The vision plays an important role in bringing a new product to life: It acts as the overarching goal guiding everyone involved in the development effort. Equally important is the product strategy, the path chosen to attain the vision. Without a shared vision and an effective strategy, people are likely to pull in different directions, and the chances of creating a successful product are slim. While vision and strategy are key, describing them can be challenging.
The Vision Board is the simplest thing that could possible work to capture the vision and the product strategy. It uses five sections:
- Vision is a concise summary of your idea that describes your intention and motivation. It’s helpful to limit the vision statement to two sentences.
- Target Group describes the market or market segment you want to address. You should state who the product is likely to benefit, who its users and its customers are.
- Needs describes the product’s value proposition: the problems and pain points the product removes, and the benefits or gains it creates for its users and customers. The section should make it clear why people will want to use and buy your product, and what the product’s value proposition is.
- Product summarizes the three to five features of your product that make it stand out and that are critical for its success. These are likely to correlate to its unique selling proposition, and they should address the needs identified. Depending on your product, the features may relate to functional properties (“mobile data access”), the design and the user experience (“cool, slick design that supports the brand and appeals to the target group”), or the technologies (“4G provided”). Don’t make the mistake of listing lots of features. Stick to a maximum of five. Capture the product details at a later stage in your Product Canvas or Product Backlog.
- Business Goals, or Value, explains why it’s worthwhile for your company to invest in the product. The section states the desired business benefits, for instance, increase revenue, enter a new market, reduce cost, develop the brand, or acquire valuable knowledge. The latter can be just as valuable as the former: When Toyota shipped the Prius in 1997, for instance, the car was not earning any money. But it immediately developed its brand (“green car company”), and had gained an advantage in hybrid technology.
There are, of course, other tools available that help you capture your ideas including the Business Model Canvas. The Vision Board however offers simplicity. Filling in all the boxes on the Lean and the Business Model Canvas is often but not always helpful. But you can happily use the Vision Board as a stepping stone towards creating the Lean or the Business Model Canvas.
Research and Validation with the Vision Board
The Vision Board is not only a thinking and communications tool, it also allows you to test your assumptions, and capture the newly gained insights. To get started, it’s helpful to identify the greatest risk or biggest uncertainty on the board. This creates focus, and it enforces a fail-fast: figuring out quickly what works and what doesn’t, which assumptions hold true, and which don’t.
The greatest risk is initially misunderstanding the user needs, and potentially building a product that does not provide much value. You should test your user needs assumptions before exploring further what features the tool should provide, or how the product should be implemented. You might start with a series of problem interviews, structured conversation with a prospect to understand the individual’s problems and goals without referring to the solution, and engaged in a few direct observation sessions.
These measures help you to understand the target group better, and assess how much value your product would provide. It also makes you update and change the board to reflect your latest thinking, as the following picture shows:
Identify your biggest risk, and attack this risk first. Don’t be afraid to fail: Early failure saves you time and money.