At some point during the growth phase of your product, it may be helpful to create its vision and strategy. These tools will greatly help you in the decisions about what the future of your product will be. For this reason, I will explain in this chapter what is product vision and strategy and how to create them.
What is product vision and why do we need it?
The same way your kids wants be something (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.) when they grow up, the product vision is what you want your product to be when it grows up. Product vision is how you envision your product in the future. It is the reason why the product exists. It is what should guide all decisions regarding this product. It gives the context for the product development team to make decisions about what to prioritize in relation to the product.
As I mentioned earlier when defining product management as the function responsible for building the connection between the company’s strategic goals and the problems and needs of clients, a product must at the same time meet the strategic objectives that the product owner has for this product while it solves problems and needs of its users. There you have the two elements needed to make your product vision.
Creating the Product Vision
The vision of the product will be created by bringing together these two elements, understanding the objectives of the product owner and the problems and needs of the user of the product. So the first step in creating your product vision is to be clear about what the product owner’s goals are.
For example, a bank creating an internet banking system may have the objective to reduce the need for in person, face-to-face interactions. A clinical lab the creates an app for user to view their clinical exams results may have as its objective to lower the operational costs of handling and sending results.
Then you need to understand what the problems and needs that this product will solve for your users, in which context these problems and needs happen and what motivation these users have to see their problem or need solved.
A nice tool to understand the user is the empathy map.
This map helps to focus on the different perceptions that the user may have:
- See? – What does your user see? How is the environment where it uses the product? What does the market offer?
- Listen? – What does your user listen to? What do your friends tell you about your product? What does his boss say? What do the influencers say?
- What do you say and do? – What does your user say and do in relation to your product? What does he talk about with friends and on social networks? What can he do with his product?
- Think and Feel? – What does your user think and feel when using your product?
- Pain? – What are the main pains, fears, frustrations and obstacles that your user encounters?
- Gain – What are the key winnings, desires, and needs that your user expects to have when using your product?
Another useful tool is persona, which represents a group of users with similar patterns of behavior, attitudes, and motivations in terms of purchasing decisions, use of technologies or products, lifestyle, etc.
The personas are used to:
- Know and understand customers and users of products and services;
- Bring the user to the project focus;
- Make design decisions more human and less abstract.
The following figure shows how to build a persona:
The first step is to define a name and some characteristics of that person. This helps in conversations about the product. In the name, it’s nice to already give a hint of the main characteristic. For example, Maria, the cool girl or *Michelle, the busy *.
If you are making a product for Michelle, the busy and want to insert a new feature, one question that comes to mind is: “Will Michelle, the busy one, be able to use this feature? Will she find it useful enough to find time to learn how to use it? “
Beyond the name and basic characteristics, it is also important to describe your behaviors and your problems. The following examples will make the concept of person clearer.
Maria, the cool girl is one of the personas that we used at Locaweb. Given the different products that we have in our portfolio, we ended up building eight personas. However, for each product in our portfolio, we had no more than 4 personas, being one of them the primary persona for that product, i.e, for whom all decisions about the product are taken.
As part of understanding the problem or need that your user expects to be solved by your product, it is very important that you map out the alternatives that exist today for her to have that problem or need solved. In the case of commercial products, they are the competitors. In the case of products that are systems without clear revenue objectives, such as internet banking or the clinical lab system for result visualization, the alternatives are going in person to the bank or the lab, calling the bank by phone, receiving results by mail, etc.
This alternative mapping is very important to understand how your user deals with her problem or need without your product. How these alternatives are better and in which they are worse than the product you manage.
Empathy map, persona, and alternative mapping can and should be created in conjunction with UX, engineering and product marketing people.
Okay, you already have all the elements to create the vision of your product:
- The objectives of the owner of the product you manage;
- Who the users are and what problems and needs these users expect to solve with your product. Useful tools for this are empathy map, persona and alternative map.
Remember that to get these elements, the product manager will have to use a lot of empathy to talk to the owner of the product she manages and understand their goals, and to talk to the product users and understand them.
With these elements in hand, you are ready to create your vision, which is nothing more than to make clear these elements. Simple, right? It would be something like this:
(name of software owner) has decided to have this software for (objectives of the software owner to have such software). This software is used by (description of the people who will use the software) that, when using this software, expects to solve (problem or need that the user expects to solve) in a better way than (existing alternatives).
(Include more information about the problem or need, including context and motivation to have it solved).
Please do not copy + paste this text! Create your own product vision, which does not have to be text. It can be a presentation or a video, remembering that the vision of the product is the reason why the product exists. It is what should guide all decisions in relation to it.
As you get your product vision more clear, it is important to circulate it within your company to get inputs, feedbacks, and questions. By doing this, you’ll have a chance to complete the product vision as well as get the alignment and buy-in from all stakeholders.
Product Vision examples
Here’s an example of a bank where the owner decided to create an internet banking app so they could decrease their cost of building, staffing and maintaining physical bank branches:
XYZ Bank has decided to have an internet banking app to reduce the operating costs of bank branches.
This software is used by bank account holders who, when using this software, expect to solve their banking needs (see account balance and report, pay bills, make investments, etc.) in a better way than when they visit the bank’s agencies.
Locaweb’s Email product
During my tenure at Locaweb we put together the following product vision for Locaweb’s Email product:
Locaweb’s Email product will be the most complete and flexible email solution of the Brazilian market.
Conta Azul’s product vision
We built Conta Azul’s product vision as an image because with the image it was easier to explain all the elements of what we saw as the future of Conta Azul product.
Gympass Product Vision
Again we preferred an image instead of words. The saying a picture is worth a thousand words has a reason to exists.
In the article, we will see how to create a strategy to bring your product closer to your product vision.
Digital Product Management Book
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