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Product Vision vs. Product Goal

vision vs product

In my product owner class I help my learners create a product vision.  In 2020 the Scrum Guide introduced a new term, the Product Goal. According to the scrum guide the product goal is the future state of the product. The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.

“Wait What???”

At this point, like my 8 year old son says…your brain is exploding!!!

Can I get an example please? How is this different than the product vision?, Where does the sprint goal fit?, How can the product goal help with building a product backlog?

This usually happens when anyone reads the Scrum Guide. Everyone come up with different interpretations.

My certified scrum product owner® (CSPO®) starts with the role of a product owner, the core competencies as well the anti-patterns. Then I go deep into knowing the customer and the value to the customer and the business. These two elements help the students build a product vision.

Product Vision:

The product vision is the overarching goal for the product, the “why” or the motivation for the product. Let’s look at an example.

“Netflix’s vision is to have a global entertainment distribution company that provides a unique channel for film producers and studios.”

Wait wasn’t Netflix a DVD mail rental service in the late 90s which then transitioned into a video streaming of popular movies and TV shows,  and then went on to also create original content and now it’s almost a distribution channel for all kinds of movies and TV shows, documentaries from all all over the world?

Absolutely it is!!  Not only did it meet its vision, it surpassed it.

But how did it get there? This is where the product goal plays a huge role.

Product Goal:

Although the product vision was overarching, it was made of product goals that changed over time. The first product goal was to become a DVD rental company that would mail the DVDs. They charged a subscription fee but not any late fees. As technology and the user experience improved the idea to stream limited amount of movies became a reality. So they offered two different subscription fees. Eventually the focus was on video streaming popular movies and TV shows so they went from one product goal to the other, marching towards their vision.

Let’s see if we can make this a bit more visual. Enter Prune the Product Tree from Innovation Games.

I use the prune the product tree in my class to demonstrate building a product roadmap.

 vision vs goal

In this technique the tree is a metaphor for the product and also helps deliver on the overarching product vision.

The bands in red indicate the timeline – Now, Later, Much Later and Blue Sky.

I have used the product tree as participatory technique to engage stakeholders in co-creating a product roadmap and discuss features, priority as well as help them refine the overall vision

Instead of the timelines in the red bands, if we use product goals, so it looks something like the below

vision vs goal

You can now use the green post-its to add high level features to satisfy each of the product goals like below

Stakeholder Engagement:

Stakeholders are interested in timelines. So what about timelines because roadmaps typically have an indication of time.  . I usually recommend a 3-6 month timeline to meet each product goal. Sometimes this might be longer as in the case of Netflix.

So now you can take a framework like the one from my friend Valerio Zanini has on his 5dvision website

I modified it a bit to reflect the product goal

This format is an effective way to communicate a product roadmap, vision and product goals to stakeholders, your customers and your team.

Value of a product goal:

The product goal is the north star that the scrum team looks up at.  The product goal helps prioritize the product backlog. Each of the high level features identified need to be done to satisfy each goal before other features are worked on. So it provides a coherent focus as well as an opportunity for the scrum team to collaborate and swarm on features.

So how can you take the product roadmap and create the product backlog? Where does the sprint goal fit in? We will look at these answers in our upcoming product blog.

I would really appreciate your comments and feedback on this article.

*The author used Netflix as an example to teach product vision and product goal. It does not represent a case study or any internal working of the company.

Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon

The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance,, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.

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24 Comment on this post

  1. I’ve always heard about the vision of a product but never the goal. This article helped me to understand that yes, a vision is important but so are product goals because they can change over time, particularly as the company grows and the market shifts. Changes in product goals could potentially be the key to survival for some businesses.

  2. @Robin, Thank you for sharing what you learnt. I think the Product Goal being relatively new from the Scrum Guide, it was important to connect it with a real business example. The product goal then drives the items in the product backlog

  3. I found this very interesting and I think it does a great job of separating the overall vision of the company and the individual product goals that help the company achieve that vision. The product goals can then can trickle down and help define and drive future enhancements, features and initiatives to best achieve that overall vision of the company. I think adding Product Goals is a good fit and helps to keep the company on track to reach their vision.

  4. This article gives a clear understanding about the product vision and goals. Product vision helps to understand the future state of the product and what problems needs to be solved for end users whereas product goals are more measurable that helps the team to achieve product vision for long term. Product goals can be changed as per the requirements.

  5. I always thought that the product vision & the goal would be the same. Thanks for detailing out your thought process along with the example.

    1. The Scrum guide mentions the product goal but is silent on how its related to the product vision. For some companies the vison and the goal might be the same but for most companies, the vision is overarching

  6. The article gives an exceptional illustration of how an original product progression evolved beyond the planned product scope. The company met its goal for the DVD distribution: then expelled how they envisioned a creative style to influenced a new life of future products. The “blue sky” tree analogy represents a clear example of product evolution over time. Great job!

    1. Thank you @sharon. I really appreciate your comment about the product evolving which shows how an organization is agile and focuses on continuously evolving based on market conditions, customer feedback and technology improvements

  7. I always thought that the product vision & the goal would be the same. Thanks for detailing out your thought process along with the example. From what I understood, Product vision is something the SCRUM team can see, and the Product Goal is an observable outcome that has to be achieved within a certain timeframe and the product goal can be further divided into Sprint goal.

  8. It will be nice to talk about this in class a little more. Seems like the product goals are good ways to keep the teams engaged too.

  9. I really enjoy the use of the product tree example. It put into focus how the product vision trickles down into segmented product goals that are meant to achieve that vision. Then using the product goal to determine how one prioritizes the product backlog. Overall, I think this method is would be great for maintaining the focus of the team and ensuring the work you are doing aligns with the purpose of the product.

  10. If I had to summarise my learnings from this article I would say that the Product Vision is the philosophy behind all actions within an organization whilst the goals which are more dynamic in nature are the means to achieve that vision.

  11. The ‘Product Tree’ isn’t something I’ve come across before, but it’s really easily applicable to the work I do. Thank you for sharing – I think this will be really useful for my role in developing POC products and prioritising the ones we want to develop further. Would you say this is something that can be done in stages, for example filling in the bottom two levels at the start of the project and it the POC is proven successful, come back to complete the other levels?

  12. Hey Anil,

    If I understand correctly, the product vision is the purpose of a product, why it is being created and what it aims to achieve for the customer and then the product goals are the steps that can be taken to get towards that (smaller steps usually 3-6 months)

  13. Great article! The approach you choose for explaining are both to understand and thorough. The real world examples really help put the concepts into perspective.

  14. I look forward to using this product tree to help our team better understand where we are going and how we plan to get there.

  15. Interesting and informative read. I would like to know how to arrive at product and sprint goals. Whose inputs are required to get to these?

  16. I like the correlation of the product goals to the roadmap. The stakeholders really appreciate the communication so they understand there is a timeline for their goals to be met. This helps to explain the softer timeline of Sprints to a C Level or Higher Internal Customer

  17. Seethadevi Shunmugavel

    Great illustration using product tree to understand the product goal and the vision. It provides the macroeconomic view of the product for a continued purpose in the ever changing customer expectations. Product vision with high value statement outperforms the market.

  18. I agree that having clear product goals, a Product Owner can do a better job prioritizing/sorting the product backlog. I like how you pull it all together and show how the Goal, Vision, and Timeline complement one another.

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