A Product Owner must be able to successfully envision a product. Organizations generally carry out market research and other activities, such as planning and analysis, to conceptualize products. A shortcoming of this approach is that organizations assume that customer requirements are predictable and ignores other fluctuating factors. Another approach is to dive head first into the development process. This can be a grave mistake, because the organization may not have accurately gauged the customer’s requirements or even understood what the successful product should look like.
As the project gets underway, the visioning work decreases, and the team’s incremental work is required to validate the vision. The customer’s feedback is used to refine the product further. Although the vision focuses mainly on the next product version, it does not necessarily restrict itself to the current release. A good Product Vision also explains the value to the customer. In summary, the Product Vision should be able to pass the “elevator test.”
While defining the Product Vision, one has to be careful of a few unhealthy practices. Product development should not commence before the vision is put in place. Without a strong guiding principle of what the key customer wants and what they need from the product, the temptation is to build a product based on pleasing all potential customers and needs. This approach results in product bloat, in which unnecessary features are added to the product. The key value unlocked through an iterative, incremental approach is to only build required features. While defining the Product Vision it needs to be understood that the vision needs a unifying principle and a clear goal, otherwise it could simply turn into a list of features that the Product Owner wants. This does nothing to guide the team, and it rarely passes the elevator test and is usually difficult to remember.
An effective vision should answer the following questions:
- Who is the target customer?
- Who are the potential users?
- Which category does the product fall into?
- What are the key benefits to compel users to buy?
- What are the differentiating features from the competitor’s product?
- What is the key selling point?
- How feasible is the product? Can the company develop and sell the product?