🛣️ Avoid Product Roadmaps

Allow me to paint a scenario…

You have passed the first six-months as a software startup. You have paying customers, and there is some buzz around your product. Your customers are pretty happy, and surprisingly understanding to the fact that your product still lacks some functionality compared to the competition.

Naturally, you want to repay them for their dedication and trust. You want them to know that you are listening to them, so you decide to publicly publish your product’s roadmap, so they can see what you are working towards.

They are happy, and you are energized. Everything is good!

The truth is, product roadmaps can be helpful in the first year of business, but then become a liability.

In the early years of a business, product roadmaps are a good way to get (and keep) people excited about your software, but at the end of the day, they do more harm than good – particularly in competitive markets.

When I was running LearnDash, I used to always look at my competitors roadmaps to see what they were working on. It gave me insight into what they (and their customers) thought was most important.

But here’s the thing. Occasionally, there were times when I would swipe their ideas and get it to market quicker. In the process, snapping up more market share and tempting their users to come over to my product.

Any worthwhile industry will be competitive, and public product roadmaps are the equivalent to showing your competition your cards before you even play, giving them an opportunity to play their hand accordingly.

Public roadmaps can frustrate customers.

I think most entrepreneurs think that having a roadmap available is a way to give customers confidence in the direction of the business. It shows movement and dedication. This is certainly true to a degree.

But what is often overlooked is that the roadmap can also be a source of frustration for customers. This is particularly true if it does not include features that they really want or believe are necessary. Worse, they may disagree with the entire direction and think that you’re out of touch with the market.

I know this to be true because I experienced it first-hand. I once had a roadmap where I shared the development priorities. For a while (during the first year of business) it was a value-add. However, I noticed that people would write into support increasingly frustrated with the roadmap.

From what I recall, the complaints fell into one of the following areas:

I noticed that the more vocal critics would often cite the roadmap in their public complaints, which meant that I had to jump in and “defend the roadmap” at times in lengthy back & forth conversations. Both sides getting more and more frustrated.

This experience made me realize that the roadmap had a negative impact on the business and just gave any customer who was already annoyed fuel for their fire.

So, I scrapped it and immediately didn’t have to deal with any of that BS anymore.

Customers hardly noticed its absence.

Product roadmaps are a distraction.

Look, many folks love having a roadmap for customers. If it is working for them, then that’s great.

But they aren’t necessary. In fact, they are more often a distraction for both you and your customers. They also give your competition some incredible insights.

So, if you never had a roadmap and feel like you need to add one, then I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to bypass it and just focus on more important parts of your business.

#entrepreneurship


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