Manchester’s tech scene is growing at a rapidly accelerating speed and with it new markets such as Product. However, the Product market in the North West is still relatively immature and new, and the availability of experienced talent is limited and will be until the market has aged. That’s why it is more important than ever to hire passionate Product professionals, who have an affinity for defining the vision, building strategy, and creating roadmaps, as this sets solid foundations for product delivery.
Aha! suggests that “you need to deeply understand the purpose of each in order to build something lasting”. Whilst all three are often used interchangeably, this can actually cause issues. It’s important to have a clear definition of each.
Vision is the initial idea of how the end product will look and why it will matter. A good product vision will address the target audience, the benefits, and the unique selling point (USP). The vision is the place you are aiming to reach and explains why you are bringing a product to market in the first place, and what impact its success will have on the world and the business. It underpins everything including the product strategy and roadmap. Your vision should evoke an emotional response in your target customers, whilst also aligning the internal product team to keep everyone on track.
A good vision can be created using Geoffry Moore’s product vision template:
· Who is the product for?
· Statement of need or opportunity
· Product Name
· Product Category
· USP/ key benefit
· Who is the primary competitor and why are you different?
Strategy explains the approach you will take in order to create the product, and acts as a blueprint for the actual build. It aligns the entire organization so everyone is working towards the same targets and goals. Melissa Perri, CEO of Produx Labs and Product Institute, writes that: “Product Strategy is a system of achievable goals and visions that work together to align the team around desirable outcomes for both the business and your customers.”
It’s fundamental to have a thorough understanding of the target audience and the problems they face that you wish to solve in a way your competitors haven’t done before, as well as a good idea of your key features and differentiators. Then, to help create a good strategy canvas, Product Specialists can utilise Roman Pichler’s product strategy canvas tool as shown below:
Roadmaps provide a more technical plan which outlines how you will hit targets and when. They often visualise what products and features will be built to realize the strategy and vision, who is responsible for them, and an estimate of when they will be released. However, this is not always plausible. If you work in a Lean/ Agile environment it might be more appropriate to use a theme-based roadmap which focusses on themes around the customer problems, you intend to focus on and why. Theme-based roadmaps start with a problem statement and move towards a solution, rather a far more rigid roadmap that focuses on features and dates.
Essentially, a Product Roadmap shouldn’t be an unchangeable map, but rather a statement of intent that is flexible and adaptable. A good strategic product roadmap should reflect the vision and strategy. It should also guide the execution of the strategy, align internal stakeholders, communicate development progress and challenges, and continuously inform external stakeholders.
The definitions above are not inherently correct. As with many other things, they are arbitrary and often mean different things to different businesses. Before building a vision, strategy, or roadmap it’s important to formally define and agree what a product vision, strategy and roadmap should look like. For an agile environment, they might use a Product pyramid as shown below:
Forming a vision of the future for your customer and your organization, and creating a measurable and realistic strategy to get there is essential to building an informative roadmap which will guide product development and delivery. It aligns all internal stakeholders, enabling effective collaboration team-work, and communication, whilst keeping all external stakeholders informed. Without a clear definition and direction, Product Development can easily lose focus.
With the Product Market still being in its infancy in Manchester, I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are around the importance of vision, strategy and road mapping, how you define them, and the relationship between them. If you’re keen to discuss this further, get involved in future events around this topic, or would like help with talent acquisition within the Product Space, I’d love to hear from you. Drop a comment below, or get in touch directly!