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The three keys to unlocking your Product Vision

By Garry Avery - CEO

The three keys to unlocking your Product Vision header image

Having a product vision is critical. It acts as the north star, setting out a clear and consistent direction of travel that means our team is pulling in the same direction, complimenting and building upon the core product offer. The net result is a product that efficiently delivers increasing value. 

And the risk of not building a vision? In its absence, colleagues start defining their own micro visions that don’t necessarily align. At the very least this builds friction and inefficiency into the product process. In the worst case these micro visions directly compete and all the hard work across our business results in no discernible additional value – we generate lots of heat but not much light!

So how do you build a clear and coherent product vision? Here are three techniques you can use to help build your vision:

  1. Connecting with the business strategy
  2. Assessing the Mega & Market Trends
  3. Linking to customer delight

The three techniques can be used in isolation, but when used in combination they give a 360-degree view of the factors that will drive your vision.

Remember: No clear product vision is likely to mean your team will pull in different directions

Connecting with the business strategy

What is the strategic intent of your business? Where does it want to be? What does it want to stand for? What will drive success? 

All businesses need a strategy. And all products teams need to ensure their vision aligns to that strategic intent. For example, a product vision of dominating the V8 SUV market is no good if the business strategy is to be carbon neutral within 5 years. 
Product teams use a technique called strategy mapping to identify gaps between the strategic goals of the business and their existing products. They then identify potential initiatives to close the gaps between strategic intent and product capability. There are three steps:

  1. Identify the strategic goals of your business.
    You might find them under a different name (Strategic bets, Strategy levers) or they might be written in a more narrative form, but you transpose them into a list of statements that describe the intent of your business. If you don’t feel they exist, work with your leadership team to define these.
  2. Describe your current situation.
    Explain how well your products and services support each strategic lever today. You might want to think of this as a brief description with a score
  3. Define your desired state.
    Describe how you could align your product offer to the strategic intent. This might be product enhancement, new products and services, new markets, etc.

Remember: No clear product vision is likely to mean your team will pull in different directions

Assessing the Mega & Market Trends

What changes are happening? How will these changes likely impact our customers? What do we need to offer to remain relevant? 

Change is a natural phenomenon in all markets. Trends drive these changes. Mega trends are disruptive forces that alter the way we work across the globe – think of the Internet. Market trends describe the realization of mega trends in specific sectors – think of entertainment streaming services such as Netflix.

Product teams assess mega and market trends, looking at the changes that are likely to impact their markets over the next ten years and then building a plan to capitalise on those changes.  There are three steps:

  1. Identify the trends in your markets.
    These could be market trends that apply directly to your market. They can also include adjacent trends that at first sight don’t seem relevant but have the potential to change how your market operates. The sharing economy is a direct trend for air bnb, but an adjacent one for BMW, who see an impact as customers move from buy, to lease. to hire.
  2. Think about what these trends might mean to both your business and your market.
    For example, IoT might present enhanced customer experience opportunities but also increased risks around data security.
  3. Generate ideas.
    Sketch out ideas that capitalise on the risks and opportunities you’ve identified. For example, IoT could offer supermarkets the opportunity to deliver a “staples top up” service that means a customer would never run out of bread or milk!

Remember: Your markets are always in a state of change. Your products must adapt to those changes to remain relevant.

Linking to customer delight 

What keeps your customers awake at night? What opportunities excite them? How will your product address their risks and opportunities? 

A product vision is for nothing if the product or service you plan to deliver isn’t compelling to your customers. Product teams use a technique known as working backwards to truly understand the customer perspective. Championed by Amazon, the working backwards method starts with a press release that follows four principles:

  1. The press release is orientated at the point in time when the success is realised. This can be months after solution deployment.
  2. Start with the customer; explain why the solution is important to customers. What does it solve for them?
  3. Create clear and measurable results that describe what you will achieve. E.g. What market share you will achieve and how it will impact the bottom line?
  4. Outline the principles to success; key features, adoption, path to success

The press release must contain certain elements, including:

  • Heading - A product name that will resonate with the customer.
  • Sub-heading – Concisely describe the intended customer or target audience. 
  • Summary - A product brief focusing on the customer benefits delivered.
  • Problem - Problem definition 
  • Solution - How does the product solve the problem? 
  • Quote - A quote explaining the reasons for developing the product.
  • Call to action - How will the customer take advantage of the product?
This technique sounds simple, but it often brings to mind this Einstein quote:

Remember: If the press release isn’t compelling or clear enough then it’s a sign that your concept isn’t commercially viable. 

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