify what your priorities are and make more effective use of your time.

  • Aligns stakeholders: It brings everyone—Product Management, engineering, marketing, sales, and others—onto the same page about the direction and purpose of the product. This alignment is crucial for the coherent development and successful launch of the product.

  • Resonates with customers: Above all, the Product Vision must resonate with the customers. It should reflect the customers' needs and aspirations and explain why the product is a must-have for them.

A well-crafted product vision can significantly impact the success of a product by driving coherence in development, aligning stakeholders, inspiring teams, and attracting customers.

Check out some tips on how to write a Product Vision from Productboard

Why is Product Vision Important?

A clear Product Vision is pivotal to the success of a product. It's a guiding star that directs the course of the product's journey and influences all strategic and tactical decisions, from the ideation phase through to development, marketing, and post-launch enhancements. 

Without a clear and compelling Product Vision, organizations can easily lose their way in the market, wasting valuable resources on irrelevant features or misaligned initiatives.

A clear Product Vision has a multi-faceted impact, influencing the team's motivation, strategic decision-making, customer connection, long-term success, and the broader business impact.

Elements of a Product Vision

1. Clear and Inspiring Product Vision Statement
The Product Vision statement is a clear and inspiring sentence that succinctly captures the essence of the product's future. They share the “what” and also the “how” of your products. 

The Product Vision statement is the last thing you should make, and serves as an at-a-glance reminder of the Product Vision you’ve created. 

Here are some real-world examples of a Product Vision Statement: 

  • Asana: In the future, anyone can prioritize their day across all of their apps within Asana

  • HubSpot: The world’s number one inbound marketing platform. Do marketing the right way, all in one place

  • Roblox: A 3-D immersive space where people can learn together, play together, and work together. Connecting people all around the world. 

These are all aspirational, high-level, and provide direction. 

2. Connection to Customer Needs and Market Reality
The Product Vision should reflect a deep understanding of customer needs, desires, and pain points. It should also take into account the realities of the market, including competition, regulatory environment, and technological trends. This ensures that your vision is not only aspirational but also grounded in reality and achievable.

3. Alignment with the Company's Values and Goals
An effective Product Vision aligns with the company's broader values and goals. It should support and enhance the overall business strategy and resonate with the company's mission and ethos. This alignment helps ensure consistency across different product lines and reinforces the company's brand identity.

4. Envisions Long-term Success and Scalability
A strong Product Vision anticipates the long-term success and scalability of the product. It sets the stage for future growth and evolution, envisioning how the product can scale, adapt, and remain relevant as it grows and as market conditions change. It considers not just the product's immediate impact but its potential to drive enduring success.

5. Adaptability to Market Changes
While a Product Vision provides a long-term direction, it should also allow for flexibility and adaptability in the face of changing market dynamics. It should be resilient enough to stay relevant in changing circumstances and agile enough to pivot when necessary. This adaptability helps ensure the product's survival and success in an ever-evolving market landscape.

Learn how to create a meaningful Product Vision with Mural

5 Steps to Creating a Product Vision

1. Deep Market Research
Before formulating your Product Vision, it's crucial to understand the market you're operating in. This includes analyzing your competition, understanding market trends, and recognizing opportunities and threats in the industry. Deep market research provides insights that help you develop a vision that's not only inspiring but also relevant and feasible.

2. Identifying the Target Customer
Every product is created with a specific user in mind. Therefore, identifying your target customer is an essential step in creating a product vision. You should understand your customer's needs, desires, and pain points, as well as their demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics. Your Product Vision should ultimately aim to address the needs and wants of this customer group.

3. Developing the Value Proposition
Once you understand your market and target customers, the next step is to identify the unique value your product will offer. Your value proposition should answer the question: why should customers choose your product over others? It should highlight the unique benefits your product will provide and how it will solve your customers' problems or enhance their lives.

4. Defining the Unique Selling Points
Unique Selling Points (USPs) are the features or characteristics that distinguish your product from the competition. These could be anything from innovative features, superior quality, lower cost, excellent customer service, or anything else that makes your product stand out. These USPs should be prominently reflected in your product vision.

5. Setting the Vision Statement
With all the groundwork done, you can now draft your Product Vision Statement. It should be clear, concise, and inspiring, effectively communicating your product's future direction. Remember to ensure it aligns with your company's overall mission and goals.

The Product Manager’s Role in Setting Product Vision

The Head of Product owns the Product Vision, and is responsible for creating the Product Vision and communicating it. It is their responsibility to socialize the Product Vision across the company, get alignment, and advocate for it when it seems like the team is losing sight of the vision.

Here are 4 steps the Head of Product can take to create and uphold a strong Product Vision:

1. Collaborate with Stakeholders
A Product Manager has to work closely with various stakeholders, including the executive team, engineering, marketing, sales, and customer service, to gather input and secure buy-in for the Product Vision. This collaboration ensures a well-rounded perspective and encourages shared ownership of the vision across different teams. It also fosters alignment and a clear understanding of the strategic direction.

2. Lead Market and Customer Research
A key role of the Product Manager is to conduct comprehensive market research and deeply understand the needs and wants of the customers. This includes identifying target customers, understanding their pain points and preferences, and staying updated on market trends and competition. This research helps to create a Product Vision that resonates with customers and is relevant in the market.

3. Translate Business Strategy into Product Strategy
Involving business strategy in the Product Vision is absolutely essential to the Product Vision. But business targets have to be massaged in order to fit into a Product context, and it’s the Product Manager’s role to act as translators between business and Product. 

They need to understand the overall business goals, such as market positioning and revenue targets, and then formulate a Product Strategy that aligns with these goals. This includes defining the product's value proposition, key features, unique selling points, and roadmap, all of which should be guided by the Product Vision.

4. Communicate the Vision to the Team and the Entire Organization
After the Product Vision is defined, the Product Manager plays a crucial role in communicating it to the Product Team and the entire organization. This requires crafting a clear, compelling narrative that conveys the essence of the vision, and sharing it widely across the company. Regularly reinforcing the vision helps keep everyone aligned and motivated, and ensures all product decisions are consistent with the vision.

Bring it Together:

Your Product Vision is an indispensable strategic tool that sets the long-term direction for a product or product line. It helps guide decision-making, aligns teams and stakeholders, and inspires everyone involved in the product's journey. A well-defined Product Vision is rooted in a deep understanding of the market and customer needs, and aligns with the company's broader goals and values. The process of creating a Product Vision involves conducting comprehensive market research, identifying the target customer, defining the value proposition, and crafting a clear, inspiring vision statement.

As a Product Manager, developing a compelling Product Vision is one of your most important tasks. It might seem challenging, but remember that the effort you put into this task can significantly shape the success of your product. It not only guides your product development efforts but also motivates your team and creates a shared sense of purpose across your organization.

Don't be afraid to take your time in this process, seek input from various stakeholders, and make adjustments as market conditions and customer needs evolve. Remember that a great Product Vision is not static; it's adaptable and can guide your product through changing times. Embrace this responsibility and use your unique position to create a Product Vision that can lead to the creation of a truly successful and customer-centric product.

Product Vision in Action: 

A Product Manager is sort of like the captain of a pirate ship. You have extremely skilled people on this boat with you, sailing into the unknown. And refining and optimizing and trying to find the treasure on the way. And all of these people are equally as skilled and skilled in their own ways. And quite frankly, they could sail the boat without a captain. It might not be efficient, but they could. But you are influencing and inspiring so that you keep going and looking for that treasure.

Now, imagine if you were one of the crew members of the ship. You are asked to get onto the ship, and you ask “Why, what’s the plan?” And no one explains anything to you. You don’t know where you were going, whether it's about treasure or discovering a new land. You just know that you're getting into a boat. 

It's not the most inspiring thing. You may or may not get on the boat. You certainly will not be inspired about that journey. And so this is really the crux of why Product Vision is so important. It's the thing that you are able to use in a candidate interview. It is the thing that you talk to investors about. It's the thing that wakes you up every morning, and you think about this is why I'm doing what I'm doing.”

-Ebi Atawodi; Director of Product Management, YouTube Studio

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