John MacAdam

The Customer Should Not Define Your Product Roadmap

Nov 25, 2018

I make products and sell services. My most successful product is Hours Worked. The product has been through many updates over the years. Some major updates and some minor updates. Major updates include: releasing on a new platform, adding brand new features, or rewriting the entire product. Each major update has had two things in common:

  1. They made the product more successful than ever.
  2. Not a single customer asked for these updates.

Solve your own problems

I should clarify. Not a single external customer requested these major changes. They were my own interests. I wanted them. Originally, I created Hours Worked to track my own time. It solved my own problem. The first product was a spreadsheet that did exactly what I needed it to. About a year later I released a web app for the product. A couple of years later I released a mobile app. And, the mobile app has seen a few major updates since then.

The spreadsheet users were not asking for a website. The Chrome users were not asking for a mobile app. The mobile app users were not dreaming up major new features. All major product updates were scratching my own itch. I was defining my own product roadmap.

Solving your own problems with major releases has a few benefits:

Customer feedback is still valuable

For Hours Worked, customer feedback was coming in. Direct feedback such as customer reviews and emails (sometimes nasty). And indirect feedback through analytics and store metrics. The product received many updates based on customer feedback:

But it is important to keep in mind what customer feedback is for. It reflects the current version of your product. The way it is today. Customer suggestions are based on your existing product. Your job is to look ahead. What major change to the product would you personally most like to use? What big steps would you like to see the product take?

A suggested product roadmap cycle

I stumbled onto a product development roadmap that works for me. It goes something like this:

Customers impact the short term. You control the big picture. This system has worked for me. I hope it works for you as well.