Today's companies must be more communicative and transparent about the products and services that they offer than ever before. They must also be accountable and maintain a sense of urgency when delivering on promises to customers.
Sharing your product roadmap is a fantastic way to do this, right? It depends.
The answer to the question of whether you should share a public roadmap is more nuanced. What's more, you don't have to take an all-or-nothing approach. You've got other options, such as:
- Sharing part of your roadmap with all of your audience
- Sharing all of your roadmap with part of your audience
Which approach is best for your company? Keep reading to explore creation of a product development roadmap and whether or not it's right for your company.
The Complicated Issue of the Product Roadmap
Whether you should or shouldn't share your product roadmap is a topic that requires input from multiple stakeholders. It also necessitates a thorough understanding of what you hope to gain by sharing this information.
As a result, you'll need to decide on the audience that you want to target and why. For example, you may wish to share product roadmaps with paid users only. Or, you might decide you'd like to give this access to customer-facing teams.
You might also give access to both of the audiences mentioned above. But you could choose to grant this access on a granular level, allowing access to a selected range of features. Or, you might only share insights with those customers who express an interest.
As a company, you likely have a complicated relationship with product roadmaps. After all, they change and evolve frequently. Yet, if your customers don't understand this, they may look at a roadmap they've been given access to as a binding contract.
Roadmaps can leave company leadership in a bind. How do they depict the changes a product is going through without selling a specific narrative about the product? And, as that narrative changes, how does that impact the way consumers perceive the company?
Product Roadmaps and the Drive for Future Certainty
Ultimately, product roadmaps can lead to a false concept about the future. They can make a work in progress look like a sure thing if you're not careful. Since people naturally gravitate towards certainty, you must be very careful as you plot a product roadmap.
When it's all said and done, humans don't like change and uncertainty. So, you've got to find a way to present an evolving public roadmap that's flexible and innovative without leaving customers feeling uncertain. Easier said than done.
Because of the inherent dilemma associated with whether or not to share a product development road map, product leaders often skirt the issue. Instead, they prefer to focus on questions, such as:
- What should a product roadmap look like?
- How detailed should our product roadmap be?
- Who should provide input on the roadmap?
- With whom should we share it?
- What steps will we take to keep it current?
These questions fail to address the larger picture of why you would or would not choose to share a product roadmap in the first place. And these questions do nothing to confront the confusion and controversy that always seem to follow a roadmap release.
Making Product Roadmaps Available
Do confusion and controversy mean we should throw out the practice of making available product roadmaps altogether? After all, some companies staunchly refuse to release them no matter what.
Absolutely not! But you need to approach roadmap sharing in a measurable and goal-driven way that furthers company objectives. That said, think twice before sharing one haphazardly or without a grasp of what you're attempting to achieve.
Why You Should Share a Product Roadmap
It's safe to say that companies with a "no roadmap strategy" are the exception to the rule. How small is this exception? Only 12 percent of product managers report they don't use product roadmaps.
One of the reasons for these low numbers? Lack of a roadmap puts a serious strain on your company's sales team. That's why most product leaders agree that roadmaps must be shared.
The question then becomes: how should you share them in a way that's meaningful to customers and informative without making "unkeepable" promises?
For starters, never commit to dates for features far out into the future. As 2020 has already shown us, a lot can change quickly. So, instead of placing false promises on paper, stick to the roadmap basics.
And if you're still feeling hesitant to share even the basics of your public product roadmap? Remember that not being willing to share puts sales at risk.
What Are the Benefits of Building a Product Roadmap?
Before we delve into how to successfully share your product roadmap with the public, let's look at the benefits of this approach.
What are the benefits of sharing your public roadmap? Being transparent about your product management process comes with many perks. They include:
- Gaining more customers
- A more transparent process
- Avoiding friction through feedback collection
When done correctly, transparency can be a powerful indicator of positive intentions. In other words, go into this company-wide transformation with the goal of fostering a stronger relationship with your users.
Whatever you do, don't let it be a marketing stunt. Your customers will see right through this approach. With this in mind, let's take a closer look at the benefits you stand to reap with a public roadmap.
Gaining More Customers
When you share a roadmap successfully, it enables you to move your product in a direction that'll let you gain more customers. For example, a prospect armed with a product roadmap can articulate missing features to you.
When buyers understand product features currently in development and on the horizon, it may push them to purchase your product over that of the competition, too.
Of course, if you refuse to share this information upfront, how will your prospects get that nudge in the right direction? In essence, a roadmap can give you a leg up against your competition.
Learn more about the best metrics and KPIs to assess product management and onboarding.
A More Transparent Process
Sharing a product roadmap will enable your company to retain and to show existing customers that you care about their opinions. When you bring transparency to your product management process, you let users know what you plan to build and why.
To do this most effectively, you should also include information about planned developments that didn't make the cut and why. Although showing what didn't work might seem counterintuitive, it provides your customers with a better sense of your product creation process.
Here's a perfect example of what this type of sharing can looks like.
It also communicates to customers how much you care about providing them with the best products possible. After looking at your product roadmap, your prospects should have a clear understanding of what you plan to build. They should also know why and how you came to this decision.
When you include everyone in the product planning process, you help them understand the tradeoffs that went into your product development. You also help them to better understand your priorities and why some features get ranked as more important than others.
Documenting and publishing information about product development will also prove invaluable when talking to your company's internal stakeholders.
Transparency will provide product managers with the data and confidence they need to back their choices when pushback happens.
Avoiding Friction in Feedback Collection
Sharing a roadmap also removes friction in the feedback collection process.
It not only permits but also encourages customers to provide valuable comments and suggestions. This feedback can help you streamline and improve your products as well as gain greater insight into what your target demographic values most.
This information is invaluable from a product development and marketing standpoint. It'll also help you create a more useful list of priorities.
For example, you might assume that developing a specific feature is the best way to address a particular customer pain point. Yet, when you receive feedback, it might provide an even better solution than the initially envisioned feature.
This transparent data collection process allows for assembling more quantitative and qualitative feedback. It provides users with the opportunity to follow the progress of the product and see that it's alive and dynamic.
A roadmap will also facilitate cross-functional stakeholders in providing their feedback and observations. That way, your product team can focus on exploring the best options without wasting time in the feedback collection process.
Of course, to get the most out of this process, you'll need a tool that easily collects multi-channel data. One that centralizes insights, processes them, and prioritizes them to make data-aware decisions effortless.
Explore some of the best ways for product managers to get user feedback.
How Do You Share a Product Roadmap?
Now that we've piqued your curiosity about sharing a roadmap with your customers, you may be wondering about the nitty-gritty of the actual process.
How do you share a product roadmap so that it doesn't disappoint your clients and sales team? Especially when it must reflect changes? What's more, how do you avoid implying product promises that may not be deliverable or practical in the long run?
The answers to these questions can get convoluted. Fortunately, here are some tips to help you navigate the process. First, your roadmap should provide three snapshots of a product:
The current snapshot should reflect what's already being released. It should highlight which product problems have been addressed, and it should communicate who the product is for. Your number one goal should be making this roadmap easy to follow and understand.
The short-term snapshot should include developments that will occur within the next one to three months. You should have medium-certainty about what you include in this area of the roadmap. It should also provide talk tracks for sales.
In the long-term snapshot of your product roadmap, you'll provide a client-facing, sanitized version of your product's future vision. The best way to do this? Simple, easy-to-follow visuals.
How to Create a Product Roadmap?
This topic leads us to the next question. When creating a shared roadmap, what's the best way to incorporate visuals?
With your end goal in mind, describe the problem, solution, and benefit of your product. Then, bring this story to life, telling it from the perspective of your customer.
Keep your customer's feelings in mind throughout the process. What did they feel before, during, and after the experience of buying your product? Now, put this into a storyboard or comic strip.
Check out StoryboardThat for a selection of user templates for product development. They can help you transform the story of a product and its future into a compelling visual account.
Leading in Your Industry with a Public Roadmap
The topic of the public roadmap is a complicated one. But as you now see, it makes little sense to join the camp of those few companies that refuse to share product roadmaps altogether.
You’ll miss out on countless benefits and the transparency that comes with this approach. So, spend some time developing a stellar roadmap and then share it boldly with the world.
It’s time for you to take full advantage of the many benefits of product development and management transparency. What's more, you'll want to explore other strategies for improving your product lines.
Keep reading to learn more about how to leverage customer interviews to deliver exceptional products.