The New Product Vision is a Strategic Compass

Artwork © 2019 Laura Fish (Concept & Art Direction: Laura Fish, Digital Artist: Brandon J. Richard)

Artwork © 2019 Laura Fish (Concept & Art Direction: Laura Fish, Digital Artist: Brandon J. Richard)

Strategic vision was lost during the waterfall-to-agile transition; this is the vision reincarnated for an agile world.

Why Vision?

The way I see it, the product vision is the keystone of a digital product offering. Any way you slice it, it’s all about the vision and a respective strategy to execute that vision.

But in today’s agile world, digital product programs no longer recognize the necessity of vision. Visioning work is shoved into a half-day effort, kicking off a new project. Relegated to a singular, inaugural blue-sky exercise—no more than wishful ideation. The art of establishing a strong vision and strategically carrying that vision thread through the entirety of a product’s life has been all but lost. A relic we’re not quite sure how to hold onto.

Here’s why: strategic vision became a casualty of the waterfall-to-agile transition. And since then, we still haven’t reincarnated vision to fit into our agile way of working. Which is the root cause of a whole lotta issues.

But don’t worry, I’ve been all over it. 😉

20/20.

Here’s the breakdown in hindsight. We lost strategic vision in transit from waterfall-to-agile. During that period of change, we seemingly forgot why vision was, and still is, so important to a product’s success.

Once upon a time, blessing a product concept vision was the inaugural tapping of the spring in a waterfall process. First, the vision idea was confirmed it was in alignment with the company’s mission—their raison d'être. Then the concept was thoroughly fleshed out and roadmapped to a T. Give or take 18-24 months later, a fully-baked product was then ceremoniously granted a place in the company’s respective digital cosmos. Faults aside, the waterfall approach accounted for all of the high-ticket items—vision, strategic planning, and bigger-picture contribution.

The punishing cycle big business finds itself in today began when software development programs began embracing an agile approach. Agile would be the nuke that destroyed any heavy-weighted waterfall remnants still lingering in the enterprise workplace.

This leaner, nimbler approach was intended to better respond to the fast-paced nature of technology and ever-rising bar of user expectation. A much-needed change, that’s for damn sure. The new agile mandate became small releases launched in real-time and quick pivots as needed. But unfortunately, a shortsightedness was to confine planning to the immediate near-term.

So, while agile focused on the demanding logistics of being accountable to the now—scrum, stories, and sprints—we lost the starry-eyed view of a product’s future. And without a future, or vision, the work isn’t tethered to any kind of strategic course aimed at reaching bigger goals.

In conclusion, strategic vision became a casualty of the waterfall-to-agile transition. 

The Product Vision, Reincarnated.

So, how do we reincarnate strategic product vision for an agile world? Today, every product journey is an uncharted expedition. Your product vision is now a strategic compass. Your company’s mission & purpose is now your north star. The key to moving forward with success is keeping that compass and north star aligned every step of the way. 

Defining the New Product Vision:

The product vision is the keystone of a (digital) product offering. Think of your product vision as a strategic compass. The tool that keeps an evolving (digital) offering aligned with a company’s north star—its mission & purpose—and deliverables tethered to a purposeful course that’s solving for user problems through the lens of commercially critical business objectives.

For us picture people…

compassvisual_lfish.png

A strategic product vision is so invaluable, product efforts won’t find a successful path forward without it. In absence of strategic vision, teams will become lost working in circles or carelessly heading off in any direction.

Case in point, look at the current output. Big businesses are struggling with a generation of product offerings that hazily meet business objectives, vaguely address user problems and misalign with their company’s mission—collectively contributing to their digital ecosystems expanding in disarray.

The very real struggles facing these enterprises are directly related to their digital program teams working without a plan for a product’s strategic vision. Seems pretty obvious now, right?

Championing the New Product Vision.

Suffice to say, the big businesses are desperately in need of help. Take advantage. By championing this new take on product vision—I call visioneering—the digital product designer has the power not only to right these wayward enterprise ships, but to ultimately influence their direction. This poises the designer to both lead today’s slated projects and determine tomorrow’s bigger picture.

This is definitely the road less traveled—and visioneering is probably less like a road, and more like a dirt path. But I believe we as modern designers have a higher calling. By leveraging product vision strategically, we harness our power as designers. Leading the charge for big change. Call me the visioneering sherpa, here to guide the journey. 👍

Still with me? Awesome. Stay tuned and keep fighting the good fight.

All rights reserved © 2017, 2018, 2019 Laura Fish. The Designer’s Guide to Visioneering. All writing archived on guidetovisioneering.com. Duplicate article posted to medium publication under the same name.

Laura Fish