Experts Blog

Establish a Product Vision to Make Your Digital Platform a Success

When you build or relaunch a digital platform, you have to meet countless different needs: it needs to support the journey of prospects and customers, contribute to business objectives and fulfil many other requirements. A product vision for your corporate website, your customer portal or your digital service platform provides orientation. It allows you to keep the focus during design and realisation of the relaunch and ensure a consistent development over the long term.

Viewing the New Digital Solution as a Complex Product

The new digital applications are tremendously important: They stage the brand, present products and services and offer digital sales, including as an after-sales service. With that in mind, terms such as “website” or “internet page” fall short. Indeed, it is all about providing the right content and the right services to the various target groups and users of the new digital solution. The aim is for them to have the best possible customer experience, or rather user experience (CX/US for short).

That is why we view a digital platform as a new, complex product. We design this product to live up to the wide range of current and future requirements. Only then will users accept the digital product. And only then will it contribute to successful marketing and sales.

The Product Vision as the Guiding Star for the Digital Solution

We recommend building the new solution in several steps. This will allow you to manage the complexity and dynamically changing demands of the market. The best option is to start with a basic version – or with an MVP (minimum viable product). You can then build on this to get closer to the desired target state. This requires you to be agile and take any new requirements or changed priorities into account. At Unic, we use a method called human-centred design (HCD) for this.

Every journey starts with a first step, and it needs to be a step in the right direction. This is why you need a destination. This “guiding star” will provide orientation in all phases of the project. It is the foundation for the concept and the fundamental technical decisions.

The Product Vision Concept by Roman Pichler

To draft this guiding star, we like to work with a product vision. Roman Pichler developed this concept of agile product management. Its goal is to condense the essence of the future product into a very brief and concise form.

A Joint Goal

We believe that the establishment of a product vision at the start of a project is extremely helpful. We set a common goal, which balances the agreed direction with the necessary leeway for creativity. On the one hand, the product vision provides orientation with regards to the functional scope. On the other, it provides you with valuable input for the fundamental technical decisions regarding your digital solution.

Establishing the Product Vision in Four Steps

The content of the product vision is determined with the help of these fundamentals:

  • Analysis of the information available on target groups and their goals
  • Determination of various aspects in joint workshops

This pragmatic approach allows you to harness the vast experience of the workshop participants for a valuable and well-supported product vision.

Step 1: Define and describe the target group

First, you need to determine who the product is aimed at – or will be in the future. So, we start by defining the target group. These are the questions we need to answer: Do we know the target group? Do we still need to define the target group? Will a new product add new target groups? Is there a distinction between internal and external target groups?

Step 2: Workshop(s) on the fundamentals of the product vision

For the work on the product vision, Roman Pichler uses a tool called a product vision board. This helps define relevant aspects of the product. You then phrase your vision based on these aspects. Since we often have digital products for various stakeholder groups, we have optimised our overall method.

The product vision board is divided into four columns

  • Target group: Description of the target group
  • Needs: Which needs does the product aim to meet? Which problems does the product aim to solve?
  • Product: 3 to 5 features that make the product stand out (unique features).
  • Business objectives: What are the business objectives you want to achieve with this product?
Product Vision Board
Product Vision Board

Preparation of the workshop:

  • Agree on a method with the contact persons in the customer’s organisation.
  • Select the workshop participants with the customer. Make sure you invite all relevant stakeholders.
  • You can cluster the participants into groups based on the target groups.
  • Set a time and date for the workshop. The duration of the workshop depends on the number of participants as well as the number of target groups and whether you can work on them in parallel.
  • Prepare boards: A separate board is created for every target group. We recommend using posters prepared ahead of time with the business model canvas, including labels.
  • Provide sticky notes in different colours as well as pens – or a complete facilitator’s toolbox.

Facilitation of the workshop:

  • First, we explain the methods and approach to the participants. They then work on the contents of the boards – which we facilitate: Facilitators provide essential consultation and support by asking questions and, where necessary, providing clarification on the approach.
  • The boards can be worked on in parallel or consecutively. This depends on the number of participants.
  • We go through the columns on the boards, working from left to right. We look at the target group and add information where available or necessary. We go on to discuss needs, product features and business objectives. The completion of a board takes about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the group. The participants are given sticky notes, work on them and place them in the appropriate column. Once a column has been completed, we start on the next column.
  • It is important for the participants (i. e. the stakeholders) to adopt the point of view of their customers or target group.
  • Once a board is complete, all participants explain their sticky notes. This often leads to some very interesting discussions. Alternatively, you can have explanations and discussions after every column.
  • For each board, you then prioritise the topics. You can also use them for a product backlog.

Step 3: Establish the product vision

After the workshop, we analyse the boards that have been created. What are the common needs? Which features are particularly important, and how do they fit in with the company’s goals? Step by step, we develop first drafts of the vision based on all the information. Creating a final version usually takes several feedback loops with the customer.

It is essential for all stakeholders to identify with the product vision. That way, it automatically becomes the guiding star. This does not mean that you then go and put it in a drawer. On the contrary, the product vision is a living concept. It is important to regularly align the digital platform with the vision, as it is developed. We validate it continually. After all, we will have to adapt the vision should the situation in the market or the needs of the customers change.

Step 4: Communicating the product vision

It is important to communicate the product vision first: Present the details of the vision. Also provide an overview of the process and some more in-depth explanations to illustrate that it is binding and relevant. Ideally, the sponsor of the digital platform should communicate the product vision. The audience consists of project team members as well as other people who are indirectly affected by it. By communicating the vision, you ensure the successful launch of the entire venture.

Can You Also Do This Remotely?

Yes, we can! Over the past few months, during the covid pandemic, we have conducted different streams with different types of workshops. We were positively surprised at how well this worked.

In this mode, different aspects affect the efficiency of the workshops and the quality of the results. We recommend a limited number of participants. Instead of one workshop with 20 participants, you could split this into several workshops with fewer participants – even though this requires additional communication and consolidation.

We also recommend defining netiquette for the remote workshops and sending this out to the participants ahead of time. For example: everyone turns on their cameras, everyone apart from the current speaker mutes their microphone, and so on. You also need to test the tool you intend to use for the workshop with the customer ahead of time.

Do you have a product vision for your digital initiatives? I will be happy to talk to you about establishing a product vision for your projects!

Yes, I would like to talk about my product vision!

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Conclusion

In my opinion, it is imperative to have a product vision before the actual start of a project. Creating this vision jointly in the workshops is key. Not just for the content, but also from a psychological perspective. All stakeholders will feel they have had a say and made a contribution.

Lorenzo Mutti

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