How to Unite Teams Behind a Product Vision

January 21, 2021
staying true to product vision seattle
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Creating a product vision that’s inspiring, customer-focused and easy to understand is only the first step for product leaders.

The real challenge? Uniting teams behind a product vision.

Two experienced Seattle product pros shared their advice on creating alignment among all stakeholders when there are competing priorities and shifting client needs.

Zipwhip Chief Product Officer Ravi Angadi, a leader with around 15 years of experience, said building company-wide trust around a product vision that’s still unproven requires specificity. When sharing his vision with teams at the business text messaging software company, he relies on relatable metaphors and vivid imagery to rally teams behind a product.

Once stakeholders are aligned behind the vision, LiquidPlanner VP of Product Jen Morrisey recommends that product teams vet every request against a tangible framework. Morrisey, who’s been with the project management forecasting platform for 11 years, said her team takes their shared vision so seriously, they put it on their coffee mugs. 

 

Ravi Angadi
Chief Product Officer

Ravi Angadi said the key to effectively conveying a product vision to the company requires a mixture of three things: visualization, metaphors and customer stories that validate the need for the product. Once that vision is communicated, Zipwhip’s CPO said product teams can get to work making it happen based on the needs of customers, who are the ultimate stakeholders. 

 

What is your overarching product vision, and how do you communicate this vision across the business?

Zipwhip’s vision is to be the world’s leading business texting software and API provider; one that’s easy to provision and simple to use. We strive to be the leader in enabling businesses to communicate with their customers through texting.

To communicate a product vision, you need to paint the picture through visualizations and imagery of how your vision will be executed. Otherwise, ideas remain abstract and hard for others to picture. You also need metaphors to relate your vision, which isn’t proven by that point, to situations your team recognizes from everyday life. 

Lastly, you need customer stories to square your vision directly with reality. Your work revolves around your customers’ needs and their successes. Customer stories showing the beneficial things your product does for them will provide tangible examples that anchor the team and motivate them toward your shared vision. A well-crafted vision is the north star for your team and company. Painting the right picture and creating belief is a key goal for any leader, so it’s critical to build the trust needed for the journey ahead.

 

How does your product vision help inform your product strategy or other decisions around product development? 

Your product vision is a milestone years in the future; something you’re working toward in the long-term. A product strategy is the map to get to that vision, while product execution refers to how that strategy will be implemented.

A successful vision is one that foresees customer needs even when they may not fully articulate them.”

 

Product development takes time, but businesses and their needs change overnight. That’s why it’s important to understand not just what customers need to be successful right now, but what they’ll need tomorrow. Vision is a forward-looking goal, and a successful vision is one that foresees customers’ needs even when they may not fully articulate them. Understand how you fit in to provide unique value. Otherwise you’ll always be lagging behind your customers’ needs and your competitors’ offerings. 

 

How do you stay true to your product vision while also taking into account the wants and needs of various stakeholders? 

As a product leader, never forget that the most important stakeholder is the customer. The product team, engineering partners and others in the organization are important players whose needs you should bear in mind, but if your vision doesn’t ultimately serve your customers’ business needs, it’s not a vision that will bring your company success.

Start having informal conversations with customers early, often as a first step. Ask them how they use your product and what they want to see in the future. But more importantly, ask about their business challenges and long-term strategic plans for growth. By understanding the customer’s vision, you can make informed guesses on how their strategies may change in the future and how external forces may affect the market. 

Keep customers engaged throughout your product journey and ask for continual feedback. This will help you iterate and experiment along the way so that you don’t end up launching a product that doesn’t fit their needs. Just as you might take an agile approach to engineering work, take an agile approach to the vision and overall product strategy. 

 

Jen Morrisey
VP of Product

VP of Product Jen Morrisey said LiquidPlanner’s “true north” is helping customers forecast their projects. Keeping that vision in mind requires a passion for users and the product. When all stakeholders understand that end goal, navigating the product roadmap is easier, Morrisey said.

 

What is your overarching product vision, and how do you communicate this vision across the business?

LiquidPlanner is planning intelligence software that tells you “when” your project will launch with 98 percent accuracy, thanks to our patented algorithm, which drives a scheduling engine with precision for project timing. Through the application of planning intelligence, we accurately predict when projects will finish and when teams can take on new work.

Businesses move faster and lighter with an adaptive scheduler and this idea is what LiquidPlanner obsesses over for our users. When we talk to our customers, what resonates most deeply is the time we save teams by telling them “when.”

 

How does your product vision help inform your product strategy or other decisions around product development?

Answering the question “when” has become our compass. We were passionate enough about the metaphor that we toast each other at team meetings with “true north” coffee mugs, each with a compass reminding us of our shared vision. We believe that our true north should not only inform our product strategy, but also decisions across all areas of the business to create momentum and build a unified customer experience.

Our true north should not only inform our product strategy, but also decisions across all areas of the business.”

While we unveil the next generation of LiquidPlanner, building the latest product from scratch has liberated us to focus on our true north. First, we designed a blueprint for planning intelligence, which describes the core of how we answer “when” through predictive scheduling, integrated tracking and intelligent insights. If an idea comes up or a feature request comes in, we assess it immediately against this framework to see if it helps our customers’ timing. If it doesn’t, we move forward and tackle only the work that keeps us aligned with our compass.

 

How do you stay true to your product vision while also taking into account the wants and needs of various stakeholders?

It’s crucial to first ensure your stakeholders fully understand, then embrace your product mission. Once they see the power of navigating around a single point of focus, it naturally minimizes the natural temptations that distract from creating things that fuel the product vision. 

We know that we will continue building better planning intelligence by saying “no” to a lot of things and “yes” to a few key things. This idea is how we use our compass to build our product.

 

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