Publishing & Sharing Product Roadmaps

Product Business

Have You Heard Me Talk About Product Roadmaps?

Maybe you've been in a conversation with me where I've said I'll never publish a product roadmap. I was in a meeting today where I made the statement again. And you might come away thinking I hate roadmaps, but that's not true. You might also think that I think you should never share or publish a product roadmap, and that's not entirely true either.

There's a question we have to answer before we get started…

What Kind of Product Roadmap Are We Talking About?

Before we land on a “do you” or “don't you” question, we have to be clear on what we're talking about.

Normally when people talk about a roadmap, they're talking about two components:

  1. A list of features
  2. Delivery dates of those features

And if that's what you mean when you are talking about a product roadmap, then that's the kind that I don't recommend publishing.

Why do I recommend not publishing that data?

I can tell you 3 reasons, from direct experience:

  • Customers can get angry that their request isn't on your list
    When you give customers a way to tell you what they wish for (which I think is a great idea), and then it doesn't appear on your roadmap, you can have a serious issue on your hands. Complaints, anger, frustration and cancellations can all appear – really quickly.
  • Competitors can know what you're rolling out next and beat you
    Telling your competitors where you're going, instead of where you've been, is not my recommended strategy for anything. Product roadmaps are one of those things (like hiring announcements or open positions) that experienced competitors can use to help them navigate their own efforts.
  • Prospects see something is in the future and delay their purchase
    The goal of a published roadmap is often to engage and invite new customers to sign up. But sometimes it can backfire on you if your prospects decide that they'll just circle back later.

Note this doesn't even include the chance that you miss your date (which can happen and impact all the scenarios and more).

What Kind of Roadmap Do I Suggest Publishing?

While I'm against publishing features and dates, I am open to something different. You saw this image when I told you about roadmap themes.

It's not exactly the same thing, is it? It sure looks like a product roadmap. But there are no dates there. It represents quarters more than anything else. Also, there are no features. Instead it showcases themes.

Product roadmap themes helps you articulate that you're focused on differentiators, improvements, and more. (You don't have to use my exact themes.)

But what it doesn't do is set you up for those frustrating dynamics listed above.

So if you're talking about a theme'd roadmap without dates, then yes, I'll all for publishing it. But not your traditional product roadmap. I don't think those help you as much as they have the ability to hurt you.

Of course, that's just one person's experience. Your mileage may vary. Like I said in an earlier post, roadmaps are a team sport. So engage your team and figure out what works best for you.

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