Electric cars. Electric recharging stations along American highways. Electric cars for everyone. He even blogged about it openly on his nascent company, Tesla Motors’ blog. It was totally nuts, said everyone.
Today, Musk’s vision is steadily becoming a reality, and what were once far-fetched ideas are starting to look pretty tangible and very sexy.
At the center of Musk’s radical ideas, was the belief that none of it had to be kept secret for his ventures to succeed. Neither did his product strategy, which he had no problem talking about openly.
In an age when reigning corporate wisdom dictated that product strategy and even ideas must be protected at all costs, Elon publicly set a vision and outlined the steps he would take to meet it.
Was he onto something?
We think so. Our roadmap has been public since we launched ProdPad – and it’s been quietly helping our business grow too.
We’re no Elon Musk, but we’re a startup with a public product roadmap. And it hasn’t ruined anything.
Our roadmap is online – everyone can see it
You can find our public roadmap here. It’s here online for everyone to see, even our competitors. That’s cool though. We like it this way. Our roadmap is clear, visual and accessible for everyone on purpose, just like this one here:
The benefits of being transparent are so valuable that we can’t think of a single reason to take it down. Here’s what roadmap transparency has done for us:
We have insanely honest conversations with our customers
We tell them what we’re working on, what we’re thinking about building in the future and what is definitely not on the cards.
We can’t be everything to everybody, can we?
Our roadmap is usually at the center of these discussions. With our priorities clearly mapped out, they can judge whether we’re the right product for them.
And of course, we’re here to help. We know, for example, that a native mobile app (iPad, Android, iPhone) is a pretty popular request.
So when someone asks about it, we are happy to show them the roadmap and say, “Yeah, we’re definitely looking to build one, but look at all of the other cool things we want to deliver on along the way!”
Our customers understand when we can’t give them release dates, but are happy to see that we have big plans to continue to build out the app.
We listen and adjust our roadmap for our customers
Our roadmap helps us keep a pulse on what our customers are thinking and what they consider important.
Our CEO Janna Bastow tells the following story:
When we put SSO on the roadmap (based on initial feedback from customers), we didn’t know what we were going to build. But we had a public roadmap and asked customers what they thought of the idea.
We learned from them that the Google Apps SSO integration would have a much bigger immediate impact than some of the trickier solutions we were considering. Eventually, we moved forward with what our customers suggested and saved ourselves the pain of building an overly sophisticated feature our customers wouldn’t value as much.
We don’t blindly listen to what our customers say, but we do keep our pulse on what’s important and shift our priorities accordingly. Our roadmap helps us see what ideas stick out to our customers and where their interests lie.
Our customers see us responding to their needs, and they reward us for it.
We’ve attracted customers who share our values
Our roadmap has scored us a really, really good rep.
Our customers are our champions, and they continue to refer their colleagues over to us because they know we’re reliable, and we won’t keep them in the dark.
We’ve always been in a fairly unique position of being product managers building a tool for other product managers.
But even so, we consistently get cool customers who are patient and easygoing. They know we’re not going to stick them with any unpleasant surprises.
Secrets? What secrets?
Our product roadmap says a great deal about who we are as a company – open, honest and responsive.
And with other companies following suit, it’s getting easier to pick out who else cares about those things too. Earlier this year, Slack released their platform roadmap for the wider developer community. Buffer followed their lead a few days later by releasing their product roadmap. So did Frontapp.
But a public roadmap alone doesn’t magically get you customers. That depends on how you use it to communicate with your customers.
Frontapp CEO Mathilde Collin puts it this way:
“Of course we know what we have to build. But the opportunity to lay out this vision in front of our users’ eyes, and ask them to show us the easiest path the get there, is invaluable. We suggest the ideas that we feel most strongly about, and let our users tell us what really “clicks” with them.”
I hope you’re taking away at least one thing right now: that going public with your product roadmap isn’t actually business suicide. If anything, it’s corporate secrecy that seems to be on its way out.
Real, verifiable transparency is a refreshing thing. It starts with making a filtered “public” view of your product roadmap available to your customers and continues in a feel-good loop of feedback and improvements as long as you want to go.
At least that’s how it’s working for us.
If you’re ready with all of the above and want to make that statement in a big, bold way, then follow our footsteps.
Free your product roadmap.