Scrum’s Product Vision vs. Project Mission

As noted previously, Scrum uses the term product to mean artifact. This is fine, as long as the user of Scrum is a software vendor, developing a product for a market. It is confusing, however, if the user is a consulting firm, performing a custom project for a client. If you are a consulting firm, you are not delivering a product, and every time you hear product, you need to think artifact.

The confusion is worst when we talk about a product vision. As always, there are many competing definitions and confused ones at that, but we can safely assume that a product vision is at least a particular type of vision. About a vision, by definition, we know that it is time-less. It describes an abstract future state that we want to achieve, but never actually can reach. As such, a vision serves as a guiding north star for the decisions we make about on-going work. IBM’s vision is (shortened) “client success”, SAP’s is “improved economy”, etc. Any number of management books expound on what a vision is so you can read more there.

For consulting firms, having a product vision is pointless, because it doesn’t do products. It does projects. Nobody starts a project with the words “Imagine a world in which…” It is the client, who may have a product in mind, and should define a vision for it. For this reason, in our student projects, which are run like consulting projects, we separate product vision from project mission. The product vision captures what the client wants to achieve long-term and matches the classic definition given above. The project mission then is what the team believes it can achieve in the three months typically available for the project.

This way, client and product owner can focus on defining a compelling product vision that does not get confused with what can actually be achieved. The actual project goal, within the scope of the vision, is the project’s mission. Freed from having to incorporate the vision, the mission can focus on what’s doable in the given situation. The result is both a crisp vision and a crisp mission rather than a vision that tries to be a product vision an a project mission and fails at both.

Back to the beginning.

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