Today’s post comes from Janna Bastow, co-founder at ProdPad and Mind the Product and one of the fabulous speakers who will be joining us at UserConf London this month to talk product management.
Roadmapping is a contentious subject.
In the years I’ve worked as a product manager I learned this is because the processes behind roadmapping, and the outcome and format of the roadmap itself, are all still hotly contested.
You can imagine, then, that the question of public versus private roadmaps is even more contentious. Sure, if you’re not careful there can be pitfalls, but there’s lots of good reasons to make your roadmap public. Here are my top five:
5 Compelling Reasons to Share your Product Roadmap
1. To Gather Feedback
By making your roadmap public, you make it easier to solicit helpful feedback from your customers, as you can gauge whether they’re on-board with your plans or whether they would rather you tackle something else first.
In my experience, customers love being able to see your roadmap, and it’s often a kickoff point for some really great conversations. It’s also a neat way to show customers how you use their feedback, as you add new features and initiatives to your roadmap based on their requests and comments.
2. It Shows Progression – and Keeps you on Track
Your roadmap is an artifact that tells your customers the direction you’ll be taking to fulfill your product vision.
At the same time, I’d argue that the most important thing underpinning your roadmap IS your product vision. There are many paths that product development could take, but if you don’t have your destination set, you could end up cruising haphazardly through these initiatives with no clear end-game. Product vision is what keeps your roadmap on track, so articulating it to your customers, stakeholders and investors allows you to solidify that vision.
3. It Lets you Tailor Information to your Audience
Don’t be afraid to have multiple versions of your roadmap. Different stakeholders should be treated differently.
I usually recommend having both an internal and external version of your roadmap. This allows you to keep your top secret initiatives (and also the ‘boring’ ones) out of the public domain, focusing on the real value-adds for customers.
Now, I’m not suggesting you put your detailed release plan public! If you’re unsure of the difference between these, one is a strategic document that communicates your product vision, the other is a tactical or operational document that outlines the detailed steps and order that your dev and ops teams will take to deliver the product.
4. It Allows you to Change the Conversation and Stop Worrying About Dates
One of the most liberating aspects of roadmapping is scrapping the dates!
Having a roadmap without dates allows you to change the conversation. Instead of focusing on the when you can focus on the what – allowing you to talk about the actual vision and the actual direction you’re taking.
Once you drop the dates on your roadmap, you’ll be able to stop worrying about when each feature will be delivered, and instead talk about what order you should be tackling each in order to provide the most value.
5. It Shows Product Pride!
A good product is one that you would be proud to use yourself. At ProdPad we have a public roadmap on our site and we love using it as a talking point with our customers to show the great things we’re working on.
Now, of course, this leaves you wide open for your competition to see your roadmap, right? Well, sure. But is there really anything on your public-facing roadmap that they wouldn’t be able to get by reading your company blogs, or getting a salesperson to give them a demo and asking a few key questions? Unless you’re Apple and your marketing and comms strategy relies on massive buzz around mysterious product launches, having your roadmap public will do you more good than harm. If something is your super-secret sauce to make your product magical, don’t publish that part – but frankly, your competition is usually too busy working on their own roadmap to bother replicating yours.
If you’d like a little roadmapping inspiration you can check out the ProdPad public roadmap, or why not come hear me speak at UserConf London later this month?