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3.1.1 Deciding on a Vision

An important part of planning an agile project is defining your product vision. Treat the product vision statement like an elevator pitch or a quick summary that can be used to explain how delivery of your project supports the organization’s strategic goals.

The product owner is responsible for knowing about the product, its goals, and its requirements throughout the project. The product owner is also responsible for creating the vision statement, although others may have input. The vision statement should answer the question of “what we are trying to achieve” that the development team, scrum master, stakeholders and users will use as a guide for the project.

The product vision statement should be clear and straightforward so that anyone involved with the project, from the development team to the Executive Sponsor, is able to understand it.

Develop the Agile Product Vision Statement

To write your product vision, you must understand and be able to communicate the product’s overall goals and the market that it will serve as shown in Figure 1-1. The items below should inform your vision statement, but not necessarily be in it. Start by identifying:

  • Key Goals: How will the product benefit the organization? The goals may include benefits for a specific department as well as the organization as a whole. What specific strategic goals does the product support?
  • Users: Who will use the product? This may be more than one kind of person or entity. For example, are there customers in addition to users that will interact with the product? If so, who are they?
  • Needs: Why does the user need the product? What are they trying to accomplish? What features are critical to the customer?
  • Market Factors:
    • Competition: How else can the user get their needs met?
    • Primary differentiation: What makes this product different from what exists now, or the competition, or both?

product vision

Figure 1-1


Create a Draft Agile Vision Statement

After you have a good grasp of the product’s key goals, users needs, and market factors, create a draft of your vision statement. The following are three examples that will help you in your creation.

Example 1: Child Welfare Intake Module Product Vision
Provide county Child Welfare Agencies with a system that supports emergency response workers with the information they need to make better decisions for children’s’ safety and well-being.

Example 2: John F Kennedy’s product vision
John F Kennedy’s race for the moon is widely thought of as a great product vision. Kennedy said: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

This product vision clearly communicates what the team is going to do (land a man on the moon and get him home safely), who will do it (the United States of America), but not how to do it. It also sets a goal: “before this decade is out.”

Example 3: Amazon
“Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Try making your product vision statement more compelling by writing it in the present tense, as if it already exists. Using present tense helps readers imagine the product in use. Do not use generalizations in your vision statement such as “make customers happy” or “sell more products.” Do not be specific about technologies, such as “using release 9.x of Java, create a program with four modules that. . . .” Defining specific technologies is a sign that you are making implementation decisions more important than how valuable your product will be for its users.

Validate and Revise Your Agile Vision Statement

Once you have a draft, are you able to answer yes or no to the following questions:

  • Is your vision clear, focused, and written for an internal and external audience?
  • Does your vision provide a compelling description of how the product meets user needs?
  • Does the vision describe the best possible outcome?
  • Does the vision describe a specific, achievable business objective?

If your vision statement does not meet the list above, then revisions are recommended. When each of the answers to the above questions are yes, review the statement with others. This should include:

  • Users: Users will be able to say if your vision accurately reflects what is most important to them.
  • Project stakeholders: The stakeholders will understand the direction associated with the effort and the commitment that is needed.
  • l be able to identify that the vision statement includes everything the product should do.
  • Your development team: Because your team will create the product, they must understand what the product needs to do.
  • Scrum master: A strong understanding of the product helps the scrum master remove roadblocks and ensure that the development team is on the right path later in the project.
  • Agile mentor: Share the vision statement with your agile mentor, if you have one. The agile mentor is independent of the organization and can provide an external perspective, qualities that can make for a great objective voice.

Testing whether other people think the vision statement is clear and delivers the message you want to convey helps you focus. Review and revise the vision statement until the project stakeholders, the development team, and the scrum master fully understand and agree with it. Remember at this stage of your project, you may not have a development team or scrum master. If this is the case, after the scrum team is formed be sure to review the vision statement with them.

Finalize Your Vision Statement

After your vision is finalized, it may be helpful to print it out (or write it down) and hang it up somewhere prominent where the team can see it each day. Depending on your organization’s structure you may need appropriate approvals. Be sure to follow organizational policies, however, this should not be a problem if the last step was executed well.

Updated: September 22, 2017