Product managers are always looking for better ways to get feedback from customers on which new features are most important. A few companies have embraced the “Web 2.0” model and are putting their feature candidate lists out there for everyone to see and comment on.
Dell has Dell IdeaStorm where anyone can register and submit their ideas and vote other ideas up or down.
Salesforce has, not surprisingly, creates a SaaS service which they sell to other companies but which they also use themselves. IdeaExchange is viewable by everyone, but only registered Salesforce users can comment or vote on ideas.
Sun has always made their bug (and FR) database for Java publicly available, which was certainly great back in my days as a Java developer.
It’s an interesting idea to implement this for the product I’m currently working on, but is it always appropriate? Just like with roadmaps, it’s not a good idea for small companies to put too much data out in public as it gives too much away to competitors. For companies like Salesforce.com, Sun and Dell, there’s not much here that’s really a secret; it wouldn’t take a competitor very long to figure out the gaps in specific functional areas of Salesforce. But consider your own product – would giving away these details to competitors be a bigger drawback then the greater level of customer engagement you’d get in return?