Roadmaps can be one of the most important documents for a company and its growth. They can help you make decisions on your product’s future and get input from customers.
Unfortunately, many teams struggle with deciding whether or not to make their product roadmaps public. Here’s a list of the benefits of having a public roadmap, some common worries, and how to create an easy roadmap with UserVitals.
Benefits of Having A Public Roadmap
To start off, let’s discuss some key benefits of using a public roadmap.
Publicising your product roadmap is a great way to keep everyone in the loop, from customers to potential connections to shareholders. By being open about current progress and future goals, everyone knows what to expect and what to look forward to.
Similarly, this increased transparency can help your current users feel more involved in your product’s progress and become more attached and loyal to your company.
Define Your Process and Responsibilities
Keeping a public roadmap can help keep you and your product team accountable to your deadlines and responsibilities. It can also help keep your team’s momentum going, as everyone knows what to work on next in the process and what to look forward to in the future.
Cut Down on Questioning and Expectations
If you have your company’s next steps already planned out and visible on your site, customers and potential investors can use that as a resource to understand your company’s future and progress. That’s not to say you won’t get any questions on your support line, of course.
Close More Deals and Differentiate From Competitors
Your product roadmap can help you gain more clients as although you might not currently have a feature a potential customer might want, if they see it coming up in your roadmap they may still stay interested. Allowing your customers to vote on feature requests can also boost interest in your product as well.
Furthermore, publicising your roadmap can also help differentiate you from other companies by keeping your next steps open and discussing features that they might not have.
Need a tool to set up your team's roadmap? Try out UserVitals! It's an all-in-one feedback management tool that allows you to prioritize feature requests and turn them into public roadmap items.
Risks and Worries About Public Roadmaps
While public roadmaps have great benefits, many teams hold preconceptions of them that can make them hesitant to add a roadmap to their site. Let’s go over some of the most common ones, and why you shouldn’t worry about them.
Could a Competitor Steal My Ideas?
Possibly the biggest worry that teams have around public roadmaps is whether or not putting their future steps and updates out into the world will encourage competitors to steal their ideas and profit off them instead.
We’re not going to sugar coat it: this is a possibility, though a slim one. But the benefits of having a public roadmap far outweigh this possibility. And besides, if a rival company is stealing your ideas, they’re leaning towards your customer base instead of their own and hurting themselves in the long run.
Higher Expectations and Locked-In Directions
Many people also worry that giving customers a public copy of their next steps and upcoming features can lead to their user base having high expectations for your product that you may not be able to live up to.
Product teams may also worry that putting out a public roadmap can keep them locked in a certain direction and make them unable to make any changes or cuts to future progress. While some customers might see the roadmap this way, many more people will be understanding of your product’s needs to adapt to the market and change to be more realistic.
Broken Promises Are Bad For Business
Much like the last point, many teams feel that if they aren’t able to meet a certain responsibility or task listed on their roadmap or even release updates on time, they will frustrate their clients and lose business.
The truth is that some user loss is inevitable for any product regardless of what you do to keep them around. And while it’s important to keep them happy and figure out ways to keep your customers loyal, you can’t worry about keeping every customer. It’s better to focus your attention on keeping users satisfied without worrying about losing some in the process.
While you could lose some customers over failing to meet deadlines or requirements, being transparent with your workflow and being honest about what’s going on can also help boost your customers’ trust with your company. Everyone makes mistakes or realises they have to change tasks or course.
Too Much Extra Work for Low Benefit
Lastly, some teams worry that creating, updating and publicising roadmaps is too much work for too little benefit. The truth is that these roadmaps can be much more helpful for your team than you may think. They offer customers and potential customers a way to keep in touch with your product and see what updates they might get in the future, leaving them to stick around or keep an eye on your product going forward.
How to Successfully Pull off a Public Roadmap
Now that we’ve gone over the pros and cons of using a public roadmap, let’s discuss some of the best tips and tricks for making yours successful.
Know What Not to Include
In your product roadmap, there are a few things you should keep hidden. Let’s go over them.
Adding dates to items on your roadmap should be avoided at all costs, as it holds your team to hard deadlines and, if those deadlines aren’t reached, customers can get upset with your company. Instead, break items up by sections like “planned”, “in progress” and “completed”.
Detailed Feature Documentation
Putting too much detailed information about new features and feature requests can increase the possibility of your ideas getting stolen from competitors. Furthermore, adding detailed feature documentation to your roadmap can also give your customers too many expectations that you may not be able to fulfill if something goes wrong.
Try to include only high-level items on your public roadmap whenever possible instead.
Planned Backend Work
Most customers don’t need to know the gritty details of how your company plans to implement changes; they just want to know what those changes are and how they will benefit them. These details can actually have the reverse effect and bore them, decreasing excitement about new changes in the process.
Instead, keep this kind of detail to a minimum and focus only on the aspects that customers are most concerned with, like functionality, interfacing and benefits.
Detailed Internal Information
Don’t add any internal information about your company, such as resources, product or development team members and work process to your roadmaps. Many customers will not find this interesting or important, and it will only serve to clutter up your roadmap.
It’s much better to keep your product roadmap as simple and concise as possible.
Keep it Flexible
As you progress with your product, you’ll naturally discover new information and change direction. This means your roadmap needs to have room for changes and additions as you get new feedback or new information.
One of the best ways to do this is by defining items on your roadmap more broadly instead of in careful detail. This leaves room for small changes and keeps your roadmap more clean. If you want, you could also add a disclaimer that items are subject to change.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
If you don’t think you’ll be able to complete a task or progress stage on time or you want more time to test it out first, leave it out of your roadmap. It’s better for users to be surprised by new additions to your roadmap than disappointed over not having a feature they really wanted.
UserVitals can help you create an easy, well-organized public roadmap for your customers.
UserVitals is a feedback management platform that collects and organizes feedback from multiple sources, such as a feedback widget, integrations like Slack and Intercom, and across the web. All of this feedback can be viewed and sorted however you wish to best benefit your company and product.
Each individual piece of feedback, or Insight, can be sorted into related collections known as Stories. These stories make up items on your roadmap, which are then sorted by status. Each story can be clicked on for further information, and we’ve even added a space for feedback, so your user base can give you their opinions on different items and give you a better idea of what to prioritize.