Everyone wants to be Jeff Bezos. Well, maybe not everyone, but most of us can appreciate his success, and chances are we use Amazon products in one way or another almost every day. Bezos’ gospel is all about customer centricity, and because of Amazon’s overwhelming dominance, this idea has permeated every business book, talk, and podcast. It has become a kind of mantra for many companies, and no product conference is complete without it.
The question is, have we taken customer centricity to an extreme? Is the focus on happy customers a distraction from delivering superior products, because we’re just bogged down in adding on features that customers need now? Too many product people will recognize this pitfall: they’ve made a beautiful roadmap, but then a prospect got in the way, and before they know it, their vision dissipates.
Which should be the primary driver of a product roadmap then? Customer requests or product vision? In our poll this week 85% of you told us that vision should be the more important driver of the roadmap. The debaters cheated a little, since a primary driver can only be one thing. But they explain well why both elements in this tug-of-war are important for PMs to watch.
Use customer requests to ensure evolutionary product relevance. Follow product vision, based on market data to drive revolutionary product relevance. Relying on one data source is never enough.
Product Coach, Pragmatic Marketing
Depends on the day
On a good day, I feel that the roadmap is driven by an amazing synthesis of product vision, customer requirements, data analysis, win/loss interviews, design inspiration, market research, strategic intentions and PM intuition. On a bad day, I feel like it's a random mishmash of crap and I'd be better off just making stuff up myself. I guess that's life as a product manager.
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk
Only a fool would ignore customer requests, especially those that are blockers for the customers and therefore critical. But, you will get no requests if you have no customers, right? So, I'd say base your roadmap on feedbacks from customers, but also from non-customers -- those who didn't make it through your funnel -- AND competitors' customers, AND relevant potential customers of your future products. Remember Ford's famous quote: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Use feedback to understand the customer's needs, intent, business logic, emotions, etc. But base your product not just on the volume of requests, but also on innovation and creativity.
VP Product, Wix