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    August 21, 2023

    The Power of a Vision for Building a Profitable Software Solution

    Product Management is a team sport and the complexity of the team and interactions required to shepherd a sustainably profitable software-enabled solution benefit from a strong Product Vision. From Sales to Finance, R&D, Marketing, and Legal, aligning to a vision accelerates the ability to deliver solutions that delight customers and generate profit. 

    Attend if you want to:

      • Talk about why Vision Statements are important to product managers
      • Learn what is and is not part of a useful vision statement
      • See what good vision statements look like and why they are so useful
      • Gain insights from Jason and Carlton as they talk about the power of vision statements to keep organizations focused on building sustainably profitable solutions

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    About the Series

    Everyone can find 15 minutes a week to learn something valuable.  This series, the Product Management Minute, gives Jason Tanner and Carlton Nettleton the opportunity to talk about essential topics for Product Managers who guide the development of software enabled solutions. The topics and ideas they discuss come directly from questions and feedback we hear from students and graduates of the Profitable Software Academy, an Applied Frameworks program supporting the professional development of product managers at all career levels.

    About Jason Tanner

    Jason is the CEO of Applied Frameworks, author of Software Profit Streams™ A Guide to Designing a Sustainably Profitable Business, and an instructor in the Profitable Software Academy, delivering timely, high-impact support for our largest clients who have hundreds of members of the academy learning the latest approaches to building profitable solutions.

    About Carlton Nettleton

    Carlton is the SVP of Product at Applied Frameworks and a Certified Scrum Trainer recognized for designing engaging courses for professionals building amazing Software Enabled Solutions across multiple industries. As an instructor in the Profitable Software Academy, he has a front row seat in helping participants tackle all the tricky but energizing problems product managers face as they guide the development of the solutions they manage.



    Laura Caldie 0:13

    Hi there, Jason, thank you so much for talking with me about the topic that I love. Actually, I love all product management topics, but vision is a good one. So, yeah, so before we get going, I just wanted to remind people who we are. We are all about helping companies design and build sustainably profitable software enabled solutions. And I think in this day and age, growth and profit are important to every software company, every solution and a portfolio has to be planning for this and that's really what we're about building tools and support and education around helping make that happen. And so for this particular topic, our product management minute, I think it's just an acknowledgement that product managers almost always have a very key seat at the table when working on sustainable profitability. And they also operate in an extremely complicated environment, collaborating with all kinds of stakeholders and customers in the market. So I think for this reason, we built the profitable software Academy which is education, and experience that's really designed for a working professional who needs to learn all elements of product management over the course of their career, but acknowledging that they're doing it while doing their job, right. So that's what this is all about. And I'm happy that we're doing this kind of product management minute with people who both designed and act as instructors in this profitable software Academy. So that's the preamble to talking about the vision. Are you ready, Jason? I'm ready. Yeah. All right. Well, let's talk about the power of vision. Turn it over to you.

    Jason Tanner  1:58 

    Thanks. So as Laura mentioned, when we think about our work at Applied frameworks, we really are focused on software profit streams, which is a book we wrote. So some of these images are from the book, because they actually lead to what product should I create and why. And this idea of the fog is a metaphor we came up with navigation because I think there is a bit of finding your way along the journey. And the starting point is where am I heading? What's what's the direction that I want to navigate to? So we the North Star, is a common metaphor, you may have heard of Northstar metrics and identifying the Northstar. We really want to be super specific about the solution vision and if you have a portfolio of solutions, each one has its own vision. But this is really all about the navigation because we can take so many different paths to get there but still have the same vision. And this really does enable us to get a better vantage point which is the right picture this idea of getting above the fog to see further and farther out to then be able to make more decisions going into next slide. So this this idea of navigating we've talked about some of these tools already. So in other webinars, we talked about the industry lifecycle, and the solution lifecycle and we were going to add more context for roadmapping and printed product tree a visual metaphor for imagining or visualizing the product growth over time. And we may even get into some of the specifics of the backlog in the future. So the North Star, we position at the bottom because the interesting thing here is that is the guy for tactics. Really just keep this metaphor going, but it's equally strategic. So we could debate our perfect graphic. We may make some changes because we have been updating our book we have been agile so we're on 1.1 of the book. But the interesting thing about the store start not only does it help you figure out more about what the product could be and what it should be. So as you're going through discovery for product market fit, it also becomes really valuable as you're building the product to filter. And I make that point several times and I like to write down the way this picture is designed because one challenge I see a lot of product managers facing is too much demand. And the Northstar almost becomes a filter before you accept the backlog item or accept the request or requirement to ask yourself is this actually aligned to my vision? Is this something that we should do that further our ability to achieve this aspirational, inspirational objective that we've identified? So that's really the I think the positioning and almost the collection of tools allow us to navigate with the North Star being the one that's going to keep us focused on where we're going. In what direction and why.

    Laura Caldie  4:49 

    Yeah, I'm glad that you said that because I in a recent conversation I've had you know, there's a lot of I think deep expertise and skill in that execution part where you're talking about, hey, in these three months, what am I building and am I going to do it well can I produce quality software? But I think when we're working with people, you're early on, what am I supposed to be building? Am I even working on the right things and then how do I know that they're the right things? I think that's this is what you're getting at which is the having a really well understood and well articulated vision helps not just what are we doing in this sprint, but are we building the right thing? And are we adhering to what the market is needing and what we see is our purpose.

    Jason Tanner  5:34 

    Right? Yeah. So if you go to the next slide, you can see well, why do we need this we really just want to summarize the value proposition after solution. And there are many different types of vision statements. And the one I like talking about first and foremost is the really short, memorable, sticky, aspirational, inspirational vision statement that is broad enough to give you flexibility, a unique enough that it is something that's valuable and worth pursuing. That allows you to really become a strategic solution for whoever your customer segments are that you're addressing. So there's that one difficult vision statement. To write 15 words or less. And this is Dittrich. How can you make it inspiring, exciting, strategic, indifferent. In one step, this is not something you just walk up the whiteboard and in 15 minutes is done. This is something that I actually think takes a lot of time to think about. It takes the idea from the solution founders brain if we're talking about a new solution, or if you're inside a company, and you're thinking about pursuing a new business. It takes a couple of days over a couple of weeks and time to edit and think through and talk about what is really going to be different about the solution. Who are these customers and why would they care? Because ultimately when we tell them our vision story, we want to attract them. We want to get them excited. We want to inspire them. We want to demonstrate our aspirations for where we want to go and then in turn, we think about the internal stakeholders like the developers, we want to get them equally excited so we can provide them enough context to understand what where are we going? So I think starting with that short one is quite different than some of the other formats that we may have, which are more about the vision internally in the business case, and more details, what are our projections, and how do we see this really being a valuable impact in generating sufficient solution ROI that makes it a wise choice to pursue this vision?

    Laura Caldie  7:42 

    So yeah, before we move on, I had a question about revisiting the vision. Okay, I have talked with a couple of companies, again, kind of recently, where when they describe the evolution of their company, you know, I can tell that, oh, it might have been intentional, but all of a sudden the solution that they were building for a particular market, very specific the trucking industry, all of a sudden they the need for the type of capabilities they had, were being outside of the trucking industry, right. Other kinds of customers were starting to talk to them and they realize that their vision statement was too narrow. And, in fact, it generally you're updating the vision ended up generating a whole cascade of changes and even including a company name change. So what do you think about cadence of of just reevaluating or reflecting on your current vision?

    Jason Tanner  8:36 

    I think that the the sequence of events or the the unfolding and emergence of new information and insights causes these changes. So I think the classic example is describing in Lean Startup by Eric Ries, he or she talks about these pivots, as the trigger events for changing vision that the story you just told to me is a oh my goodness, we're going this way. And we're pivoting and going another way because the data and the information that we've gathered this emerge tells us we actually do need to change our vision. I don't think that there's a prescription for every quarter you should review your vision and treat it like a checklist. I think it's more like a feeling or an insight that asks us the question. Is our vision still the same? And in a lot of cases, I don't think it changes that much. I think there might be editing, there might be tweaking, there might be expansions, and there are also really hard rights and I really think the hard right or the hard left is quite significant. And I think that once the solution is in market, it doesn't really change a lot at all.

    Laura Caldie  9:43 


    Jason Tanner  9:47 

    So we love frameworks, we named a company applied frameworks. These are just a few of the options. In fact one of our clients share this amazing vision videos when you have the budget or the creative team that can do something inexpensively and you can even shoot these high quality videos on iPhones right now. Tell the story with a video. I've seen cartoons I've seen live actors describing the vision. There's almost like a storyboard brought to life with his vision video, and that can be recorded by anybody. So we can either think about it as I'm thinking about this major Super App type solution and I'm a healthcare company. And I'm going to spend $20,000 on this amazing production that's going to be shared with 50,000 employees all you can think about, well you know what, I'm going to share this really short 32nd video that I shot here in my office to share with my staff at 20. Either one will work but I think the video just is so valuable for communicating so much so quickly because you get the visual nature of it plus the words. Similar to graphic novels, a storyboard storyboard is fantastic for almost painting the picture and creating the cartoon of the journey and I almost think that this is Hero's Journey storytelling. There's so many great references to hero's journey but that's really we're looking for before the solution here to challenges. We then ran into this new amazing product or solution based on his vision and how much happier are our heroes today as a result of solution and of course product boxes. Are fantastic. And I think there's a yin and yang here the last two product box actually building the box and I wish I had one right in arm's length. My son has one upstairs right now that he created several years ago when I dragged him along to a product camp. And you actually build the box as if the person was going to shop in the physical App Store. And pull it off the shelf and look at it. And some of us remember the CompUSA days where you if you walked into the store to buy your software and you'd get the CD ROM or the stack of 53 and a half inch discs, and you'd actually look at the box before you bought it and have to carry it to the register and that's the same concept with product box want to bring it to life with words and pictures and color and maybe we're going to cut up the box and have a little cut out we can pull back and see inside that will bring the vision to life and just make it amazing to find a press release which is a tool that we actually have as a framework within the PSA, which we find amazing for people to do both verbally by talking through the press release telling the story or actually writing out the press releases if they're going to publish it to the PR Newswire and they're fantastic because when you think about the art of writing that amazing press release, there's a lot of things that are really powerful, terrific, very sharp headline grabs attention. There's a summary but then we actually like get into what's the problem we're trying to solve and what's the world like today and really great press releases I've seen in this context. really describe the problem and you're reading it. That problem statement and a paragraph. You feel like well, I've had that problem. I just want to keep reading to see what's more, and then getting into well how we're going to solve the problem with our solution. And the one key here I think if you've ever practiced with press releases or if you're working on right now, as you're starting to describe the solution, the best press releases. Here's the feature that we're going to provide. Here's the benefit and here's the impact. It's almost like every single problem or pain point you identified can be addressed by every single feature description you've got in the last part. Of the press release. So I love the format of our vision course in the PSA because we are able to actually work with our students who are actually trying to do this in real life and they're actually to work with us and get feedback and I've just seen so many great ones lately that I really think is a great skill to have, whether through our PSA or just learning on your own. We've got so much material if you want any of that you can certainly follow up with us on that.

    Laura Caldie  13:57 

    Yeah, I think one of the reasons that I really liked that technique is it let somebody let go of reality in time and just kind of like hey pretend it's real just pretended happened. And as soon as you can make that shift that mental shift, then I think that unlocks a lot of like creativity, but it's a you kind of unbound from reality for a minute and that really is the purpose of vision. All right, so some tips and I left number three open probably should have deleted it. But Jason, I was pretty sure you could come up in the number three on the fly. So number one, I'll take that one. We have an excerpt from the book that starts to highlight some of this and so if anyone wants a copy of the excerpt before they go and get the book off of Amazon, send me an email and I can send you the PDF. Another thing this is one I added because I think it might even have been Luke who said this but it's this whole idea of a reminder of alignment is just a point in time. And so saying the vision was may not be enough it might be helpful to remind people on a on a regular fun basis that if your vision really is great and inspiring. It reminds people why we're all working so hard to remind your customers why they love you so much and that you're really focusing on something that matters to people. So it's not permanent. It's not necessary that it's not necessarily true. That you said your kind of vision statement wants to everybody and they never need to hear it again. Like I think it's a something that is fun to reinforce. So those are my two tips. Jason,

    Jason Tanner  15:29 

    if you refresh your screen, you might see a magic number three

    Laura Caldie  15:32

    Oh really? All right. Let's see.

    Jason Tanner  15:35 

    Representation. Mautner Yeah, there you go. Just visit our website. Leverage the information. Have fun because it is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun. Why are we doing it? Yep, doesn't solve a problem that we're passionate about. What's the point? So product managers get to do cool stuff. To build cool products for amazing groups of people

    Laura Caldie 15:57
    are true. So yeah, that come to our website, we have a lot of little snippets like this, that kind of all start to paint that whole picture. So at the end of the day, all of these product management minute, topics will end up sort of reflecting the broader content that's in the book. So thank you so much for talking to us. If anyone's interested in the profitable software Academy Jason, I know you said that there are some really great tools in this section of the of the academy. There's awesome tools in every section. So if people want to talk a little bit more about that, you know how to reach me. I think we're done so very much and we'll see everyone the next time we get together.