Product roadmaps are an integral part of the work of any product manager, but they can also be a real scourge. Deciding what goes on the roadmap is time and energy consuming, not to mention figuring out roadmap ownership and negotiating who has the authority to make roadmap decisions. Then, of course, there are the logistical issues of how to best manage your roadmap, which tools to use, and what is the best visualization.
One of the hottest questions that product teams debate, though, is roadmap visibility. “Is it on the roadmap?” is such a common question, whether it’s from existing customers, prospects, or leadership, and it can be difficult to negotiate exactly how much to reveal. That’s why, at the request of our debaters, we opened up this question in our poll this week. 67% of you were opposed to making the roadmap public, and our debaters speak to the dangers that come from opening it up. But, as one debater shows, there’s a good case to be made for radical transparency.
I will go old school and say no. Certainly, we live in a time where transparency is appreciated and has benefits, but giving competitors clear access to your roadmap crosses the line, in my opinion. Certainly being more transparent with customers is a good thing, but not publicly.
There are a variety of factors involved in how much visibility to give customers to your product roadmap, or whether to make it public to begin with. At Okta, we recently published our near-term (4-6 month) roadmap as part of our online help center, and now, anyone can see it. We decided to do so for several reasons: 1) Customers First and Transparency are our first two cultural values and are pervasive in how we deliver and support our product. 2) We weighed risks of publishing our roadmap publicly and decided they were moot based on Okta’s position, the strength of our capabilities and teams delivering and supporting our product. Since we don’t compete on features themselves, we are not concerned with competitors viewing our short-term roadmap. 3) A public roadmap gives customers, prospects, press/media, partners, and ISVs a self-service way to consume roadmap information from a defacto, single source updated in real-time that complements other channels of roadmap information (conferences, EBCs, etc.). 4) Publishing product roadmap items holds our teams accountable to delivering those capabilities (though, we do have a standard forward-looking statement/disclaimer, etc.). If a product manager puts something on the roadmap to begin with, they’re confident in being able in delivering it in the short term. 5) Lastly, our product roadmap also serves as a growth and adoption vehicle – customers can sign up for Beta features and turn on Early Access features directly from the roadmap. You can view the Okta Product Roadmap here.
Director of Product Management, Okta
Some parts some of the time
This is a tough one. First off, even if you choose to publish your roadmap, you should have a disclaimer that you may timeframes may change. This is important not only legally, but also because changing the roadmap as you go is often the right thing to do. With a disclaimer in place, publicizing your roadmap has its pros. Transparency is generally a good thing, and it allows your users to know what's coming. If they see something on the roadmap that they really want or are really missing, they might actually stick around longer than they would have otherwise. But of course, there are cons. With your roadmap public, your competition knows what you are and aren't building. What's more, if you don't follow through, your users may complain, and they may do so publicly and loudly. In light of all of this, I'd say publicize some of the things some of the time.
VP Product, Wix