What is a product vision?
A product vision is a high-level, strategic statement that portrays a product’s future state and the value it aims to deliver to its customers. It serves as the guiding light that steers product development and strategic decisions.
A typical template can look like this:
For (target customer), the (product) is a (product category) that (key benefit). Unlike (main competitor), our product (unique differentiator).
Here’s a brief explanation of each component:
- Target Customer: This is the specific group of people or businesses your product is designed to serve. Understanding who your target customer is is crucial because it helps you create a product that suits their needs, preferences, and behaviors.
- Product: The product or solution that your company provides. It could be a physical item, software, a service, or even an idea.
- Product Category: Describe what category your product falls into. It provides context about what the product is and how it should function.
- Key Benefit: This is the primary advantage or value that your product provides to the target customer. It’s the reason why your target customer would want to use your product.
- Main Competitor: This refers to the product or company that poses the most significant competition to your product. Identifying your main competitor helps you differentiate your product and identify areas for improvement or innovation.
- Unique Differentiator: This is what sets your product apart from the competition. It’s the unique value or feature that only your product offers, making it stand out in the market.
This vision statement should be inspiring, clear, and concise. It should provide a snapshot of your product’s future state, and clearly outline who it’s for, the value it provides, and how it’s different from the competition.
Using this template can help align your team around a common understanding of what you’re aiming to achieve with your product, guide your product strategy, and communicate your product’s value to stakeholders and customers. Ready to write your own? Use our free interactive template here.
Why is a product vision important?
A product vision plays a crucial role in the product development process, offering numerous benefits that make it an indispensable part of successful product management.
- Direction: Serving as a navigational beacon, offering clear and inspiring direction for everyone involved in the product’s creation. It outlines where the product is headed and what it seeks to achieve, offering guidance for the journey ahead.
- Alignment: It plays a critical role in aligning all team members and stakeholders. It creates a shared understanding of what the product aspires to be, ensuring that everyone from developers to marketers is working toward the same goal. This alignment can enhance collaboration and efficiency, reducing potential friction and misunderstanding that can arise from diverging views about the product’s direction.
- Motivation: A compelling product vision can serve as a motivational force for the team. It provides a sense of purpose and ignites a passion for the work by giving team members a clear understanding of why their work matters.
- Decision-Making: a strong vision serves as a guiding principle for decision-making. With a clear vision in mind, teams can make strategic decisions about feature prioritization, resource allocation, and roadmap planning, ensuring that every decision is made with the end goal in mind.
- Customer Engagement: A well-crafted vision can resonate with customers, aligning them with your product’s goals and values. This alignment can foster customer loyalty, enhance brand perception, and drive customer engagement.
- Innovation: Lastly, a clear and ambitious vision can foster innovation. By defining a compelling future state that challenges the status quo, the product vision encourages teams to think creatively and innovatively to realize this future state.
When to write a product vision?
The vision should be one of the first artifacts created during the product development process. However, its importance extends far beyond the initial stages of product conception.
- New Product Creation: A vision is typically crafted when a new product idea is conceived. It forms the basis for understanding what the product aims to achieve and sets the tone for all subsequent development work.
- Significant Product Changes: If there are significant changes planned for an existing product, such as a major pivot or a significant expansion of the product’s capabilities, it may be time to revisit and potentially revise the vision. These changes might shift the direction of the product, requiring a new or adjusted vision to guide the development process.
- Periodic Revisions: Even in the absence of major changes, the product vision should not be static. As the product and market mature, the vision may need to be adjusted to reflect new customer needs, market trends, or technological possibilities. Regularly revisiting the product vision can ensure it remains relevant and effective.
In essence, the vision should be a living document that evolves with the product, the market, and the needs of the customers. It should guide the product throughout its lifecycle, from inception to maturity.
6 Reasons to have a clear product vision
A clear product vision is not just a statement about your product’s future; it’s a crucial tool that fuels strategic alignment, guides decision-making, and instills a deep sense of purpose among team members. Here are several reasons that highlight the importance of having strategic clarity:
- Strategic Alignment Across the Organization: A well-articulated product vision ensures all members of the organization, from executives to individual contributors, understand the overarching objectives. It serves as a guiding star that helps everyone move in the same direction. This alignment reduces potential conflicts and miscommunications, thereby fostering a more collaborative and efficient work environment.
- Long-term Thinking and Planning: It stretches beyond the immediate features and releases. It encourages long-term thinking, which is necessary for sustainable success. By creating a mental image of the desired future state, it helps stakeholders visualize where the product intends to go in the future, which is instrumental in strategic planning and setting long-term goals.
- Instilling a Sense of Purpose: A compelling product vision can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for the team. It gives them a sense of purpose by providing a clear understanding of why their work matters and how it contributes to realizing the vision. This understanding can drive engagement and motivation, leading to increased productivity and commitment.
- Preventing Scope Creep: Scope creep – the tendency for product features or projects to expand beyond their initial scope during development – is a common challenge in product management. A clear product vision can help prevent this by maintaining a strong focus on the end goal. By continuously referring to the vision during the development process, teams can ensure they’re working on features that contribute to the vision, rather than getting sidetracked by features that may not align with the long-term objectives.
- Guiding Decision-Making: Product development involves countless decisions, from high-level strategic choices to daily operational decisions. A clear product vision can serve as a decision-making guide, providing a lens through which to evaluate different options. If a decision aligns, it’s likely a move in the right direction. If not, it may need to be reconsidered.
- Facilitating Stakeholder Communication: The product vision serves as an essential communication tool with external stakeholders, including investors, customers, and partners. It helps convey the value of your product, how it stands out in the market, and what long-term benefits it promises to deliver. This understanding can help stakeholders feel more connected and committed to the product.
A clear product vision is a powerful tool that helps to align teams, inspire motivation, guide decision-making, prevent scope creep, facilitate stakeholder communication, and foster long-term thinking. By focusing on these benefits, you can ensure that your product vision serves as a valuable guidepost for your product’s journey.
Who is in charge of the product vision?
The product vision is typically spearheaded by the Product Manager or the Chief Product Officer in larger organizations. They are responsible for defining and communicating the product vision, ensuring it aligns with the company’s overall strategy, and making certain it meets customer needs and market demands.
However, while the Product Manager or Chief Product Officer may take the lead, the creation of the product vision is often a collaborative effort. It involves inputs and insights from various stakeholders, including the product team, the development team, marketing, sales, customer support, and even customers themselves.
It’s important to note that the CEO or company leadership also plays a critical role in defining the product vision, especially in smaller organizations or startups. They set the overall direction for the company, the business goals, and the product vision should align with this.
Once the product vision is established, it’s everyone’s responsibility, from leadership to each team member, to work towards achieving it. This collaborative approach ensures alignment across the organization and that all perspectives are considered, which can lead to a more successful and well-rounded product.
How a product vision fits into your product roadmap
A product vision isn’t typically illustrated on your product roadmap, but it fundamentally influences it and is intrinsically linked to it. It provides the foundation upon which your roadmap is built and is essential in achieving alignment across your teams and stakeholders.
A roadmap without a closely related product vision and strategy fails to communicate the ultimate purpose and direction of your product goals. For a roadmap to be truly effective, it needs to be complemented by both a compelling and well-written vision statement, as well as a clear summary of your strategy to actualize that vision.
The product vision statement is the overarching aspiration for what your product will accomplish, while your strategy describes the high-level plan on how you’re going to make that vision come to fruition. The roadmap then lays out the specific steps and milestones you’ll hit along the way.
These elements together set the direction and provide the “why” behind your product decisions. They serve as a compass for your product development journey, guiding your team and stakeholders and keeping everyone aligned on the broader objectives. The roadmap, in turn, provides the “how” and “when,” detailing the planned trajectory and timeline to realize the vision.
To create a compelling product vision that effectively supports your roadmap, you can use our interactive template. It will guide you through the process of crafting a vision statement that is clear, inspiring, and aligned with your product strategy and roadmap.
Ultimately, the product vision, strategy, and roadmap work in synergy. The vision provides the destination, the strategy outlines the route, and the roadmap specifies the steps along the way. Together, they guide the product’s journey from conception to realization.
A brief history of the product vision
The concept of a product vision has its roots in the broader discipline of strategic management, which has been a crucial part of business planning since the mid-20th century. However, its application in product management is a relatively recent development, coming into prominence with the rise of agile development methodologies and customer-centric business models in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Before this, product management was more focused on the tactical aspects of bringing a product to market, such as overseeing development, coordinating with sales and marketing, and monitoring competitive activity. The concept of a product vision was less developed and not as central to the role as it is today.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, technology companies like Microsoft and Apple began using product visions to guide the development of innovative products. For example, Microsoft’s vision of “a computer on every desk and in every home” guided the development of their Windows operating system, while Apple’s vision of creating “a bicycle for the mind” led to the development of the Macintosh computer.
With the rise of Agile and Lean methodologies in the early 2000s, the role of product management began to change. Product Managers started to take on more strategic responsibilities, focusing not just on the “how” but also on the “why” of product development.
The adoption of these methodologies put a greater emphasis on understanding customer needs and using this understanding to guide product development. This change in focus made the product vision an essential tool for product managers.
Why Product Visions Became Important
Product visions became important for several reasons:
- Customer-Centricity: The rise of customer-centric business models meant companies had to clearly understand their customers’ needs and how their products could meet these needs. A product vision helps articulate how a product can solve customer problems and deliver value.
- Alignment: As teams and organizations grew, alignment became more important. A product vision provides a common goal that everyone in the organization can work towards.
- Strategic Decision-Making: The product vision became a critical tool for strategic decision-making, helping to prioritize features, allocate resources, and guide the product roadmap.
- Inspiration and Motivation: A compelling product vision inspires and motivates the team, fostering a sense of purpose and commitment.
- Market Differentiation: In competitive markets, a unique and compelling product vision can help differentiate a product from its competitors.
In the dynamic and customer-focused world of modern product management, a clear and compelling product vision is more important than ever. It helps teams stay focused, aligns the organization around a common goal, guides strategic decision-making, and inspires everyone to do their best work.
5 Product vision examples
Understanding the concept of a product vision can sometimes be abstract and challenging, especially without concrete examples. To help elucidate the concept, we’ll examine some real-world product visions from leading companies across different industries. These examples underscore how a clear, compelling vision can steer the course of product development, unify teams, and inspire customers.
Each of these companies has a unique product vision that not only guides their product development but also defines their brand identity and value proposition.
In the following examples of product visions, we will break down each one, discussing its target audience, the problem it’s addressing, and the unique value it aims to deliver. Through these examples, we hope to illustrate the key components of an effective product vision and inspire you to craft a powerful vision for your own product.
Let’s delve into these fascinating examples and uncover the strategic insights they hold.
- Slack: “To make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” In this vision, Slack identifies its target audience (work life), the problem it’s solving (making it simpler, more pleasant), and the value it brings (productivity).
- Spotify: “To unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it.” Spotify’s vision statement emphasizes both sides of its user base, the artists and the listeners, and outlines how it aims to serve them both.
- Airbnb: “To help create a world where you can belong anywhere and where people can live in a place, instead of just traveling to it.” Airbnb’s product vision speaks to its desire to revolutionize the way people travel and experience new places, shifting from being a mere traveler to feeling like a local.
- Tesla: “To accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass-market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” Tesla’s vision is clear on its unique value proposition (sustainable transport), its method (mass-market electric cars), and its urgency (as soon as possible).
- LinkedIn: “To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” LinkedIn’s vision emphasizes its commitment to providing value not just to a narrow customer base but to every worker worldwide.
Remember, a good product vision is clear, inspiring, and customer-focused. It articulates who the product is for, what value it delivers, and what makes it unique.
What is a company vision statement?
A company vision statement is a high-level, aspirational declaration that outlines what a company wants to achieve or become in the long term. It serves as the guiding light for the organization’s strategic planning, setting the course for where the company is headed. A good vision statement is clear, inspirational, and ambitious, serving as a motivational tool for the entire organization.
Some examples of company vision statements include:
- Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
- Microsoft: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
A product vision, on the other hand, is a strategic statement related to a specific product or product line. It describes the future state of the product, what it aims to achieve, and the value it will deliver to customers. The product vision serves as a guide for decision-making throughout the product development process.
For example, the product vision for the original iPhone could have been: “To create a mobile device that combines a phone, music player, and internet device into one, delivering an intuitive and unparalleled user experience.”
Differences Between Company Vision and Product Vision
While both the company vision and product vision provide direction and inspiration, there are key differences:
- Scope: A company vision applies to the entire organization, encompassing all its operations, departments, and products or services. In contrast, a product vision pertains to a specific product or product line within the company.
- Purpose: The company vision sets the ultimate goal for the organization as a whole. It’s broad, long-term, and generally remains unchanged over time. The product vision, however, is more tactical and may change as the product evolves, the market shifts, or customer needs change.
- Audience: Both are communicated across the organization, but the company vision is also shared with external stakeholders, such as investors, partners, and customers, to portray the company’s aspirations. The product vision is more frequently used internally to align teams and guide product development decisions.
In essence, while the company vision sets the grand vision for the organization, the product vision must align with this and provide a more targeted vision for a specific product. Both are essential for strategic alignment and purpose-driven decision-making.