Double Vision: Choosing the Right Approach to Capture the Product Vision
The product vision plays a crucial part in achieving product success: It sets a shared direction and helps create strong alignment. Despite its importance, there are two competing views of what a product vision is and how it should be captured. In this article, I discuss the different approaches and explain which one I recommend.
🎧 You can listen to the audio version of this article on my podcast: https://www.romanpichler.com/podcast/
Option 1: The Vision Captures Strategic Decisions
Your first option is to view the product vision as a statement that captures strategic decisions like the product’s users and customers, its value proposition, and its standout features. A popular template to capture such a vision is the formula developed by Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm:
- For (target customers …)
- Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternative)
- Our product is a (new product category)
- That provides (key problem-solving capability).
- Unlike (the product alternative),
- We have assembled (key whole product feature for your specific application).
Let’s apply this template to a sample product that helps people reduce the risk of developing type-two diabetes. The resulting statement might look like this:
- For middle-aged men with busy jobs and unhealthy eating habits who own a smartwatch and a smart scale
- Who are dissatisfied with the limitations of current healthy-eating products
- Our product is an AI-powered digital eating coach
- That provides personalised advice to improve eating habits and significantly reduce the risk of developing type-two diabetes.
- Unlike MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, and Glucose Buddy
- We have assembled a smart, personalised, and fully integrated solution.
While I’ve seen people use variations of Moore’s original template stated above, the resulting visions don’t focus on the product’s purpose — the main reason for offering it. Instead, they describe who the product is for and how it differs from competing offerings. This is hardly surprising, as Moore describes the template as an effective way to position the product, but not to express its vision.
Option 2: The Vision Describes a Big, Aspirational Goal
Your second option is to regard the vision as an aspirational goal that describes the ultimate reason for creating the product and the positive change it should bring about. For the sample product mentioned above, the vision might simply be:
The benefit of using such a vision is that it acts as a big, motivational goal — a shared purpose that guides and aligns the stakeholders and development teams and that helps them understand how their work creates a positive impact and relates to a bigger whole.
If you choose this option, then your vision should fulfil the following six criteria, which I explain in more detail in my article Six Qualities of a Great Product Vision.
- Inspiring: The vision resonates with the stakeholders and development teams.
- Shared: The individuals support the vision.
- Ethical: The vision gives rise to a product that does not cause any harm to people and the planet.
- Concise: The vision is captured as a memorable statement or slogan.
- Ambitious: The vision is a big, hairy, audacious goal that might never be fully achieved.
- Enduring: The vision provides guidance for at least the next five years.
As powerful as a big, aspirational vision is, it does not say anything about how it can be realised. Consequently, you’ll have to capture the strategy of your product. One way to do this is to use my Product Vision Board, which describes the product vision and the product strategy in one artefact, as the picture below shows. (You can download the tool for free from my website.)
In the template above, the product vision is captured in the top section and the strategy is stated in the bottom four ones. These consist of the target group — the users and customers of the product, the needs, which capture the problem the product should address or the benefit it should create, the product with its standout features, and the business goals, which describe the benefits the product should generate for the company providing it.
Applying the tool to capture the vision and strategy of the sample diabetes product results in the following artefact.
The product vision board above contains similar information as the sample vision statement I shared earlier based Moore’s template. Note, though, that it adds the ultimate reason for creating the product as well as a business goal. Additionally, it structures and visualises the information instead of using one long sentence.
Which Option Is Best?
When I first started working in product management, I used a combined vision and strategy similar to the one described in the first option. But over time, I have come to prefer the second option, as it offers the following three benefits:
First, the ultimate purpose for offering the product is explicitly stated. As pointed out before, this creates alignment and it offers motivation to the people involved in developing and providing the product. This is especially valuable when the going gets tough and problems or conflicts occur.
Second, a strategy change does not necessitate a vision change. The vision can stay stable and provide continued guidance. For instance, if I discovered that it would be better to write a book on healthy eating instead of developing a digital product, I could still follow the same vision: to help people eat more healthily. But even if you don’t have to pivot, your strategy will change as your product grows and eventually matures. The product strategy is never static. It’s best understood as being changeable.
Third, the product vision and strategy are easier to understand. This may be a matter of personal preference, but I find a vision statement based on Moore’s formula text-heavy and difficult to take in. I prefer to work with templates that visualise information so that it’s easy to comprehend, and that’s what my Product Vision Board wants to do.
I therefore recommend that you capture the vision of your product as a big, inspirational goal and that you describe the strategy in such a way that is only loosely coupled to the vision. But what matters most is that you do create a meaningful vision and an effective strategy for your product — independently of the specific templates and tools you use to capture the information.
But What About OKRs?
You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned objectives and key results (OKRs) as an option to express the vision. There are two reasons: First, you can use OKRs to capture a vision that follows Moore’s template as well as one that is a grand, aspiration goal.
Second, I am not a big fan of using OKRs in product management, as I explain in more detail in the article OKRs in Product Management. In the article, you’ll also find an example of how you can capture a vision using the goal-setting method if you do want to apply OKRs.