What is Product Vision?

Product Management
Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated

Product Vision or Product Vision Statement is the long-term goal for a product includes the long-term mission and the motivation behind its creation, along with why it’s important.

Product visions, ultimately, serve as the guideposts for the development of the products. They're the compasses for a product manager to use to keep all the necessary stakeholders on the same page. This allows the product team to stay organized as they navigate through the development journey. It also helps the users learn about and connect with a particular product.  

Nevertheless, product managers frequently struggle when creating their product visions.

While there’s no getting around the fact that creating a great product vision statement is challenging, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a method to reliably create them.

What is a Product Vision?

I work in a software company designed and structured an app for field staff. That day we made a tour of our flow and could not miss a shot of our work :)
Photo by Alvaro Reyes / Unsplash

Product Vision is a long-term vision for the product—what the future of the product looks like. Without something like a product vision statement, the stakeholders involved with the product may get disorganized or confused. The product vision statement provides a coherent strategy and objectives of a product so that the stakeholders know exactly how they are supposed to move forward.

Ultimately a product vision statement is a statement on the point of a product or service. A stakeholder or a customer may not know everything, or anything, about your company, but can get a good idea of what your product or service is and does thanks to its product vision statement.

For example, Facebook's vision statement is: "People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what's going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” You don't need to know anything else about Facebook to deduce what its signature product is about. That's what a product vision statement is.

Why is Product Vision Important?

Abstract by Natasha Remarchuk

So why are product vision statements important? Strong product vision statements are important for companies for several reasons, both for the sake of the customers and the stakeholders.First and foremost, those involved with developing the product, in actualizing the future state outlined by the product owner, need something clear and coherent to guide them through their development.

In this way, a product vision can be thought of as their compass. This is because product vision statements provide a lot of necessary context around a product, specifically, it’s goals, the intentions behind its creation, what it seeks to provide its customers or users, and the desired future state of a product. All of this gives the stakeholders a common direction in their efforts to bring about this future state of the product. Without an adequate product vision statement, development efforts may become messy, disorganized, or confused—especially when there are many different stakeholders involved.

Product vision statements are also important for customers. The vision statement may be one of the first things new customers seek out to learn about a company and its products. As evidenced by the popularity of Simon Sinek's TedTalk, consumers today are increasingly concerned about the 'why' behind a company, as much as they are concerned with the 'what' of the product. Before a customer can be convinced to try a product or service, they'll most likely be interested in learning why this product or service exists in the first place. Without a compelling vision statement, they may easily decide to go with your competitor.

Not only that, a product vision statement is one of the few things that can communicate an enormous amount of information about your company and product in the fewest amount of words. Customers may have stumbled upon your product and may be wondering what it is or what it's point is—a product vision can easily answer these questions.

What Makes a Product Vision Statement Great?

Abstract by Dmitry Nikulnikov

So, at this point, you probably agree that product visions are important, but how can you make your product vision statement great? Well, there are a few major factors that go into a vision statement's greatness. These are:

Product visions must be inspirational

A great vision statement must be an inspirational statement, both for the stakeholders and the customers. It must be something compelling enough for the stakeholders to rally behind, along with something that motivates customers to support.

Product visions must be blueprints

A product vision is the overarching blueprints for the stakeholders involved with developing the product. Great product visions are far-reaching roadmaps for the product team to get behind. The objectives of the product must be communicated within the vision, otherwise, the team may get lost and confused along the way.

Product visions must describe the underlying motivations

Product visions must describe the underlying motivations behind the creation or development of a product, whether that be implicitly or explicitly. This relays a lot of context and information to both stakeholders and customers alike and can be very helpful in deducing the way forward in developing and using the product.  

Product visions must align with corporate visions

At the end of the day, product visions must complement the overall vision of the company. Sometimes, when a product/service is synonymous with the company itself, in the case of signature products of companies like Facebook or Dropbox,the vision statements may be the same. PMs must ensure their product visions align with the overall mission of their organization.

This is necessary because corporate visions and their goals may be complex. If the corporate vision is to be actualized, it will be done by the company's products, which in turn are defined by their product visions. Therefore, for a company's corporate vision to come about, its product visions must align with it. Otherwise, the products will bring about results that may not support, or even undermine, the greater ambitions of the company.

Tips for Creating a Product Vision Statement

Abstract by Icons 8

When creating your product vision statement, there are a couple tips to keep in mind to ensure that it's as strong as it can be.

Make sure your key stakeholders are involved in the process.

Oftentimes, they may have some valuable insights or critiques that may slip the product owner's mind during the drafting of the statement. It's also valuable to have them involved given that their development directions will be defined by the product vision.

Always keep the customer/end-user in mind.

Ultimately, products and services are meant for customers, so they'll be the most important consideration while creating a product vision statement.

Keep the vision ambitious, yet attainable.

Great product visions are always ambitious, even remarkably so. However, they're still blueprints and roadmaps stakeholders are using to develop a product, so they must be attainable.

Keep the vision short and compelling.

The best product vision statements are as inspiring as they are short. Product visions are not the place for companies to make long drawn out statements regarding their mission or values. Instead, vision statements should be laconic and pithy phrases packed with meaning.

If you follow these tips while keeping the aforementioned reasons why great vision statements are great, yours will surely be a strong and compelling product vision.

Templates for Product Vision Statements

Abstract by Icons 8

Nevertheless, you may still feel you need a little more structure when crafting your own statements. There are currently a few product vision templates available for PMs and product owners to use when crafting their own. Here is just one example:

First and foremost, start with your target group, the customers your product intends on serving. Then detail the need or opportunity that your product would be serving. Next, name the product, and possibly its product category and how exactly it fills that previously mentioned need or opportunity. If you'd like, you can mention the primary differentiation of your product to its competitors.

Now, this isn't to say you can't move the individual pieces around within your statement to make it sound better. Let's take Tesla's product vision as an example. Let's break it down with this template:

To accelerate the world's [target group] transition [need or opportunity] to sustainable energy [product category].

Or what about Google's? Let's break down another example:

To provide access [need or opportunity] to the world's [target group] information in one click [product and primary differentiation].

As you can see, the actual order isn't necessarily rigid. You're more than welcome to move the pieces around to produce the satisfactory wording.

Examples of Industry-Leading Product Vision

Abstract by Dmitry Nikulnikov

There are many companies out there today that product managers and product owners can take inspiration from. Here are some of our favorites:

IKEA: 'To create a better everyday life for the many people.'

Patagonia: 'We're in business to save our home planet.' Was previously: 'Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.'

OpenAI: 'To ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI)—by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work—benefits all of humanity. We will attempt to directly build safe and beneficial AGI, but will also consider our mission fulfilled if our work aids others to achieve this outcome.'

Tesla: 'To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.'

Paypal: 'That every person has the right to participate fully in the global economy, and that we have an obligation to empower people to exercise this right and improve financial health.'

Join the PM Community at Exponent

Some of the Unsplash Team fam working together 🤘
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

You may find that questions regarding product vision are thrown your way during your next PM interview. We've previously published another article outlining how to pitch your product vision during such interviews, you can check that out here.

If you've found this and our other PM interview articles helpful, you should consider joining the Exponent community. Within it, you'll find dozens of aspiring PMs just like you, along with industry insiders, interview coaches, and product managers at some of today's biggest companies, all of which would be happy to help you ace your PM interview and advance your career. You can find our guides on PM interviews at several major companies here, along with our PM interview coaching, here.

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