Sometimes I describe my interest in the technology scene as if a sports fan. I know all of the popular teams, big-name players, and inside-language terms and jargon. I follow strategy, team manager moves and breaking announcements. I pick sides and back my favourites.
This interest originally started out of necessity — I was in New Zealand, far away from Silicon Valley, and didn’t know anyone else interested in tech in the same way. Over time, I've learnt design and coding, learnt from many people on Twitter, and moved to London to proverbially put myself in the game through applying for tech jobs. (Pre-COVID, Post-COVID is a different story.)
Yet for all my sports fan tech knowledge, some things are much harder to understand from the outside looking in. The separation between Design [Product Design], Product Management, Business Strategy and Company Vision is one of those things I still struggle to clearly understand.
This blog post serves as a reference point for me — a collection of definitions for each of those four concepts. It’s important to note, these are complicated, often intangible concepts. Many different and conflicting definitions exist.
Now, let's dive in.
Company Vision Definition
“… [A] vision statement describes where the company wants a community, or the world, to be as a result of the company's service. … A vision statement describes where the company aspires to be upon achieving its mission. This statement reveals the "where" of a business.”
Business Strategy Definition
"A business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy is therefore about how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources in order accomplish key objectives.”
Of note: the definition of Strategy is heavily contested. HBR's What is Strategy Again? — Published 2015 by Andrea Ovans is a great short, explanation of the dominant ideas and viewpoints in the strategy world.
Product Management Definition
"Product management is an organizational function that guides every step of a product’s lifecycle: from development, to positioning and pricing, by focusing on the product and its customers first and foremost. To build the best possible product, product managers advocate for customers within the organization and make sure the voice of the market is heard and heeded."
Product Design Definition
"Product design describes the process of imagining, creating, and iterating products that solve users’ problems or address specific needs in a given market.
The key to successful product design is an understanding of the end-user customer, the person for whom the product is being created. Product designers attempt to solve real problems for real people by using both empathy and knowledge of their prospective customers’ habits, behaviors, frustrations, needs, and wants.”
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Bringing Overlapping Concepts Together
After researching and gathering these four definitions, I’m still not sure of the boundaries and separation between each discipline. Vision and strategy heavily overlap, while design and product management seems to go inseparably hand in hand. Yet, these definitions do provide some clarification.
In the interest of learning, I want to close with an attempted synthesis of these ideas — combining the four different ideas into a metaphor of how a small business, a Pizza shop, might operate.
The Vision, Strategy, Product Management and Design of a Pizza Shop
- Vision: The ‘where’ of the Pizza Shop — Become the best place in town for authentic, Naples style Pizza
- Strategy: The decisions and guiding principles that communicate how the Pizza Shop owners want the Vision to be executed and delivered to patrons
- Product Management: The maître d’ (the head host) of the Pizza shop who co-ordinates tables, seating, ordering, price negotiation, and overall patron experience while partnering with the Kitchen (design)
- Design: The actual creation of the product served to customers, the Naples-style Pizza. This is done in partnership with Product Management, and guided and directed by the overall Strategy and Vision
And that brings it all together, my attempt at a small metaphor for how Vision, Strategy, Product Management and Design may work together. Unfortunately, as we all know, every Pizza shop has a different definition of what these decisions mean. Just like technology companies! As I opened with, I have always found these ideas confusing. So if you think this should be framed differently, I’d love to hear it on twitter!
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Next week I’ll be writing about strategy, product management and design and how they relate to Software, SaaS Companies, No-Code tools and Integrations. Subscribe to my email list to receive an email notifying you when that post is published!