Product vision statements are a crucial part of the Agile Scrum process. In the same way a clear vision statement can set the direction for an entire organisation, it can also provide a framework for the development of any particular product. This article explains what a vision statement is and how to create one for your next new product idea.
What is a vision statement?
At organisational level, a vision statement answers the question ‘Where is the business going?’. The statement is created to set a direction and to inspire employees. It looks towards the impact the company wants to make in the future.
“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
In just a few words, the statement defines a prime goal and shows where the company wants to be. As a vision, it’s both powerful and practical.
How do vision statements work at product level?
A product vision statement works in a very similar way to an organisational one. The goal is to create a guide for everyone involved, whatever their role in the company. It’s a statement of purpose that brings people together, makes sure they start on the same page, and keeps them focused on a shared mission. Importantly, a product vision statement should be aligned with the overall organisational vision.
It’s a good idea to have a simple summary statement along the lines of the Amazon statement above. This gives you something that’s easy to communicate and will help inspire shared commitment. For practical purposes, I like to create something a little more detailed too.
Writing a product vision statement
There are three key elements in creating an effective product vision statement:
Get everyone involved
The best product vision statements come when you bring people from across the organisation together to talk through the ideas. Customer-facing staff (or customers/users, if possible), marketing people, developers, designers – everyone will have a different and valuable perspective. Ignore any group at your peril.
Follow a template
A great starting point is the template given by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm .
The template looks like this:
For [target customer]
Who [statement of the need]
The [product name] is a [product category]
that [key benefit, compelling reason to buy].
Unlike [primary competitive alternative],
our product [statement of primary differentiation]
It keeps discussions focused on the value to the customer, and is an extremely simple way of condensing the key points and making sure that you are focusing on developing a product that has value. It also helps you avoid generalisations (such as ‘make people happy’).
Note there’s nothing here about how the outcome will be achieved. You don’t want to limit yourselves at this point to any particular approach.
It’s also important to be clear where the product fits with overall company strategy.
I always therefore recommend adding the following:
[product name]will contribute towards company goals by [statement of how the product contributes towards the company vision].
With the top level vision statement agreed, you can then create a short and snappy sharable summary.
Set clear product boundaries
Once you’ve defined this top level statement, it’s time add in some practical boundaries. At Clearscape, we add in four further key elements:
Out of scope
NFRs (non-functional requirements)
This clearly sets the boundaries of what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out’.
Put in the time to create a product vision statement, and you have a powerful tool that sets a clear direction from the start, facilitates collaboration, and guides decision-making throughout the development process. Bring in the wider team and establish a template to give yourself the best chance of success.