If you are a Product Manager, you already know that any product is supposed to have the following:
- A clear Vision
- A detailed Strategy
- Product Roadmap
- Product Backlog
Vision is the “True North” for the product. It’s the reason why your product exists and possibly the most important step in the above list. If you’re a Product Manager and building a new product, you definitely have spent hours with your team and stakeholders to build the “Vision”.
Now the question is — How rigid should be your Product Vision?
Driving Factors for Vision
To answer this question, let’s look at what drives the Product Vision.
You are building a product which you believe will solve a specific problem in a given geographical region. If you are getting into a market with big competitors offering similar solutions or the Cost to Entry into the market for a new player is really high, this will definitely impact your offering.
Either the “Entry Barrier” would be too high to enter or due to the existing competition, it would be difficult to create any differentiation.
Your profitability will be impacted based on the Bargaining Power of your Customers and that of the Suppliers. If both of them are strong, then the profitability would be squeezed out.
Yes, you understood by now! I am referring to the Porter’s 5 Forces model here.
As you already know, in the above model the vertical elements squeeze out profitability and the horizontal elements squeeze out differentiation.
A New Dimension — Time
Now for both the above points, forecast them on a scale of time. Basically in the next 1 to 2 years, can there be an opportunity created in these two areas. Today technology is moving in such a rapid pace that a lot of new opportunities are created on it’s way.
Discuss with your team and identify:
- If there might be an opportunity created in the way the competitors are working? Or can newer players have an opportunity to disrupt the market in the coming years?
- Can there be a shift in the bargaining power of customers or suppliers?
If any of the answer is “Yes”, even if there may not be an opportunity to get into this market today. However, there certainly is opportunity in the future.
If you find you’re in the “Do Not Enter” quadrant now and even 1 or 2 years down the line, it might be good to re-think your vision. You will be surprised by the names of companies that pivoted and went on to become billion dollar companies.
Started as a video-based dating service, where users could upload short videos describing their ideal partner, and browse for potential matches. Soon the company realized that it can pivot and instead become a hosting platform for online videos.
The founder Andrew Mason envisioned a social platform to back social and charitable causes. As an extension of the platform, the team added a sub-domain — Groupon where customers could pool their money to try and negotiate a group discount. That idea was far more popular, so the founders stuck with it and made it the central platform, expanding with opportunities for businesses.
Started as Odeo — a podcasting platform although the market was soon consumed by iTunes (Apple). It was later during a hackathon session that the idea of sharing the current status came up on a social media platform. The rest is history!
The Slack platform started off as a Video platform called Glitch. However the venure failed. So the team started working on the communication module which they used in the game, now known as Slack!
Flickr actually began as an online role-playing game called Game Neverending, where users would travel around a digital map, interact with other users and buy, sell and build items. The game also included a photo-sharing tool, which turned out to be one of the most popular aspects of the game. The company decided to leverage this photo popularity and pivot to Flickr
Is Vision important then?
But can we pivot it?
However, it’s not something one should change everyday. The vision should be revisited once in 3 to 6 months for new products or the ones operating in a volatile market. For the more matured products or the ones operating in stable markets, it should be revisited every year.
Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long time ago — Warren Buffet