roadmapWe’re product managers. Making the roadmap is one of our key jobs. But who gets to see the roadmap?

I was prompted when I found this roadmap shared on a company’s website. (and I’m not trying to pick on them, it just got me thinking on the topic) I’m all for transparency, but this strikes me as having gone too far. You need to be somewhat careful in choosing who you share your roadmap with. Customers, definitely. Prospects probably. But I find two things wrong with this approach. First, it’s mostly backward-looking. Maybe it’s simply been up a long time. But there’s not really any benefit in explaining your product’s history to customers, unless your product is Louis XV chairs. Second, there’s no context about why they did what they did.

The purpose of the roadmap is to convince customers of two things: that you will be doing the right things in the future and, more importantly, that you’re doing the right thing RIGHT NOW. Every product manager has heard the story of what happened to Osborne when they let their roadmap get too far ahead of their product line.

You may have an internal roadmap that goes into detail on choices, options and reasons why certain choices were made. But that’s not the roadmap you show customers. The roadmap you show customers isn’t the one you use to help plan the product, it’s a completely separate tool that’s built to sell. The roadmap sells not just the product, it’s the place where you get a chance to sell your vision. And if customers agree with your vision, it’s a lot easier to get them to buy your product.

So, who gets to see the roadmap? Show the external roadmap to anyone, as long as you’re there to explain it to them. Where “you” could be the product manager, a sales engineer or even a sales person. But the roadmap should never stand on its own without having someone there to explain it and put it into the context of the customer’s needs and issues. (Large enterprise customer? Focus on the multi-user roles. SMB customer? Skip user roles and talk about faster time-to-value). But don’t just leave the roadmap hanging out there on its own. To most people, it will just look like a Magic Roundabout.


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