"For many companies, the development of their B2B e-commerce platform can be divided into phases. You may recognize yourself in one or more of the following steps."
Ties Luijendijk, Business consultant
Product vision: the catalyst for your product
3 tips to create a product vision together
3 tips to create a product vision together
Do you recognize this? You have an idea to achieve the growth goals of your organization with a technical solution. For example, by developing a new e-commerce platform or platform for subscription services.
To ensure that you get everyone, including those with ultimate responsibility, decision-makers, budget holders and people who must be involved in the development, it is useful to draw up a product vision *.
* for this blog, we assume that the business context for these goals and changes is already clear and determined.
In this blog, I will tell you what a product vision is and I will explain which obstacles you might encounter when formulating it. Of course, I also give tips so that you can avoid these obstacles, possibly with the help of an external specialist or implementation partner. With this, I want to help you start your next technical development project as quickly as possible and on the basis of a sharp product vision.
Product vision: what it is and why you can't do without it
A product vision describes the intention of a product or solution and briefly states what the product should do for customers and users in the long term. And what problems the product aspires to solve in the future.
A clearly defined product vision helps to inspire and motivate stakeholders, while at the same time giving a clear direction to the development team, stakeholders and in some cases customers and users. And it is the indicator for a Product Owner to make decisions and choices during the development of the product. In short: a product vision helps to get a 'stakeholder buy-in' and to keep development processes 'on track'.
Obstacles in creating a product vision
Since 2006 we have been helping [rb2] companies formulate product vision for their development projects. Sometimes that process runs quickly and effortlessly and sometimes we encounter obstacles. Read what obstacles we encounter and how you can avoid them.
1. lack of candour
When we come across this, it is mainly with new customers. Cooperation is still early so that confidence has yet to grow. Both new and existing customers also experience that the desired product is still sensitive internally. For example because of the (alleged) impact on the organization. In a closed setting, it is difficult to arrive at a worn product vision, inspires and is long-term.
Tips to create openness:
- Choose the right location
Organize product vision sessions in a location that stimulates and offers sufficient space for working on whiteboards, canvases, and posters. As a location, the customer's office can be used, for example, if a product fits within the current business, or just outside the office as a stimulus for new ideas.
- Immediately involve the right people
Make sure that the right people are involved from the start in shaping the product vision: the business owner/sponsor, product owner, marketer and technology owner. If these roles have not yet been fulfilled, first take care of (temporary) interpretation. You create ownership by having people participate, not by informing them afterwards.
- Continue to adjust the product vision
In any case, keep space to make iterations on product vision, but also to be able to involve other disciplines if necessary. For example, customer service, logistics, finance or account management. You create support by involving people, not bypassing them.
- Cash in on the fresh looks of partners
If you are going to work with an implementation partner, invite several people from that party who can offer their perspective and input: delivery manager, tech lead, architect, business consultant, and account owner. Fresh looks can provide valuable insights!
2. Too much or too little detail in the "product vision"
In some cases, a product vision remains too vague or becomes too detailed. If you start the development process with too vague product vision, there is a good chance that the project will gradually drift off course. Too much detail, on the other hand, can cause product development to find creative, innovative, stimulating solutions.
Determining the level of detail is not an exact science and depends on the degree to which the product differs from the current business or products. And is also determined by the extent to which the customers and suppliers involved know the current (or new) business sufficiently to be able to contain the new product.
Tips to make your product vision concrete and clear:
- Focus on the "what" and the "why"
Specific solutions do not belong in a product vision. Forget specific technologies and precise operation of product features. These details are better reflected in a product backlog. The product vision is about what the product does for its user (s) and why not how the functions of the product work and when the product should be available.
- Pour the product vision in the correct format
Use a format with the right level of detail to provide sufficient context to all involved. We usually choose between a product vision statement, possibly in the form of an "elevator pitch", or a product vision board (extended). The latter lends itself well to conveying the core of the business domain (model and market), if not everyone who knows well enough.
- Keep the product vision and product strategy separate
The product vision is the goal, the strategy is how you intend to achieve that goal. You must be able to change the route to success on the road, either forced or voluntary.
3. Slow and poor acceptance of the "product vision"
Once the product vision has been drawn up, you probably want the buy-in from all stakeholders as quickly as possible. Because with that you can start the project and you know how much time and budget you can get started. This is a crucial step that we regularly see customers struggle with internally. With slow and poor acceptance as a result and a delayed (or even no) start and internal resistance as a result.
Tips for the fast, smooth acceptance of the product vision:
- Designate a neutral facilitator for the process and sessions
A facilitator ensures a solid transparent process, in which each participant has a balanced contribution. The appointment of a facilitator ensures that everyone who has to contribute substantively can do so, instead of directing the process and moderating the group dynamics. Besides, it prevents the perception of preference for your idea.
- Identify in advance which stakeholders you will involve
Both when drawing up the product vision and when iterating and adjusting it. Do not exclude people who (prove to be) necessary to bring the product to life.
- Ask about the motivation of the person concerned to reach a common goal
Take the product idea as a starting point and ask those involved to express their motivation to work on or with the product. Search for the common denominator and combine individual goals into one that everyone wants to go for.
- Develop and improve product vision in small steps and regularly
It is a utopia to get a product vision right in one session; it is a process that you accomplish in collaboration with the stakeholders.
- Communicate often, often and consistently
So that the internal organization, external partners and customers understand the value of the product to them and how they have contributed to it.
- When communicating, focus mainly on the value for customers and users
What the product can mean for them and why, and not on solutions, technology choices, and planning.
- Use images, metaphors and stories to bring the product vision to life
Bring the product vision and with it the product, a little bit to life in your communication. In this way, involved people can put themselves in the user's seat and life goes on.