Step 1 - Vision

This chapter describes the first step in the framework, revolving around the product vision and the target audience.

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Step 1: Laying the foundation: Personas, strategy and vision

Product management is not only about building the product – it is also about creating products that support or even fulfill the enterprise strategy. Because ultimately, we should only be funding and building products that support our company’s strategy.

Having this in mind, the first step is about aligning the product’s vision with our company strategy.

This first stage is probably the most important one, as changes here are cheap and quick to be made. One additional post-it at this stage can mean months of additional work down the line. So don’t skip this stage to early. Here we get the most value of the work we put in.

Although the framework suggests a linear progression of steps, it is important that we regularly come back to this step and refine the vision as we learn and more information becomes available (See Vision Meeting for further info).

The main outcome of this first stage are two things:

  1. Personas, describing our most important target audiences
  1. The product-canvas

Describing our target audience with personas

When describing our product, we need to think about our target audience. Personas exemplify meaningful segments of our target audience which have different needs, thoughts, or channels, through which they interact with us. We use personas to make working with these target group segments easier, by imagining them as memorable persons to empathize with. The better everyone involved understands the target audience, the better their decisions will be – thus leading to a better product.

To create this alignment and to make our target audience tangible for everyone to work with, we use personas. Personas enable us agree on a common language while dealing with target audiences.

Take for example an airline product. A young family with kids has wildly different needs while travelling than a business traveler, while both use the same product (transportation).

To develop such a persona, we use the empathy map, which allows us to summarize a target group segmentthat we can empathize with, and thus make it easier for us to understand their needs.

The outcome of this exercise are tangible, expressive and catchy personas, like “Ellen the frequent flyer” or “John the family father” that everyone can effectively work with.

Below you can find an example of the empathy map template (With Courtesy of XPLANE).

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Creating the product-canvas

The product-canvas is the second outcome of this stage and is a main communicator on why we do things and how it’s supposed to work on a very high level. Creating this board bridges the gap between strategy and execution in our company, which is at the core of product management. The more people understand why and how we plan to do things, the better decisions can be made at the team- or individual level. A solid product-canvas thus enables decentralized decision making, which is crucial for agile teams to tackle their tasks the most effective way by taking everyday decisions, balancing technical solutions with our high level vision.

When working with the canvas, we provide two versions you can work with – one is a blank one, the second one (shown below) is filled with questions and comments in each section that should help you get your creative juices flowing to fill out the canvas. You can find both within the resources section of the website.

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The board has three main sections:

  1. The topmost section describes the strategic themes/initiatives of the company, that our product will support
  2. The section directly below the strategy describes the product’s vision (left) and derived from that the product goals we want to achieve (right)
  3. The bottom part lends itself to the business model canvas, helping us forge the business case for our product.

The most important thing about this board is that the information that is collected here, is not set in stone. It is crucial to regularly get back to this and alter the information according to new learnings or events that have happened. That process usually happens in the vision meeting, which usually takes place at least every quarter. (See meeting structure for more info).

The product canvas is the most important and the most condensed view of our product. We use it to reach alignment and transparency, by showing and communicating it as often as we can. The most successful agile teams are those, where everyone knows the important cornerstones and vision of their product, so they can effectively self-manage.