How to build product vision in 5 minutes

26.01.18
3 minute read

Ilya Leyrikh, Product manager at TransferWise

I’d want to share the simplest and probably the most efficient way to define product vision I know. I learned it from our UX designer, Kish, during one of the product interviews we did together at TransferWise.

He kicked off that interview by asking “What customers consider when they select TransferWise?”. After few “What else?” iterations candidate named price, trustworthiness, speed, convenience, coverage. Those are the main properties of any money transfer product. Customers use them to describe the quality of the product and compare it to the competition.

The magic started next; when Kish followed up by asking “What would be the fastest money transfer product?”, “The cheapest?”, “Most convenient?”. Candidate fired that the best one would be free, secure, instant, would work across the world and sending money would be as simple as sending a message in chat. And that followed by a creative discussion on how to get there and build 10X better product than any existing on the market with tons of great ideas.

I called it magic as I never heard answer anything near as good on another standard interview question “What would you improve in product X?”. Usually, it gets answered in a way “It is great as it is, maybe I would do tweak A or polish feature B.”

We defined pairs of core product properties and absolute maximum values for them. That removed all boundaries dictated by existing solution and unchained creativity. For international money transfer product those pairs are:

price — free
trustworthiness — transparent, secure
speed — instant
coverage — borderless
convenience — seamless, effortless

In TransferWise we call core product properties pillars. And company’s mission is defined by their ultimate values: Money without borders — instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. The same approach could be used for any product.

To define a vision for a product, list core properties that customers use to describe its quality, imagine ultimate values for this properties and set a goal to achieve them.

How define your product pillars?

  • Use your common sense. We all have our life experience about surrounding world and can generate an excellent first hypothesis as the example with interview above shows.
  • Talk to customers. To improve your common sense, you should use the product yourself and talk to customers. All methods are suitable: do customer interviews, read and categorize NPS comments, work with your customer support, they are great in naming pillars.

Seems simple? Let’s try to practice. Here are pillars for cars (speed, fuel consumption, price, eco-friendliness, comfort, design), cafes (location, price, type of food, atmosphere, working hours). What are the ultimate values for them?

I often play a game, by taking the random thing lets say a road sign, choose one of its core property for example damage to the visual appearance of a city and think how it could evolve. So to minimize aesthetic harm to the city road signs could: become smaller -> use much lighter support constructions or not have them at all by using holograms or projected images on the car’s windshields → disappear from streets at all due to autonomous vehicles that have all signs saved in memory.

Try it yourself with random products around you like TV, hotel, towel? Imagine what would be the ultimate versions of those products? Even more interesting is to try it with concepts like society, product manager, yourself. But that is the different story :)

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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