A product vision may sound like something large corporates work on. It may sound like a waste of time. However, a good product vision helps your team make the right choices while building your product.
Do I really need a product vision?
Yes! We believe every company needs a product vision, whether you are starting out and still have to write the first line of code or have been in the business for decades.
The work doesn’t stop with simply making a product vision. You also have to maintain it, because over time, it will evolve.
A product vision is the foundation for so many aspects that define functionality you should or shouldn't include in your product, how things work, and how the team functions.
When you have a vision, each person has the context necessary to make decisions that align with goals of the company; they are empowered.
So what is a product vision?
In short, a vision paints a picture of your customer’s world once your product fully delivers what you have in mind. By definition, this is utopian, probably unattainable, but it is a perfect north star to aim for.
Vision is often mentioned along with other terms like mission, values, and goals. We'll define those as well to show how we think they complement each other.
While the vision paints a picture of the future, the mission states what your product does right now to make that vision reality. The values clarify how your product completes the mission and gets to the vision.
A company should have a vision, but a product also needs one. For a typical SaaS company with only one product, they may be the same — but not necessarily. Think about the ambition the company has; it might lie beyond one product.
How do I use a vision?
The vision, values, and goals are there to help anyone in the organization understand what your product does. They provide direction to all team members — not just your product development team.
For the sales team, this means they can target specific leads that align with the vision and for which your product can offer the best solution for their problems. Similarly, the support team can better act as a filter for new feature ideas because they can judge whether it fits within the vision.
Even for the product team itself, the vision can be used to evaluate every new problem to solve, every technical decision, prioritize every issue on the roadmap, and validate any solution proposed.
And finally, for everyone, a compelling vision inspires and motivates a team.
What if I don’t have a product vision?
When a product team lacks a vision, it results in unclear or ever-changing priorities because customers dictate what they want to build as short-term solutions for their problems.
On the sales and marketing side, your team might be selling features that do not exist or are relevant for specific customers, resulting in product bloat and tension between the sales and product teams.
Although you are listening closely to your customers, ignoring your vision can lead to a bloated product with too many features to maintain, eventually causing development to grind to a halt.
When do I need to review the product vision?
Using a strategy framework such as Roger L. Martin's Playing to Win will help you understand when the market has shifted. When a core assumption has been invalidated, it's a good time to review your product vision.
Another moment to review the vision is when the team doesn't benefit from it. This could be because the vision is too vague or too detailed.
Remember that the purpose is provide context to the company so that decisions can be made as autonomously as possible. Especially when you're still trying to find your market fit, your vision is subject to change.
You need a product vision. It's the basis of almost any decision anyone in the company makes that involves your product offering. You have to develop and maintain it and ensure everyone in the company knows and understands it. It'll make your product offering that much more coherent.