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Desirable Qualities

Like any important goal, a good vision equally appeals to our intellect and to our emotions. It should motivate and inspire people. The product vision should be shared and unifying; clear and stable; broad and engaging; and short and sweet.

Shared and Unifying

Everyone involved in the development effort must buy into the vision: Product owner, ScrumMaster, team, management, customers, users, and other stakeholders. A shared vision creates alignment and unifies everyone involved in the development effort. It facilitates effective teamwork and enables team learning. Involving the entire Scrum team and the stakeholders in creating the vision facilitates buy-in and the creation of a shared vision.

Clear and Stable

The product vision must be clear and easy to understand to create alignment and a common purpose, and to avoid misinterpretation and confusion (Lynn&Reilly 2002). The English term vision is derived from Latin visio, which translates to “seeing, view, notion, idea.” The product vision should hence allow us to see the future product. The vision should not be fuzzy or hazy. Vision changes, particularly with regards to customer needs and critical attributes, can cause confusion, de-motivation, and project failure. Small adjustments are usually fine, as long as the product’s value proposition stays the same.

Broad and Engaging

The product vision should describe a broad and engaging goal: a goal that guides the development effort but leaves enough room for creativity; a goal that engages and inspires people, fosters creativity, and generates buy-in.

Short and Sweet

The product vision should be brief and concise (Pichler 2008). It should contain only information critical to the success of the product. The blockbuster products researched by Lynn&Reilly (2002), for instance, had visions with no more than six product attributes. The product vision is, therefore, not a feature list and should not provide unnecessary detail.

The Elevator Test

The classic way to validate the product vision is to answer the elevator test: “Can you explain your product in the time it takes to ride up in an elevator?” Moore (2006, p. 152). Passing this test ensures that your product vision is clear, engaging, and brief (assuming we ride up a building with the right height and don’t get stuck). Notice that the elevator test does not tell us if we have selected the right customer needs and the right product attributes; only early customer feedback can do that.

Summary

An effective product vision guides the Scrum team and aligns stakeholders and customers. Spending time and money to have a shared, stable and clear vision in place is a worthwhile investment. The trick is to spend just enough time in visioning – as little time as possible but as much as required; to use Scrum to create the vision; and to ensure that as many of the team members involved in the vision creation as possible also transform it into the actual product.

References

  1. Lynn, Gary S. and Richard R. Reilly. Blockbusters. The Five Keys to Developing Great New Products. HarperCollins. 2002.
  2. Moore, Geoffrey A. Crossing the Chasm. Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers. Revised edition. Collins Business Essentials. 2006.
  3. Pichler, Roman. Agile Product Management. Turning Ideas into Winning Products with Scrum. Addison-Wesley. To be published.
  4. Schwaber, Ken. Agile Project Management with Scrum. Microsoft Press. 2004.

Roman Pichler is an independent consultant and Scrum expert specialized in agile product management and product ownership. He is the author of the bestseller "Scrum - Agiles Projektmanagement erfolgreich einsetzen" (“Scrum – Applying Agile Project Management Successfully”). Roman helps companies to successfully apply agile product management, and builds on nearly ten years of experience working with agile product managers and product owners. He is a regular speaker at international conferences. Find out more at www.romanpichler.com.

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