I manage products like I manage a business. Every business starts with a business plan, and that business plan starts with a mission statement. It may sound cheesy, but a mission statement provides valuable focus. When CloudChow began, David and I wrote the following mission statement:
To create a global marketplace for mobile food ordering.
This mission statement became the filter we used when deciding what features to launch with. Does developing a rewards system help create a global marketplace for mobile food ordering? Not really. It is a great idea, just not necessary for a first iteration. So we scrapped it. We focused attention on the most impactful features. As CloudChow evolved, so did our mission statement. We redirected focus to developing custom branded restaurant applications. And so our mission became:
To allow any restaurant, big or small, to build a low-cost mobile food ordering app.
This became the new filter we used when determining what features to launch with. For CloudChow, our business is our product, but more often than not, a company will have many products that it offers. In this circumstance, there may be some divergence between the big picture goal of the company and the goal of each product. At ViSalus, we create micro filters for each product I manage. The ViSalus mission statement is:
To impact life, health, and prosperity around the world.
However, I use product mission statements that cater more closely to the audience using each software, not necessarily toward the entire ViSalus audience. For our Promoter facing application that assists with business monitoring, we use the following mission statement:
To help a Promoter grow their business.
When considering adding new features, or making UX changes, and even completing certain bug fixes, I use this as a filter to weed out the non-priority tasks. I prefer these filters to be concise, but have the power to inspire. After all, a mission statement is only as valuable as the ideas it will ignite. For our customer focused application, we use the mission statement:
To provide technology that assists Customers in completing their Challenge and weight-loss goals.
While ROI matters, there are certain features that provide high value to users without having a clear path to ROI. These mission statements help me groom the backlog with a focus on my users. As Product Managers, we walk a fine line between driving revenue and driving user value. It is important to be able to take a step back and look at the mission of your product without getting caught up on monetization.