What Is Vision and Why Does it Matter in Software Development?

As the Product Owner on a software team, your main role is often broken down into two parts: ownership and communicating what’s known as the 3 V’s–Vision, Value, and Validation. In this post, we’re going to focus on vision and the importance of clearly communicating vision for your software. An excellent definition of vision can be found in the following quote:

A vision is a picture of the success of a project at a time in the future. A vision in not a mission statement. We see [the vision] as being akin to the North Star, a never-ending piece of work that we commit to going after for life. It also isn’t a strategic plan – which is the map to where we want to go. A vision is the actual destination. It’s a vivid description of what “success” looks and feels like for us – what we are able to achieve, and the effect it has on our staff – Ari Weinzweig

Given vision will define what success looks like for product we are building and the teams who are building it, it’s important the product owner be ready to create, manage, and own the vision throughout development of the product. Let’s dig deeper into how vision plays into product success, team success, and delivering value.

Product Success

So how does vision play into the creation of a successful product? It’s important that a product owner be passionate about creating a vision that will solve the problems our users need solved, create a product that users want to use, and deliver value to the organization. The product owner should ensure the product vision is focused towards where we are going, what we can do, and where we can go, rather than focusing on where we are. Therefore, vision may emerge and change over the course of building our product as we are constantly learning more about our users. A successful product owner will not only allow for this, but constantly be working to keep the why in mind when driving towards our actual destination.

We often use the analogy that the product owner is the captain of the ship., aAs we venture along our journey in the open seas, waves will cause our route to shift, but the captain is always pointing the ship back towards our destination. If we only set out to product what we think our users need and avoid learning what they actually need, we run the risk of our effort being wasted building the wrong thing. Instead, if we start with success in mind and constantly circle back to ensure we understand the “why” behind the product we are building, we can unify our efforts to create a product that will have a positive impact and deliver the change our users need.

Team Success

Product Owner describes vision to a dev team in conference room

If you have ever been involved in a team that struggles to complete and release a successful product, you might have noticed a lack of motivation seems to be a common theme amongst the team. A visionary product owner with a strong commitment to owning and communicating the vision can be the difference between a motivated and an unmotivated team. Software engineering is complex work and requires creativity, if a team doesn’t understand why they are doing what they are doing or what success looks like, the incentive to innovate is hampered or even, in some cases, completely stifled. When a team can understand the vision, we can foster the buy in necessary to rally the team around building the right thing, the product our users will want to use, the thing the organization needs in order to create differentiation in the marketplace. The whole team can align around the vision and drive towards the goal line together, giving the team the opportunity to make the best day to day decisions as possible.

Focus on Value

Vision and value are linked. When thinking through your vision and applying what you’ve learned about your users and their needs along the way, you also need to ask yourself, “why are we building this product?” That clarifying question will help you keep the value of your software as your focus. What value do the work items completed as part of your vision provide? Maybe your seeking to gain new users, retain the ones you have, take a bigger piece the market share in your marketplace, or even run your business more efficiently. Whatever you seek, value should be the number one focus and should be apparent every time you adjust, recommunicate, and deliver on your vision. I If a new idea emerges and you are considering whether to include it, first and foremost it should be valuable. Constantly ask yourself, “can the delivery of this idea successfully be mapped to value?”, if not it may not be necessary to build at all or certainly should not be at the top of the list to be completed. Focusing on value is key to creating a vision that will ultimately produce software that users want to use!

Conclusion

A clear vision that is communicated early and often is vital to the successful creation of valuable software. As a product owner you are in the driver’s seat and must deliver that vision to your development team, your stakeholders, and ultimately to your users. Much of your time as a product owner should be spent focusing on vision. Look for the next article in this series where we will provide some tips and tools to help capture and communicate your product vision.

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Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts is a Senior Project manager at Aptera, she also serves in the Scrum Master Role working closely with Product Owners through coaching. In her role at Aptera, Jessica also focuses on delivering continual improvement training to Aptera’s clients and delivery teams.

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