Strategy – Can a product have a vision and mission?
If you look around at product design processes, you find out that there are almost as many as there are products. While some differ simply in terms of the order of the activities or stages in the product design process, others hardly appear to be describing a process at all.
Some jump from great idea straight into building, by which I mean coding. Some follow a path of understanding the problem or opportunity, designing a working prototype, launching it and modifying based on feedback.Too many product design processes start with the technology and design within its constraints. And then there are other processes that include some other combination of phases along with input from stakeholders, users or customers.What’s less commonly seen as an explicit phase in a product design process is a “Strategy” phase.
A Strategy phase is simply a period of time, that needn’t be long, during which the product to be designed is given its own Vision and Mission. Like the organizational Vision, the Product Vision describes what we are aspiring to do or create with the product – what will be the future state – and the Product Mission describes what we’re going to do, to achieve that Product Vision in the current state. It’s important that the Product Vision and Mission align with the organization’s Vision and Mission.
Product Vision & Mission
Spending time, upfront, capturing a Product Vision and Mission that aligns with the Vision and Mission of the organization has multiple benefits:
- Ensures what we’re designing actually does align with what we’re aspiring to do or be as an organization – we’re building the right thing, not just building the thing right, or building it because we can
- Raises awareness around the value of the product being designed – its purpose extends beyond the tasks it supports
- Creates a shared understanding of why we’re doing this
- Enables articulation of specific actions that will need to be taken to fulfill the goals that fall out of the Mission
- Pushes us to capture success metrics so we will know if we’ve really met those goals
- Helps us to make some decisions about what should be included in the product and, equally as importantly, what should not, by referencing the Product Vision/Mission and its goals
We should be able to draw a straight line from the content or functionality in the product back to its Vision/Mission, and a straight line from the product Vision/Mission back to that of the organization.
A final word about the name of this kind of thing; in my experience, calling this document a Product Vision/Mission sometimes leads to eye-rolling because previous Vision/Mission exercises have been long, onerous wordsmithing exercises that ultimately result in a few motherhood statements that no one remembers once penned. So, call this what works for your organization, a “product charter”, a “product strategy”, a “product mandate”…or don’t name it at all. But have the discussion. Not only with the product stakeholders, but also with those involved in product creation. Come to some agreement and common understanding about why we’re doing this and capture it in writing.
Don’t allow yourself more than a day’s worth of time to do this. If it takes longer than that to, in effect, articulate why we’re creating this product and how we’ll know if it’s successful, that should be a red flag indicating that there are likely other matters that need to be resolved before we start building something new.