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Radical Transparency: Our Product Roadmap Is Public And People Love It

February 3, 2016

Roadmap Management

People often become visibly concerned when I tell them my company, ProdPad, has a public product roadmap. Yes, it sounds like a terribly uncomfortable idea from the outside. But relax! We’re not handing the game over to our competitors. We’re not hurting our business.

We’re just not under any delusions that we’re Apple, or that our growth relies on super secret product launches. It doesn’t.

From where I stand, sharing our roadmap is a reasonable move that has brought us some pretty outsized results. And all from a doc we spent a few minutes filtering for the public before we hit publish. Worth it.

Contrary to what you might think, this simple act has brought us so much growth and customer insights that we would never consider taking it down.

Our product roadmap has actually become a central part of the way we communicate our priorities with our customers – and I’d love to see more companies taking the leap.  

People want to talk about that roadmap

You may know that at ProdPad, we communicate our plans on a theme-based roadmap. You won’t find any features or deadlines on our roadmap, because themes give us way more flexibility to change our plans and priorities. (You can create one too using our product roadmap tool.) 

A public version of our product roadmap is always available online.

 

We stay relatively vague, to give ourselves the freedom to shape and pivot until we move forward on a solution. Yet this has never been a deal breaker for our customers. 

Quite the opposite, actually.

Our roadmap has kicked off conversations that have gone on to directly influence our product decisions. It’s an opportunity for our customers to tell us what they’d like to see. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for them to see what we’re up to without getting caught by surprise.

For example, when we first 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.

Or take this for example: In the Future column, we have a Mobile/iPad theme.

We know won’t get to building an app for awhile, but just having it sitting there on our roadmap led to a feature that our users themselves brought to our attention.

When we started asking what was important to include in a mobile version, we learned that our users wanted to be able to organize their ideas and feedback ProdPad while they were commuting or on a flight.

That led to the launch of our offline mode, giving them basic access to a small number of tasks while they’re on-the-go. We don’t have a mobile app (yet!), but that conversation helped us respond by building the functionality that really mattered to them.

Customers love the transparency

We’ve found that as long as we’re open and honest about our priorities, customers are actually very forgiving. We hold onto the feedback we get and reach back into it to guide the way we approach their problems – and our customers know that.

These conversations have helped us understand what resonates with people, and that helps us position our launches down the line. 

We don’t bow to the pressure to make false promises. We don’t have a problem telling customers that something they’ve requested isn’t going to get built. We stick to our priorities (although we do shuffle them around as needed).

Since we’re all looking at the same roadmap, we’re all on the same page.

Have you thought about going public with yours?


Update: We’ve developed an e-course to help you set up and introduce a theme-based roadmap at your organization. Sign up here.

Janna Bastow is co-founder of ProdPad, software that helps product managers plan and deliver better products. Janna also organizes ProductTank events around the world, including Mind The Product, a global community of product managers. She likes to inspire great product conversations by asking: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

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