Make your roadmap publicly accessible
Thanks to tools like Trello, it has never been easier to publicise your team/company’s plans. In doing so you’re able to engage your customers and gain valuable feedback on what you should be prioritising, whilst holding yourself to account that you will actually deliver them!
We’ve recently done this at Brewbix (go check it out), and I wanted to share a few reasons why, and how best to go about it.
You have a plan!
Lots of teams / companies are super busy just doing the things they need to do to keep going, and don’t set aside the time to plan. Alternatively, some teams are just used to doing what they have been told, and so don’t actually make their own plan. If you’ve actually made your plan transparent, then that must mean you actually have a plan. That’s a great thing! You’re already ahead of many others.
Your external communications match your internal plans
Often there is a separate Marketing team that is talking to customers about what is coming next. If this is the case, then what your audience is told will be happening may become misaligned with what is actually happening. If your team is working directly from the plan that customers are seeing, then this problem is solved.
Holding yourself to account
Once you’ve said to the world you are going to do something, then you feel a commitment to actually going on and delivering it. As I will come on to later, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your plan, but it does not look good if you don’t deliver anything on there at all. Making your plans public makes it more likely that you will drive to deliver them. It’s a great way to bring accountability to teams.
Drives customer engagement
If you make it easy for your customer/users to see and interact with your plans, then you will be able to get some early feedback from them. This can be invaluable in making sure you are prioritising the right things for them.
Increases customer excitement
People can get excited about your plans, and look forward to what is to come from your team. People like to see that their ideas are being taken on board too, so if they can see them on your plans then they may stop badgering you for certain features/products!
Create alignment across your organisation
If there are multiple teams in your organisation, it can be really beneficial for other teams to see what your plans are too. They might have dependent / complementary plans, so allowing them to understand your priorities and give feedback on what would work for them can drive much better alignment within an organisation.
So how should I do this?
Here are a few tips for how to go about making your plans transparent. Plans shouldn’t be set in stone; we need to stay agile and make sure we are “responding to change, over following a plan”. We need to find ways to make this “agile mindset” transparent too.
Don’t put dates on your plan
Sadly, when people think of roadmaps they often visualise a Gantt Chart, which gives roadmaps a bad name. Gantt charts focus people on delivering features by a certain date, whereas a good roadmap should allow a team to deliver the thing that will be most valuable at the time.
My roadmaps don’t have dates, but instead clearly state what is being worked on now and what is coming next. They put all the potential ideas/features/products into an order, and have some way of demonstrating the decreasing certainty as we get further into the future. I like to put everything into columns:
- Current focus
- Maybe one day
This gives everyone an idea of the order in which I expect to do things, but at the same time doesn’t commit me to anything specifically. I am still able to move things around/add new things as I get new data/ideas/feedback.
If you really need to, add some sizing
It can be helpful for people to know how big different items are on your roadmap. If we want anyone to be able to understand the roadmap (which we do, see below), then we are best to give a form of time estimate.
There are drawbacks to time estimates. It’s impossible to know in advance how long things will take, and many people are worried about committing to something when the complexity is unknown. However, it would be wrong to pretend that everything is the same size, so we need to find a way that doesn’t require specific estimates, but does give an idea of the size. I suggest putting everything into the following buckets:
- Less than 1 month
- 2–3 months
- 7–12 months
This doesn’t create too much of a hard commitment , but it does give any reader of the roadmap a good idea how long it might take to deliver an item. Which is ideal when we come onto the next point…
Make it easy for anyone to understand
Whilst you might think your roadmap is the most exciting thing in the world, not everyone will do immediately. If they look at it and don’t understand it straight away, then they will not engage. It has to be simple to understand, by anyone.
I literally asked my mum if she understood our roadmap. As a result I:
- added some clear notes to give an introduction to what the user is looking at
- added clear descriptions of each item that can be easily understood by anyone
- added some simple labels that communicate something useful
Make it easy for anyone to feedback
The most valuable thing about a transparent roadmap is the feedback that you get to help you prioritise. Find a tool that allows some easy feedback mechanisms. With Trello for example, it is easy to allow people to vote/comment from a free account. If you want to get feedback on your roadmap, you need to make it really easy for anyone to give it.Your roadmap is not the most important thing in their world, so if you want to get interaction from them, then you need to make it as easy as possible.
That’s it. Simples. With tools like Trello it is really easy to do. So why wouldn’t you do it?!
Let me know your thoughts.
Check out BrewBix — healthy dog treats upcycled from craft brewery leftovers.
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