How to build a qualified product vision?

2022-11-12 20:00:00
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Summary : The product vision describes how we imagine the future state of the product. For product teams, the North star that guides their work is the long-term goal they aspire to achieve. More specifically, it shows what problems the product solves, who the target customers are, and what makes the product unique. It also conveys to our stakeholders why our products deserve their support. Realizing the product vision depends on trusting your team and allowing them to use their expertise and creativity to determine the best way to meet users' needs.

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A product team without a vision is like a ship in the sea. Although it is moving, it has no direction!

In the top job of product management, there are many tasks that seems to be simple. For example, the product road-map equals a picture, and the product vision equals a word.

A word of product vision is a result. Still, before the result is output, you must do something that can contribute to the result, which is like something that if your girlfriend receives a satisfying present on her birthday, you will get a word: I love you.

The three words "I love you" are the result you get. Still, only you know how much effort you have made to achieve this result, racking your brains to choose the gift you can afford, to buy it through what platform, to repeatedly communicate whether the present can be delivered on time, to package it appropriately, and to give it to your girlfriend through what way.

Similarly, it takes a lot of work to write the "product vision." The preparations for the product vision will be detailed below.

I. Specific preparation for the product vision

1. Pre-build

The core task before the building is data collection. What does that mean? That is to say, the "product vision" you created is realistic, supported by data, and possible to be realized. For example, for Geely Auto, the product vision of ZEEKR, the high-end new energy vehicle brand, is to become the top three of the new forces in building cars, which is practical. While for a fledgling OEM, setting such a "product vision" is a bit unrealistic.

Recently, there has been a hot topic in the passenger car industry. Lei Jun said that Xiaomi will ship 10 million vehicles annually in 2024. This is a bit unrealistic. Does the mobile phone department of Xiaomi set the target?

Why do I say so?

A few figures show that the total sales volume of passenger cars in China was only 25 million last year. The sales volume of Toyota, the world's largest automobile manufacturer, was 11 million last year, and Volkswagen's was 8 million. The sales volume of the best OEMs in China, such as Great Wall Motor, Changan Automobile, and Geely Auto, was at most 1 million.

In other words, even if all the OEMs of all domestic self-owned brands were used for Xiaomi, it would not be able to meet the production capacity.

2. Building

It is the material for building a product vision based on data.

This is the stage the product managers need to focus on. For example, who the target consumer is is related to the "target market segmentation" portfolio. Of course, we know that each work portfolio has a smaller unit of work, such as "user prototyping."

3. Post-build

Vision also needs iteration, and the reason for it is not that we change our minds constantly. Most of the time, it is the objective factor that has changed. The product vision, after all, is a very long-term goal to be achieved, which may exhaust our efforts for more than ten years. It will take a long time to predict what changes will take place. For example, corporate vision will change the product vision. The enterprise used to do platform business, but after the platform declined, the enterprise decided to become an organization. The whole product structure has changed, and your product vision must change too.

Once all of the work is done, a "product vision" is created by extracting a considerable amount of information and filling it in clearly according to the above format.

In fact, from this perspective, the creation of "product vision" is like the channel is readily formed just as the water comes. But the key problem is that many friends do not have "water," only empty "slogans."

II. Product vision = Real vision ≠ Short-term goals

1. Anticipate the development trend of demand.

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The product vision is to provide target consumers with the goals and benefits they expect to achieve. So if we can only identify the current consumer needs, it is not a vision but a short-term goal.

Therefore, judging whether the demand has long-term growth has become a critical point of thinking for product managers. So how to solve it?

The common idea is that we should not put perspective on "demand" but on the source of "demand," which is the consumer's pain point. As I said, the pain point can't be solved and can only be alleviated. For example, the common refrigeration methods are direct-cooling and air-cooled. These two methods have their advantages and disadvantages. The insurance of direct cooling is good, but it is easy to frost. Air-cooled without frost, but easy to make food lose moisture, which is the concern of consumers. For home users, the refrigerator is essentially a food storage appliance. Consumers' pain points have focused on the balance of "fresh" and "no frosting" since the advent of refrigerators.

If we focus on this pain point to think about the long-term nature of the refrigerator, then our thinking will be greatly broadened; instead of just wondering how many lights are in the refrigerator, how to design more beautiful drawers for the freezer, whether the price can be lower, whether the panel can be more fashionable.

In short, the "product vision" is based on the "value available to the consumer" rather than the "functional specifications."

2. The product vision is a drive and inspiration for the team rather than a constraint.

It is called a vision because it is full of hope and infinite imagination.

This also tells the product manager that the product vision is as large a container as possible, with enough space for our product team and our hopes and ideals.

This "enough" has three typical characteristics:

  • Must be clear: only a clear vision can let the product team know what they are working towards over a long period and can keep on the same channel with the product manager for a long period;
  • Must be inspirational: The product manager can only realize the product vision. On the way to realization, the goal of the vision must inspire and motivate the product team members. If the goal is too easy to achieve or not innovative, they will not have enough motivation to create a great product.
  • Must be achievable: There is no doubt that unreachable goals often mean that product managers are detached from actual management and harm team morale.

3. The product vision should not only fit the enterprise vision but also be able to drive the product strategy.

The product vision also needs to inform the product strategy. So, how to understand the product vision and product strategy? In short, a product vision is an overall goal your product aspires to achieve, while a product strategy is a plan outlining what the product needs to do to achieve its goal. Having a product strategy based on a solid product vision effectively sets strategic goals and enhances the process of setting more granular strategic goals.

III. Several FAQs about the "Product Vision"

1. What is the product vision?

The product vision describes how we imagine the future state of the product. For product teams, the North star that guides their work is the long-term goal they aspire to achieve. More specifically, it shows what problems the product solves, who the target customers are, and what makes the product unique. It also conveys to our stakeholders why our products deserve their support.

2. Product Vision vs. company vision

Whether there is a difference between the product vision and the company vision depends on the size of the business and the number of products they are developing. For single-product companies, the product vision will be the same as the company vision. All of your efforts are to develop the product and make it successful.

In a multi-product company, each product contributes to the company's overall vision. For example, Disney's corporate vision is to be "one of the world's leading producers and providers of entertainment and information." Hence, they have a large portfolio of products to fulfill that vision.

3. Who is responsible for the product vision?

The product manager or the product owner is responsible for creating and delivering the product vision according to different organizations. However, the product manager is better positioned to do this effect between the two people because the product manager can better understand the market and how the product fits into the market.

To develop a good product vision, teams from all over the organization must contribute. Consider the insights from the sales, markets, and engineering teams when forming the vision.

The product manager is more senior than the product owner. Therefore, they can better use their insight to make informed decisions about the product vision and its implementation.

IV. Summary

  1. The Product vision statement is not just a catchy slogan but a refinement of a set of related work products;
  2. The product vision provides the overall direction of the products and a common understanding of their goals;
  3. The product vision provides the product team with a clear goal, which will increase their productivity and help them achieve the goal faster;
  4. While a clear product vision is important, it is only a general guide. It shows the team a problem they need to solve instead of a solution;
  5. Realizing the product vision depends on trusting your team and allowing them to use their expertise and creativity to figure out the best way to meet users' needs.


Need more help? Check out the Zentao blog. They have more articles on project management tools, software management, building cross-functional teams, and so much more.

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