The Road(map) Less Traveled
“How do you guys decide what goes into your product roadmap?” – we get this question at least once a week, so I decided to shed some light on this process.
There are three main sources of ideas that feed our roadmap:
- Direct feedback from our clients;
- Comments and suggestions from prospects;
- Internal team brainstorming.
Let’s talk about all of these channels.
Direct feedback from our clients
This is the biggest source of new features and enhancements. On average, our customers send us 3-5 new ideas each week. These requests range from small things like adding a new metric to the reports, to full-blown modules like Payroll or Invoicing.
This channel is also the toughest to manage. It is natural for each client to lobby for the things that makes sense to their business. However, with several thousands of clients we have to be careful with prioritizing, to make sure that our new features and enhancements will benefit most of our customers. To facilitate this process we use our Easy Projects Community Center, which allows users to submit and vote for the ideas they like.
Comments and suggestions from the prospects
Feature ideas coming from our prospects also account for a significant percentage of our roadmap. Usually prospects are not shy about communicating their requests to our Sales Team, and in turn our Sales Team is not shy about communicating the needs to development. But once again, we have to be careful about what we can take on. A feature that won’t be helpful to the majority of our clients in most cases will be rejected, even if it comes from a large account.
Internal Team Brainstorming
That’s where things get creative. Henry Ford once allegedly said “If I gave my customers only what they asked for, I would have built faster horses”. Sometimes when customers request features they are actually looking for a better way to do something. In Ford’s example people wanted to get places faster and they thought the only way was with faster horses, without Ford and his team innovating we wouldn’t have the automobile.
There is no magic formula for innovation, so we try to keep it easy. Every team member (from support, development, sales and marketing) can suggest an idea how we can make Easy Projects better. We also conduct regular brainstorming sessions for the same purpose.
There is another fourth source of features – that’s our technical backlog. It is comprised of dull stuff like performance improvements, code refactoring, known issues from support, architecture updates, etc. Our recent migration to the Azure Cloud platform is a good example of such an activity.
Roadmap Selection Process
Every 3 months or so, our core product team gets together to decide what will make the list for the next quarterly roadmap. At that meeting, we rate every single request from our backlog based on the following criteria:
- Estimated efforts / Complexity;
- Usefulness to existing clients;
- Ability to attract new clients;
- Product impact / supportability.
3-5 items with the highest score make it to the Roadmap.
Sometimes we have situations when a client or a prospect needs a unique solution that has to be delivered within a tight timeframe. In those cases, we engage our Professional Services team, which specializes in custom solutions.
Our Product Roadmap process is far from being perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes by not getting the priorities right. Then we regroup, analyze what went wrong and write it to our collective memory as “lessons learned”.
If you’re involved in a product development, we’d love to hear about your process.