How do you create a product vision? Part 1

Day 147 of Self Quarantine             Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.:  160,000

Developing a Product Vision in an Early Stage Startup

While coaching an early stage startup CEO, she asked:

How do you come up with a product vision?

I have written a lot about entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, but I have not written about how to get to a product vision.  Sometimes this question is asked as “how do I develop a product roadmap?”

I was silent for quite a while as I searched my memory, but all that came back were examples of product visions.  I have a lot of those.  I tried to recall an explicit description of how I arrived at those product visions.  I could not.

Since I love good questions, my work for the next several days became clear.

This question arose out of an interaction with a CEO where she thought the first focus of her CEO coaching would be on how to manage a software product development team.  She was not a technical founder or a scientist, so she was not sure how her skills as a marketer would translate to managing technical talent.  As we talked about what this meant, we realized that creating, managing, and evolving a product vision was a precursor topic to understand how to manage software product development.  Understanding how to create a product vision for a single product is a precursor to understanding how to manage a portfolio of product visions.

Getting to a product vision for an innovative product is a five step process:

  1. Understanding what a good one looks like
  2. Becoming an expert quickly in the knowledge domain of your product innovations
  3. Using an influencer centered design process to collaborate with domain experts and customers on your product vision
  4. Creating the product vision using service dominant logic and an outcomes orientation
  5. Communicating the Product vision – to employees, to customers, to investors

The following discussion assumes that you have gone through the initial steps of a startup that include:

The first step involves identifying what a good product vision looks like.  While most of the public product visions are after the fact and well crafted, they help to understand what you should be trying to achieve.  The following are some of the more famous product visions.  Some are written and some are product launch videos for the first product in what will be a stream of products.

As you read and watch these presentations, identify for yourself the patterns of what a good product vision looks like.  The challenge is not getting lost in the weeds or the details of the product vision.

The Outcome frame orientation is a starting point for capturing the essence of each of these presentations and then comparing the product visions:

    • What are they trying to create?
    • How will we know that they created it?
    • What resources did each company have to get started right away?
    • What other opportunities will their product vision lead to?

Because each of these visions is older, we can see through the passage of time how the product vision played out.

Geoff Moore popularized the Whole Product concept in his book Crossing the Chasm.  A brief description of the Whole Product is:

Whole Product = Whole Experience

“To help our understanding, let’s use a car as an example. If you buy a car that has the features that you want but it doesn’t have some of the other critical components of your ownership experience, like a nearby service center, an adequate warranty, availability of parts, etc. then you won’t be happy. The whole product is the entire experience, not just the features of the product.”

Katherine James Schuitemaker extended the Whole Product diagram to include four other dimensions of the whole product – the Technology, Operations (what does it take to operate the product), Service (what services help the customer get started), and Know How (what is required by the customer to make use of the product).

 

The early stages of a startup are focused on the core product and getting to a product market fit.  The product vision should include components of the Whole Product like the augmented and potential products.

After you make notes on what a good product vision looks like, revisit the product vision resources to identify how the authors or presenters communicated their innovations and visions.  Kim Erwin in her book Communicating the New, shares the challenge of presenting a product vision – getting from the sender’s conceptual model to the receiver’s conceptual model:

In communicating the product vision you need at least three of these maps:

    • For an employee
    • For a customer
    • For an investor

With an understanding of what a good one looks like, we move on to the second step – becoming an expert in your product’s knowledge domain.

 

The five parts of this series on how to create a product vision are:

  1. Understanding what a good one looks like
  2. Becoming an expert quickly in the knowledge domain of your product innovations
  3. Using an influencer centered design process to collaborate on your product vision
  4. Creating the product vision using service dominant logic and an outcomes orientation
  5. Communicating the Product vision – to employees, to customers, to investors
This entry was posted in Content with Context, Design, Entrepreneuring, Human Centered Design, Idealized Design, Innovation. Bookmark the permalink.

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