product managers, developers, sales reps, executives, and other stakeholders across the company use the roadmap as a strategic guidepost to set the big-picture plan for the product and to make sure they’re staying on track with that plan. a customer-facing roadmap is not developed for the cross-functional product team itself. getting a chance to see your plans well in advance of the product release can make your customers and prospects feel more connected to your company. a product manager can also use a customer-facing roadmap as a tool to validate the team’s plans for the new product.
even if you send it only to a list of qualified leads and your most loyal customers, you need to make sure nothing is on the roadmap that the market could use against you. this is where a customer-facing roadmap can backfire—especially amongst your most enthusiastic customers and prospects. encourage the customers and prospects who see your public roadmap to weigh in with their thoughts. if you take our advice and use a web-based roadmap app to build and share your customer-facing roadmap, you’ll also need to check in with it regularly.
ask for opinions about whether or not your company should develop a customer-facing product roadmap. for example, if you had to present your roadmap using excel, and now everyone in the meeting is falling asleep. with that in mind, we have some suggestions for you, including: when your team starts working on any complex project, the best you can do is make an educated guess about how long it will take to complete. this is why you do not want to put a date on your customer-facing product roadmap that tells the public exactly when they should expect something new. maybe your public roadmap will show only a quarter or even half of the year in which people should expect your new functionality to be available. you should always assume your competitors will see everything you make available to the public.
your goal with a public roadmap should be to build anticipation and excitement about your product, as well as to create a sense of trust and transparency with your customers. keep your public roadmap focused only on the elements of the product that your customers will see and experience firsthand: interface, functionality, etc. if customers see anything they interpret as a promise or guarantee—either in your roadmap itself or in the message you publish alongside it—and you fall short of that promise, you will needlessly create disappointment and even distrust among many of those customers. when you publish your customer-facing roadmap, present it as your company’s current plan, and an opportunity to increase transparency with your users. but if you don’t, you do not have to worry that you’ll upset your customers. but if you decide to create a customer-facing product roadmap, there are some guidelines that always apply, regardless of your company’s circumstances. a book nerd at heart, shaun earned his ba in english literature from the university of london.
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