The role of a Product Manager is responsible for representing the interests of everyone with a stake in the product. Setting a vision for a product is one of the critical responsibilities of a product manager. A good product visions aligns with the overall company goals and mission, while setting direction for teams to build the right product, as the product manager constantly keeps a pulse on end user needs, market trends and competition.

Product managers often struggle with crafting and creating a vision for their product, and so are not as effective as they can be when building and delivering a product. Unless their vision is crafted well, they are likely to be reacting or taking things as they come and may not be able to create a compelling value proposition.

There are several challenges that can come up for why product managers while building a vision. Some of these could be  

  • Part product owners – The role of a product manager is shared between two people, with one person handling external facing functions like market intelligence, customer connect and strategic product management whereas the other/product owner is more internal facing interacting with scrum teams, driving sprints and managing a backlog. This approach tends to create confusion on responsibility and authority causing ambiguity, delay and other inefficiencies while creating and managing product vision.

Note:-Several companies have this kind of arrangement and it has worked well with the key to success being a highly synchronized working relationship.

  • The product exists – Product managers are often working with products that are already in use for a while and are creating enhancements or adding a few features with no significant changes to the product.
  • Very little information – Sometimes product managers have very little information about customer needs or purpose of a product. This could be a result of being far away from end users with little or no direct interaction with them or perhaps working with a new or nebulous idea where it’s hard to draw up a vision in the early stages of the idea.

Despite these challenges, having a product vision is extremely essential to the success of a product and company. It acts like a compass by articulating the purpose of the product, thereby guiding all stakeholders. Having a vision motivates, inspires, unites and enables effective collaboration across teams. A vision also provides a dream for the long term and sustains passion in all stakeholders. It’s an empowering statement for a Product Manager that supports the right choices while constantly clarifying questions of stakeholders.

Having shared this, how can a product owner begin to develop a product vision? Here are 3 tips that product owners can use to be effective while creating a product vision.

  • Become the owner – Understand what you have with you, however small and build on it. Ask yourself why you are excited to work on the product, why you care about it, what changes the product brings about and what the product holds for the future. These questions and statements enable a product owner to develop a vison for the product and hold all stakeholders through building and delivering the product. This tip is handy when working with an already shipping product that to which features, or increments are being added.
  • Develop iteratively and incrementally – Developing the vision can be a complex, unpredictable and challenging task. It can be done collaboratively (you don’t have to do it all on you own) with inputs from various stakeholders like scrum teams, end-users and customer support teams. Iterations only make it better over time and allow for continuously incorporating dimensions like competition, market trends, product performance and engineering enhancements. Starting with a release goal or a theme is also a way in which to get the vision development process underway.
  • Focus on value for customers – Take time to know your customers and learn from their feedback on what in your product relieves their pain & what they gain from your product. Keep the focus on what value you can deliver to customers rather than on the technology being used to develop the product. This tip helps sustain the vision and adapt it through the life of a product as well as enables quick pivoting to meet customer needs.

Having a pin-up board or a chart are practical and helpful ways for a Product Manager to put down thoughts in a structured manner to craft the vision. Using the approach as described via a Business Model Canvas or Value Proposition Canvas are good starting points. These are useful templates and can be customized according to needs of the product.

Crafting a clear, concise and inspiring vision is a journey. Staying the course with patience and persistence and developing a product vision can be a rewarding experience with discovery and learning along the way for product owners.