When working on a new product, you often need to find a succinct yet compelling way to communicate its value and your end goals. Maybe you are meeting one of your top investors in the elevator and only have 30 seconds to share your idea. Or you are hiring new team members to help with the product’s development, and you need to rally them around your idea.
Whatever the reason, it all starts with a Product Vision. The product vision paints the picture of what you are striving to achieve and the long-term goal for your product, and it represents a “North Star” for everyone involved in the product development effort.
A good product vision is inspirational and motivational. It also offers insights into the following elements:
- What types of customers will you serve?
- What types of services will you offer?
- What value will you deliver?
- Why would anyone be interested in it?
Why use the Product Vision Canvas
When your product vision is clear, articulated, and aligned with your key stakeholders, all you need to do is to communicate and share it. There are many ways to do this, including the Vision Statement (see below), the Hill Statement, the Press Release from the Future, or even a video.
But how do you get started? What if you don’t have a defined product vision yet, or cannot agree with your key stakeholders on a shared vision?
The Product Vision Canvas helps to solve these problems. To craft and align around a shared Product Vision for your product, use the Product Vision Canvas. This is a framework that helps you think about the key components of a product vision, it’s building blocks. Use the framework to spark a conversation around these building blocks and create alignment. Once you have all the pieces defined, synthesize your product vision using your favorite communication method, like the Vision Statement.
How to use the Product Vision Canvas
If you are creating the product vision for your product from scratch (i.e. it is a new product), or if you want to rally other team members around a shared vision, the Product Vision Canvas is a great tool to crate alignment and craft a product vision. Download and share the template, print it on a wall, or load it into Miro or your favorite collaboration tool. Then, gather the people on your team, and start working!
The goal here is not to fill in all the boxes or find the solution to a puzzle. The goal of this framework is to give you the foundational blocks to frame your conversation around the product vision. If some elements of the canvas don’t apply, skip them. Use what makes sense for you. In general, it helps to follow the structure of the Product Vision Canvas, and work step by step on each component.
Give a name to your product. This makes it feel real, it brings the product idea into existence, and helps people to rally around it. The name does not need to be your final brand name – at this moment we are creating a vision not yet launching it in the market. Choose a name that is descriptive yet inspirational.
PART A – The building blocks
Start crafting your product vision by identifying the key building blocks. This first section of the Product Vision Canvas creates alignment around the customers, their needs, and our solution.
Describe who are the people that will use your product or service. Try to be specific. Saying everyone in the world is certainly an aspirational goal, but it’s too broad. Refine your target customers so that you can clearly articulate who they are and describe the problem they need solving.
Problem to solve
Looking at the target customers you selected, describe their pain points and the problem they are trying to solve. Is there a pain point that it’s compelling enough to generate interest in a new product? Is there an untapped opportunity? This helps you ground your product vision on the “why” you are doing this.
Your customers may already have a solution to their needs. It may not be perfect, it may not be effective, but they go about their lives somehow managing the problem. What do they do? What do they use? The competition is not necessarily another company in the same space. It may be another solution that your customers are currently employing to deal with the problem.
At this point we have a good understanding of who the customers are, what pain point they are facing, and how they deal with it in today’s world. Now we can paint the picture of our solution, how we envision it to solve the customer problems and how it works. This is not the time to detail the specifications of a product, create an architecture, or define the specific design we will use to build it.
The solution should describe in broad strokes what it is that we are going to build. This can be a simple sentence that conveys the beauty and challenge of our product. For example, SpaceX’s solution for the Falcon rocket was “A reusable rocket that can re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land on its own on the launch pad”. We need to be able to picture it in our head, and think “whoaw, this would be cool!”.
Once we have completed the building blocks, we have all the key elements needed to convey the vision for our product. We could stop here, or continue with the other half of the canvas, to dig deeper into the value that our solution will bring.
PART B – The business proposition
Now that we have an idea of why we build the product and what it is, we can work on refining details around the value that both our business and our customers would get from the product. We call this the business proposition.
Even if we aim for saving the world and have social impact, our product needs to be sustainable for the business. How do we pay for it? How do we generate revenue? Who pays for it, and how often? Is it a one-time purchase, a subscription, a rental?
Earlier we identified the problems or needs for our customers. Here we discuss the benefits they will get from our product. It may be that we not only solve the problem the customers are facing, but also we add value, open new opportunities, or empower the customers in new ways. Discuss what benefits customers get from your product idea as this component of the product vision can be very compelling when sharing it.
Why should customers care about choosing your solution compared to others? What makes your product idea stand out? Articulate your unique advantage as this is another compelling element of a product vision. If it sounds like you don’t have a unique advantage, let’s go back and rethink our previous steps. Revisit your description of the customers and their problems. Try to find an untapped opportunity there to offer a new solution that is unique and compelling for the customers to adopt. That’s your unique advantage.
PART C – Define your strategy
Your product vision is an essential element to empower the people on your team and rally them around your vision for the product. It paints the future vision of what the product will deliver for your customers and your business.
Once you have a product vision, the next question is how to make it actionable. We can start looking at a few key steps we can take to bring the vision to life. These steps are the building blocks of our product strategy and we can define them as product goals. The intent here is not to define a detailed strategy, articulate a roadmap, or detail a specific release schedule (there are other frameworks specific for that). The intent is to create alignment around a few key goals we can achieve to bring the product vision to life.
For example, you could say “Build an MVP to validate XYZ, then release version 1 in market only in the US, then expand worldwide”.
These goals can be the starting blocks to create your product strategy (separately from your product vision).
Check out the Product Goal Canvas to help you define your Product Goals.
Play with the Product Vision Canvas and see what comes up for you in using it!
The Vision Statement
Once you have identified all the building blocks of your product vision, it’s time to synthesize it into a shareable and engaging statement. We call it the Vision Statement.
This is a simple, yet compelling statement that paints the picture for the listener of what the product is and the value it will deliver. This is your vision, and you can share it with your team members and stakeholders to create alignment and enroll everyone in the vision you have created.
The picture below shows the structure of the Vision Statement. Download the template pdf to get started on it.