Luke Skywalker would never have set out on his journey to become a Jedi had he not come to terms with his true purpose: To restore peace to the galaxy. And as it turns out, he shared this vision with an entire group of people.
Luke’s journey begins humbly as he trains in the ways of The Force, eventually becoming a key leader in the rebellion against the Dark Side. Each step along his path drives towards his goal of restoring peace. And also, I guess, avenging his father.
Ok, comparing product management to Star Wars might be a bit forced (pun intended). But if the purpose of a Product Manager is to lead and inspire teams toward a common goal, Skywalker might just be the perfect pop-culture example. So, what can we learn from him? Number one: Identifying and having buy-in on your Product Vision Statement is a critical first step to developing a successful product.
What is a Product Vision Statement and Why Is It Valuable?
In a nutshell, A Product Vision Statement defines the underlying purpose of a product. It is ‘The Force’ that helps dictate all of the decisions for developing a product. For Luke, restoring peace to the galaxy meant blowing up the Death Star. For product managers, it is much more humble than that. Like to restore stability to your customer platform by way of a critical maintenance release, or to simplify the process of X by achieving Y and Z.
In the words of another pop-culture hero:
If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.
– Steve Jobs
How to Develop an Effective Product Vision Statement
Much like Luke was doing before he joined the resistance, you are searching for (and perhaps sometimes also fighting against) your product’s true purpose. As a Product Manager fueled by a mixture of vision, practicality, raw inspiration, and coffee grounds, you log many hours in the cockpit and on the deck of your own Millennium Falcon helping to coalesce the vision of your crew, your stakeholders, and your customers. You must prove yourself via measurable victories over the course of your tenure as captain. It’s essential that you all know what you’re heading towards.
Developing a good Product Vision may take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of months depending on the complexity of your product. You may first need to obtain market data and do research to understand what you need to build and why. You and your team should be able to craft a vision statement together during this ‘training’ phase so that you’re equipped to go into battle together with a clear sense of purpose.
Let’s look at a few of the questions you should have in mind when developing yours:
- Company Vision: How does the product support and benefit your company’s overall vision to achieve ‘X’?
- Who is the End User: Does your product need to be tailored to a customer, a business or internal needs?
- Needs Being Met: What needs does it meet that are not currently being met within your current product offering
- Differentiating Factors: What sets the product apart from the competition?
- Timeline and Budget: What is your target timeframe and what budget are you working with to deliver the product?
Keeping these questions in mind while developing your Product Vision Statement should be helpful for ensuring that the wider vision is in alignment with finer details of your specific project.
If you’re looking for more practical direction, we found this short product vision guide to be helpful at dummies.com.
The Qualities of a Good Product Vision Statement
Practically speaking, your Product Vision Statement is something that you should be able to memorize and write out on the back of a business card. It should be co-created and agreed upon by all. This will serve to unify all your departments — from product management, engineering, marketing, and support, to finance and sales — around a central goal. You can even post it up on the wall (physical or virtual) as a reminder to your team of what their goal is with the project.
Roman Pichler, a leading Product Management expert, shares some valuable insight into what makes a good Product Vision Statement:
“Like any important goal, a good vision equally appeals to our intellect and to our emotions. It should motivate and inspire people. The product vision should be clear and stable; broad and engaging; and short and sweet.” (Source: scrumalliance.org)
What Effect Does a Product Vision Have on Your Roadmap?
If the product vision is your ultimate destination, the roadmap is the turn-by-turn directions. Just like on a geographical map, there’s usually more than one way to reach your destination. Some routes may be riddled with unforeseen road blocks and traffic jams; rarely will you encounter all open high-way. Remember, the shortest distance isn’t always the fastest or even the best path.
A good Product Vision Statement should be atop everyone’s mind throughout the development process. If you lack this, you can’t effectively rally your team and your stakeholders towards the destination. It’s also hard to develop a roadmap and strategy for getting to a destination that is undefined, or worse, always changing.