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How we turn product visions into tools

The story behind the Vision Implementation Canvas

Last month we made one of our in-house tools, the Vision Implementation Canvas, available to everyone—this week we’ll share the story behind it.

A year ago we were approached by a well-known German manufacturer. Together, we set out to re-imagine their core digital product — an undertaking that required not only a product vision (something we almost always define at the beginning of a project) but also a way to share and discuss this vision with a wide range of internal and external stakeholders across many organisational units.

We knew, we needed a tool that would allow us to quickly and effectively establish common ground — a way to ensure that everyone involved in the project was working towards the same shared goal.

The Canvas at Work | Photo by Mejdi El Bekri

That is when we drew up the first version of our Vision Implementation Canvas. At its core, the Vision Implementation Canvas is a collaboration tool that encourages structured discussion around the implementation of a vision. In last week’s words: It’s a simple graphical template that brings clarity to the traditionally complex task of using a product vision to reason about specific aspects of a digital product. (And you can get it here for free)

We wanted to make it easier to discuss the vision’s implications across organisational units. That is why we created a template that enables everyone inside a company to work towards one shared vision while coming up with solutions unique to their specific field of activity.

When it came to our client this meant making it easier to understand how seemingly bland features contribute to their product’s success while previously envisioned standout features have the potential to weaken the core user experience.

The canvas helped us reduce the complexity that is part of digital product development by directly connecting everyone’s work to a single vision. To make these connections we looked at the different fields of activity (Remote Control+Automation, Shop Integration, Customer Support) related to the development and maintenance of the product. We use these fields of activity to define the added value each of them can provide to the products target audience while ensuring that the solutions we come up with stay true to the overall product vision.

An example: Let’s say the vision behind the app is to make it as easy as possible for customers to automate their smart home devices while also keeping their interactions with the smartphone to a minimum.

In this case, an in-app shop only provides added value over Amazon & Co. if it is deeply integrated with the home appliance itself. The shopping experience needs to save the consumer time and money while offering only relevant add-ons and consumables. All products need to be able to be ordered with the tap of a single button, via subscriptions or even on-demand.

To not jeopardize the development of the app’s core functionality (Remote Control+Automation) it makes sense to build this shop using web technologies. That way the development of the shop does only minimally interfere with the app’s release cycle. (Philips Hue Labs is a good example of this approach)

The result: The development team can focus on getting the app’s basic user experience right while the team behind the shop can focus on developing a sustainable business model using more flexible web technologies. Ideation and implementation are now more closely linked.

We can foster mutual understanding and collaboration across departments by using the Vision Implementation Canvas to clearly separate fields of activity. We can also develop vision-driven solutions inside each field based on market and user research. At the same time the canvas ensures a degree of operational independence that allows teams to come up with their own solutions — always in the context of the vision and real-world KPIs.

All of this helped our client to regain focus and put their product vision to work from day one. We are glad to have helped guide them from ideation to implementation with a little help from the Vision Implementation Canvas.

Looks like we’re doing this backwards: Next week it is time to talk about product visions — our tool of choice when comes to developing digital products from scratch.

diesdas.digital is a studio for strategy, design and code in Berlin, featuring a multidisciplinary team of designers, developers and strategists. We create tailor-made digital solutions with an agile mindset and a smile on our faces. Let’s work together!

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