Public product roadmap 101: Guide, tools & best practices
In our current digital landscape, publishing business goals, strategic goals, and roadmaps have become essential. Companies that create public product roadmaps and embrace transparency have a better chance of maintaining valuable customer relationships in the future.
By sharing a project roadmap, you’re inviting stakeholders into the conversation rather than keeping them at arm’s length. This means SaaS companies can receive critical context and a new viewpoint that is oftentimes ignored by internal teams and product managers during the planning process.
Some companies believe keeping their SaaS roadmap private is the best option for their operations. But secrecy closes the door on engagement, causing customers to become weary, miss on key milestones and accomplished a project’s goals. That’s why 88 percent of consumers believe authenticity is a critical factor when supporting a business!
By generating user engagement, we can respond to requests and comments in real time, ensuring better decision-making. In this article, we’ll delve into everything about public roadmaps: what are they and how to use them optimally.
Beamer’s Guide for Roadmaps Tools and Best Practices.
What is a product roadmap?
To describe a public roadmap, we should consider the concept of accessibility. Accessibility is the foundation of a public roadmap. It’s where engagement and communication begin! 🧭
Simply put, a public roadmap is a document that businesses use to openly share what they are currently working on. This communication could include the product strategy and outlines; a direction, vision, and priorities.
A public roadmap is the ultimate goal-setting process for agile development that includes timelines with short-term and long-term goals.
It also communicates product changes to users and stakeholders alike. An external roadmap is a plan of action that is accessible to anyone.
Even though there are evident differences between a product roadmap (for a specific product), a project roadmap (for an entire project), and a technology roadmap (for technology development), in SaaS most of them fall into two roadmap templates:
- Timeline roadmap – this simple roadmap establishes a timeline with planned releases for upcoming months, quarters or release versions.
- Time horizons roadmap – this roadmap template is a more detailed plan, showcasing what’s in progress and all the tasks that need completing.
If companies publish their strategic plans and roadmap online, clients can track these timelines and add comments along the way.
These comments can be in the form of support, votes or valuable suggestions. Either way, it leads to a positive impact on your business strategy, reinforcing by popular demand what has been envisioned by the company leadership.
Good public roadmaps and strategic initiatives should build excitement as the goal is to retain current customers and attract new ones.
Unlike other timelines of yesteryear, modern roadmaps are a great communication tool; an open channel where communication flows both in and out.
A public SaaS roadmap including feature requests and the collection of feedback works as a unique engagement tool, indispensable for any product team. It builds interest via transparent communication and strong relationships between businesses and their clients.
Key benefits of product roadmaps.
A project roadmap keeps the entire team in sync.
Project roadmaps provide a strategic tool to keep multiple teams on the same page (specially in a cross functional project). With a roadmap, managers can translate business goals, company goals, and strategic thinking for the usually more task-oriented development team. All the details from management and advisory boards can be converted in step-by-step plan for specific features, smoothing the hardships of cross functional dependencies.
Your own project management tracker.
An agile roadmap means agile teams. Do you have an agile development team? Roadmaps serve as a project management tracker, a to do list of tasks with the corresponding schedule for release. Product teams can use this high level overview to easily measure organizational performance. The roadmap shows how efficient is the current product strategy and helps identify bottlenecks in any strategic initiative.
Don’t forget the small things.
While focused on company goals and major themes, some smaller tasks and initiatives can get lost in the day to day efforts of the development team. A good manager can create a roadmap to remind them of the details, backlog tasks and launch must-haves for the next major releases.
Strategic thinking backed by real data.
A roadmap that allows input from users and customer can provide data as vital as in depth research. By measuring the feedback in your product roadmap you can make informed decisions from resource allocation to minimizing risk factors. Tasks can be prioritized based on actual user data to weigh potential features success even before starting a project.
Facilitate investment ties with a clear picture.
A product roadmap can make the process of looking for funding or reporting to investors easier. Product roadmaps, as we claimed before, can organize major efforts but also keep track of any process. With product roadmaps as a project management tracker you can show investors or future investors what your team has already achieved and how efficient the budgets and funding is spent to achieve the desired outcome and the best ROI.
Why should you make your product roadmap public?
If you’ve ever experienced being out of the loop, you’ll know how demoralizing it can be.
SaaS companies who keep their roadmaps private, unconsciously or consciously, send a negative message to their intended audience.
And with the global SaaS market projected to spend $240.61 billion in 2022, keeping your roadmap private closes its doors to this SaaS investment.
By not publishing roadmaps, your business might also come across as lacking in transparency and not willing to provide updates or receive any type of feedback.
The benefits of a public strategic roadmap.
Companies may have the best internal roadmap tools available, but when they’re made private, no one will know. This privacy causes customers and stakeholders to rethink their engagement with your product. That’s why it’s always better to side with transparency.
By showing the digital landscape of your team’s strategic plan, you are communicating:
- What is going to be delivered
- Why it’s beneficial
- When it’ll be available
A SaaS roadmap that is made public shows your confidence in the customer benefits your product and your team provide. An effective roadmap not only does that, it reveals you are trusting and open to customer feedback to improve your SaaS product. A company that listens is a company that evolves.
Let’s take a look at several other reasons going public is beneficial.
Customers and stakeholders welcome transparency.
If your SaaS has a public roadmap, you’re letting your clients know you’re open to starting a dialogue. You’re welcoming their ideas with open arms.
Customers will be more inclined to enter a dialogue as your intentions are transparent.
By welcoming feedback and interactions, you are welcoming engagement. And customers who have been a part of the journey are less likely to drop off before the release date.
Attract new customers with less effort.
As mentioned earlier, sharing a public SaaS roadmap benefits existing customers and appeals to new customers as well.
As your roadmap is public, users have more chances of coming across it online. If it’s private, it’s locked away, unable to be seen.
Once potential customers stumble across your roadmap, they’re more likely to engage with your product. Especially as your product’s processes have been clearly mapped out and accounted for. This is specially true for a technology roadmap that can breach the gap between ideas and practicality.
Your customers have a voice.
If your strategic roadmap is accessible, you are giving your clients a voice. You’d be amazed at how many companies refuse help from outside sources, instead adhering to the age-old adage: it’s my way or the highway.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. A company can’t think of everything; there may be some instances where there’s a better solution elsewhere. Closing these branches of feedback shuts down any new improvements considered along the way.
Public SaaS companies who share their roadmap appear more likely to receive structured feedback. Opening a dialog goes a long way in creating loyal customers for SaaS and your product.
What to include in a roadmap?
There is no set of rules of what exactly goes on a roadmap (being public or private) but you should consider it carefully.
Promising too much in your roadmap can be setting your team up for failure, sharing too little may fall in the problem of transparency that we described before.
You can always use tried methods as the RICE scoring model (learn about it in this Medium post), or you can read one of our previous articles about roadmap best practices:
- Product Roadmap Best Practices.
- Product Roadmap for SaaS: Everything you Need to Know.
- Why Should Product Marketing be Involved in Roadmaps?
You can also use our experience as a roadmap template, or keep reading for some real life examples.
How to utilize a public roadmap.
Once you know the direction of your product and its business objectives and goals, you can explore your public roadmap. Let’s take a look at some of the best roadmap tools Beamer has to offer (apologies for the humblebrag):
When choosing a platform to create a roadmap, you should use what’s best for your company. Feedback should be your number one priority! Beamer provides an inbox tool where you can instantly reply to feature requests and comments.
Nothing promotes a dialogue more than live responses. Users will feel heard rather than forgotten. Not only that, but Beamer provides upvoting as well as announcements. In short, clients and stakeholders are always in the loop.
Invest in a changelog.
Think of your changelog as your product’s theater. Here you can announce your latest updates, new features, bug fixes, and news to all of your users. Our SaaS roadmap also sends targeted notifications to those in need.
Our changelog ensures all messages are received, so all clients are informed of any necessary changes. Securing the feedback provided down the line is relevant and not off topic.
Send targeted messages.
Sometimes you may want to send push notifications to a specific group following your product updates. Beamer can send custom notifications to targeted groups, such as encouraging those on a free subscription to upgrade.
We have the tool to engage with offline users so all clients receive relevant information. Not only that, we send content to users based on their past behavior and interests.
Public roadmap examples.
Now that we have become accustomed to Beamer, let’s consider some other product roadmap examples for SaaS.
Beamer’s product roadmap.
Not to toot our own horn (well, maybe a little), but we provide product managers with an accessible product roadmap tool. With Beamer:
- You can sort your features by different stages, such as Planned, In Progress, and Completed. You can change their names and tags based on your specific building process.
- Users can show their interest on selected features by upvoting and following for updates.
- Your users get notified on product updates.
These features offer a level of customization that you don’t readily have with using a public kanban board as your product roadmap 👀.
While the examples below are awesome, wouldn’t your audience appreciate a more interactive product roadmap?
Other roadmap templates and real examples.
Buffer’s public roadmap view is accessible and user-friendly. It’s supported by four simple lanes: Exploring, In Progress, Done, and Leaving It For Now, providing stakeholders with visual roadmap and a clear journey of progress.
Even though the lanes are simple, the SaaS roadmap is messy and confusing. With endless columns and tags, users may find it hard to navigate.
On the plus side, users can interact with clients as well as comment and vote.
GitHub’s public product roadmap lets users voice their opinion on every available tool. Because of this, Github can adjust its products based on feedback. Cultivating in a streamlined process where every user is involved.
As the feedback extends to all products, users are kept up-to-date with the features and progress of every single feature. These products are organized quarterly, ensuring users have a coherent view of tracking progress, what’s expected and when.
The issue with the SaaS roadmap is that its language is very technical, meaning users may miss out on some of its more important features.
Microsoft has a comprehensive and simple roadmap separated into three sections: in development, rolling out, and launched.
Simplifying its business roadmap means users can understand what’s expected at every stage, ensuring there’s less customer interference as large or complex projects are laid out in black and white.
Trello is a project management tool that lets customers subscribe to a SaaS roadmap and follow its progress across their board. Trello has three headings: ideas, doing, and shipped.
Users can create boards for their SaaS roadmaps and add cards to represent tasks. These visuals make projects feel more like blog posts, thus more exciting. Trello also includes commenting, voting, and board backgrounds.
One of its key features is that users can share card links via social media. Sharing online is a product roadmap’s best practice as it opens the door to more feedback.
If you’re asking yourself if a public roadmap is a good idea for your SaaS company, the answer is a resounding yes! The opportunity to receive feedback at every stage is too invaluable to miss.
You will be successful only if your users engage with your company goals and product. So it makes sense to include them along your journey. You’re making it for them so it should be catered to their needs.
The best roadmap communication tool, is transparency. By being open with your customers’ feedback, your communication becomes a conversation. Responding to their concerns and enquiries opens up a dialogue that’s not normally found in other product solutions.
If you need help starting your roadmap, think of Beamer. We make the whole process of creating and maintaining a roadmap easier. Trust us, we use it ourselves.