Agile software businesses spend a lot of time and effort determining what features customers want and prioritizing these features in a backlog. Despite their importance, customers are often left in the dark when it comes to planning a product roadmap. They have little visibility into what features are in the backlog and when they can be expected to launch.
Public roadmaps have become a popular way to involve customers in product decisions at a deeper level—especially with the rise in transparent Open Startups. With public roadmaps, customers can see upcoming features, vote on the features they want, view the development priority/status and have a much better idea of what to expect over time.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of public roadmaps and the best way to make them a reality in your business.Public roadmaps help product managers involve customers in key product-related decisions in order to maximize the odds of success. Click To Tweet
Will Competitors Steal Ideas?
Many businesses treat their development backlog as a trade secret. After all, a competitor could easily look at a public roadmap and build the same features or build marketing campaigns around feature gaps with their own products. A competitor could even build features faster than you and preempt your feature launches.
In reality, many of these concerns are overblown. Competitors often have their own priorities informed by their own customers. In many cases, competitors target slightly different niches, and their customers have slightly different priorities. If a competitor is copying your backlog, they are listening to your customers rather than their own—to their detriment.
Benefits of Public Roadmaps
The benefits of a public roadmap almost always outweigh the cons. While it can be a little scary putting everything in the public domain, public roadmaps open the door to customer feedback that wouldn’t be possible otherwise and demonstrate a commitment to transparency that many customers appreciate from the software that they purchase.
Some of the biggest benefits include:
- Better prioritization. Public roadmaps ensure that you’re always building the features that customers want since they’re actively voting on them. You don’t have to make educated guesses or hope that a small subset of user interviews reflects the wants and needs of the larger user base.
- Managing expectations. Public roadmaps help manage expectations by showing exactly what features are in the pipeline and when they might launch. For example, a customer pushing for a niche feature can quickly realize that it’s not as popular as they thought and understand the “why” behind the company’s priorities.
- Defensible plans. Product managers can use public roadmaps to justify and defend feature priorities to stakeholders. It’s hard to argue against customer feedback when it comes to development priorities, which can save a lot of time negotiating what the backlog should look like before each sprint.
Beyond existing customers, public roadmaps can also be a helpful sales tool for prospects. For example, if a prospect is interested in a feature in development, the public roadmap makes it easy to see where it stands in the vetting or development process. They can also see other features that are in the pipeline that may be of interest to them.
How to Add a Public Roadmap
There are many different ways to provide a public roadmap. For example, a public Trello board might contain columns like Feature Requests, Under Review, Planned and In Progress with each card representing a feature coming from internal or external sources. Customers could then leave comments on each card or vote using the Voting Power-Up.
Roadmap Portal for JSD is a good option for businesses that are already in the Atlassian ecosystem. Through an integration with Jira Service Desk, the platform provides a public roadmap that’s only accessible to customers registered in JSD, which might limit visibility for the wider public while still enabling the collection of valuable customer opinions.
There are several unique features:
- Connect Roadmap Portal cards to Jira Issues to connect customers with developers.
- Customize everything just the way you want with the Jira Query Language (JQL).
- Limit access to the public roadmap to customers in Jira Service Desk.
Closing the Entire Feedback Loop
The Agile development process relies on a tight customer feedback loop. While building the right features matters, it’s only one step in ensuring that customers are getting the most value from your products. You have to ensure that customers know how to use the new features, monitor them to identify any snags and patch any bugs that may arise.
After building a feature, product announcements and release notes are essential to inform customers of the new features and help them use it. Product announcements might include blog posts, email campaigns or even onboarding sequences designed to introduce customers to the feature and guide them through using it the first time.
Automated Release Notes for Jira is a helpful tool for creating and distributing release notes pulled from Jira Issues. You can use JQL queries to choose what Jira Issues are included along with what information to show for each of them. You can even create dedicated release pages and in-app widgets designed to keep users informed at all times.
The Bottom Line
Product roadmaps are powerful communication tools that keep developers, stakeholders, marketers and other team members in sync. While they have traditionally been internal-facing, public roadmaps can bring customers into the fold and keep them up-to-date and engaged in the planning process to set the right expectations.
Roadmap Portal for JSD is a powerful tool to unlock the benefits of bringing customers into the loop while not showing your hand to competitors. Try it for free today!