Imagine promising a client that you’ll deliver a project in ten days and finishing it in just seven days—there’s no doubt that they’ll be happy. On the other hand, imagine promising that you’ll deliver a project in three days and finishing it in seven days—they’ll undoubtedly be upset. The only difference between these two scenarios was the client’s expectations.
Product managers must carefully balance the needs of both, stakeholders and customers while ensuring a sustainable pace for the development team. Managing product roadmap expectations is one of the most important ways to ensure that everyone feels heard and confident that the project is heading in the right direction.
Let’s take a look at how to manage stakeholder and customer expectations when building a product roadmap and some tools that might help along the way.Managing expectations is a challenging task for any product manager, but there are some key strategies that can help. Click To Tweet
Keep Stakeholders in Check
Stakeholders tend to be very optimistic, which can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, optimism is critical to rallying employees around ambitious goals. On the other hand, optimism can lead to unrealistic expectations if left unchecked. Product managers must walk this fine line between optimism and realistic expectations when managing a roadmap.
There are three strategies that can help:
- Focus optimism on what you can control. Rather than guaranteeing a successful outcome by the time a certain deadline rolls around, commit to continuous product improvements and incremental progress towards a goal.
- Use a roadmap, not a backlog. Roadmaps provide strategic context for backlog items and context is imperative for stakeholders. Rather than presenting them with a list of checked off to-do list items, show them a roadmap of where the business is headed.
- Defend the roadmap with hard data. Product managers must balance stakeholder demands with user feedback and other requests. If you need to push back against a stakeholder, prepare a defense with metrics (e.g., user feedback or surveys).
Jira’s Roadmapping Tools – Source: Atlassian
Internal roadmaps are a great way to manage stakeholder expectations. For example, Jira makes it easy to create roadmaps and use smart filters to share the right versions with stakeholders. These stakeholder roadmaps should be sufficiently high level to avoid meddling in day-to-day tasks while inspiring confidence in the project moving forward.
Manage Customer Expectations
Product managers must also manage customer expectations. While customers don’t own the product, they pay for the product (in one way or another) and have certain expectations when it comes to the user experience. Managing product roadmap expectations is imperative to minimising customer churn and ensuring long-term success.
There are three strategies that can help:
- Provide clear timelines. Bugs and other errors are irritating and costly to customers, but it’s even more irritating when they’re never fixed. Provide users with a clear timeline for bug fixes and a fairly accurate timeline for feature releases.
- Be realistic with expectations. Try to under-promise and over-deliver on roadmap items with customers. Of course, you shouldn’t overshoot estimates by a large margin, but it pays to give your team some buffer when pushing out features and fixes.
- Follow up with customers. When a new feature or bug fix is released, be sure to follow-up with customers—especially those affected by bugs or those that requested the feature—using tools like Automated Release Notes for Jira.
Amoeboids’ Roadmap Portal for JSD – Source: Amoeboids
Public roadmaps are a great way to manage customers’ product roadmap expectations. Using tools like Roadmap Portal for JSD, you can keep customers in the loop with regards to the roadmap, as well as empower them to suggest features and bug fixes. They’ll have a better idea of what to expect and you can benefit from insights straight from the customer!
Commit to a Well-Defined Plan
The best way to manage product roadmap expectations is to use well-defined processes to keep the roadmap, team members, stakeholders and customers up to date. With concrete checklists of action items in place, you can minimize the odds of roadmap updates or customer communications falling through the cracks.
There are a few steps to consider:
- Start by putting together a single source of truth for your product roadmap, such as a Trello board or Roadmap Portal for JSD.
- Make it easy for anyone to add backlog items to the product roadmap, including the support team, sales team, customers and stakeholders.
- Regularly update and prioritize the product roadmap based on metrics and other information to keep everyone in the loop.
- Create a process to follow up with customers when features and bug fixes are released.
In addition to dedicated roadmap tools, you may want to try workflow management tools like Process.st, which can help coordinate workflows spanning multiple people or groups. That way, adding backlog items or following up with customers becomes automatic and you don’t need to rely on email reminders or other unreliable communication channels.
The Bottom Line
Managing expectations is a challenging task for any product manager. Oftentimes, stakeholders and customers have conflicting interests that must be reconciled on a product roadmap. Managing expectations is key to reassure both stakeholders and customers that the project is heading in the right direction.
In addition to setting expectations, regular communication is key to keeping everyone engaged and on the same page. Agile processes encourage regular communication with customers as a source of direction, as well as weekly team meetings to discuss any obstacles in the way of development or other issues.
If you use Atlassian products, checkout Amoeboids’ plugins on the Atlassian Marketplace to find ways to streamline your critical workflows.