The end of roadmap secrecy?

A long time ago, in a much different job in a galaxy far, far, away, we used to joke that there were three product roadmaps: (1) the customer-facing one, which was laconic to the point of uselessness; (2) the official roadmap for the product team; and (3) the architect's super-double-secret roadmap.

On the other end of the continuum, you have companies like Salesforce, which is willing to make its roadmap visible, to a very substantial extent, to anyone browsing the corporate web site. Salesforce won't tell you everything they're doing, like potential acquisitions or partnerships. However, the IdeaExchange drives product enhancements in a very transparent way.

Most technology companies aren't willing to make their roadmaps as visible as Salesforce's, but the percentage that are increases daily. Open source may have given a cultural boost: anyone with strong enough motivation could add new functionality to the project. However, the open source community won't convince a CEO that it's a good idea to make a commercial product's direction visible to everyone--including competitors.

I can't think of any product, including security tools, that have a good reason to hide every part of their roadmap. Both customer and vendor benefit from openness. For some executives, however, it may feel like they're walking around naked for a little while.

Categories:

Comments

re: The end of roadmap secrecy?

What is the benefit of roadmap transparency if the information is fluid? Large companies like Salesforce may get benefit from publicizing their roadmap, but I don't think that holds as much value for smaller companies.At a smaller company, the roadmap is much more valuable because it encompasses a greater portion of the company's strategy. It's also much more likely to be changing, which can make a public roadmap a liability, too, when you have explain to customers why something that was originally in the next release has moved or is no longer on the roadmap at all.I show my product roadmap (and MRD/PRD) to customers and prospects when it makes sense and there is a context to it (and when they are under NDA). Why do I need to make that information public to anyone who visits the corporate website?

re: The end of roadmap secrecy?

Tom, having your product roadmap visible to the public is a lot like letting your team have their own blogs for some organizations. Old-school thinking believes this is a lot like letting the inmates run the asylum. Unfortunately what they're missing is the honest feedback they could be getting to let them know when they're drinking too much of their own Kool-Aid. Or heavens forbid actually get some constructive feedback that could drive significant revenue.--Dave

re: The end of roadmap secrecy?

There are roadmaps and there are roadmaps. For a large market leading org such as SalesForce.com, the roadmap revolves around a standardized release cycle and high level directions along with specific features generated via IdeaExchange.It's easy for SFDC to publicly these things, as there is little in this information that will give their competitors any tactical or strategic advantage.At Informatica, where I worked in the early part of this decade (seems weird saying that), I implemented (along with a team from Marketing), what we called the Product Enhancement Process (PEP). Starting in 2002 we conducted detailed customer surveys related to feature enhancements. This data was used to help prioritize (along with market direction, product strategy and competitive analysis) new functionality. In my last year there, we had over 1500 respondents representing about 1000 companies. We would report the results back to customers annually at user group meetings in North America and Europe. I've written about this process here:http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/3/3/0505skAgain, it worked well as Informatica was a market leading company.As for smaller companies, particularly in early stage or growing markets, not only must roadmaps be fluid (to react to changing market conditions), but revealing them publicly can provide significant advantage to competitors. In this scenario, making the roadmap public can only hurt. If it regularly changes, then publishing it is meaningless. If you stick to it, then you are telegraphing your future products to competitors who can then out market and out message you.As is true in so many cases, the answer to question of publicly revealing a roadmap is: it depends.Saeed