We spend our lives surrounded by products, and for those of us who have followed the path to managing and developing them, we use the label “product” to define what we do, and even who we are. However, there are many different ways to think about what “product” means, and whatever you think will impact how you approach product management.
Successfully collaborating within and across teams to improve our efficiency, efficacy, and effectiveness requires a shared understanding, but how can this exist if there is no agreement on what your product – or any product – actually is?
Brainmates’ Essentials of Product Management course defines a product as a combination of goods and/or services that satisfies a need for a specific market, is deliberately created for trade or commerce, and encompasses the entire customer experience.
It’s a rational definition that sets boundaries for our Product Management Framework, and it’s more than sufficient for most everyday practical questions related to managing product. But in a complex, messy and irrational world, a deeper understanding may require a broader perspective.
All products require at least two independent – but complementary – value propositions. Your customer must be willing to exchange something of value for your product, and you must be willing to sell it for what they are willing to exchange. Notice that this doesn’t require complete agreement. Your customer may have a very different view of the value your product creates.
Everyone involved or impacted by your product’s ecosystem will have a different perspective. The definition of product used above is still correct, but for even a single product, every aspect of the definition – “satisfies”, “need”, “market”, “trade”, ”customer”, or “experience” – will be understood differently depending on each participants perspective.
When Brainmates partners with a new organisation, we like to begin by understanding their Product Vision. It’s an entry point to understanding how they view their products and the value they want to create. And whether your potential customers are aware of it or not, this is also their starting point.
If your Product Vision doesn’t tell a compelling story, this can undermine the effectiveness of every customer touchpoint. When a customer buys your product, they confirm that their vision aligns with yours – which first requires an implicit understanding of your vision.
Your product is a vision; a vision you create of the world that is slightly, or wildly, different than today, and that your customers can share. The more inspiring your vision is, the more likely you will be to create an ecosystem of customers, suppliers, employees and partners that are all aligned to create the future your vision describes.
Some obvious ways a lack of a compelling Product Vision can manifest include:
Each of these patterns of failure (and many others) can result from a poor Product Vision, so every product leader should be confident that their Product Vision is strong enough to act as the guiding purpose for every product decision.
As a product leader, you tell the story of your product – the change it will offer your customers, how it will be created, and the type of organisation required to create it. These are all necessary ingredients for the narrative you are constantly reimagining and sharing. A con artist sells a vision without any underlying value. Authentic product-led organisations begin with a promise of change that inspires people to want to create that change. The more compelling your vision, the more successful you will be in attracting everything required to make it real.
If this doesn’t sound like your Product Vision, then the place to start is with a deep understanding of your customer and their problems, as well as your organisation and its capabilities. You must be able to imagine and communicate a better future for both that only your products can create.
Brainmates has partnered with hundreds of organisations to solve their product challenges, and this process often begins with facilitating the creation of a powerful Product Vision that can define the direction for a winning Product Strategy.