At Government Digital Service (GDS), having an open roadmap is one of our principles for agile ways of working. Our roadmap for GOV.UK Pay has always been open, but we wanted to explore how we might collaborate with users on prioritising things on the roadmap.
Making your roadmap openly available allows anyone to see what value you’ll be creating over time. As a communication tool, a roadmap is a great way to have conversations about priorities, for users and for stakeholders. By involving users in the creation of the roadmap, we want to see whether we can form a better bond with users.
What we did
To find out how organisations were using roadmaps openly and collaboratively in the public and private sector, we asked some questions:
- What are the best open roadmaps you’ve come across? What made them good?
- What ways have your team or companies invited users to collaborate on your roadmap? What benefits did that have?
These questions were posed to the cross-government product management community, the local government digital community, and the wider product management community through Twitter, General Assembly and Mind the Product.
What we found
The roadmap for Microsoft Teams shows recently launched features, things in development now and what they’ll be working on next.
It’s a high functioning roadmap giving users a detailed description of what’s happening, when it’s happening, allowing them to subscribe to updates or start a conversation on the community forum. It doesn’t show users what’s happening beyond the next quarter or what’s in the backlog.
Thanks to Matt Knight for this suggestion!
Artfinder works quite closely with its community according to its roadmap. Users can see what’s in the backlog, what’s been prioritised, what they’re working on and what’s been released. They also suggestions that need further research, things they’ll work on later and things they will not do. One bug / operational improvement is listed, but that’s it. From the looks of it, Artfinder is making its full product pipeline openly available, which is great to see!
Artfinder use many of Trello’s features, such as commenting, voting and labels, to invite comment and collaboration from their users. They’re also good at adding reasons for why some roadmap items are in certain sections, e.g. won’t do.
It looks like the roadmap hasn’t been updated since August 2019, suggesting that they didn’t have the time or capacity to uphold this process (or maybe it was a one-off event).
Thanks to Laurence Mallows for this suggestion!
Monzo US use their roadmap quite actively. They show users what’s been launched, what they’re working on now, and what’s next. Everything else is described as ‘Ideas we might explore’. Operational work isn’t included, only features that appeal to users.
They’re using the range of Trello features to collaborate with users too, inviting comments and voting from users. They also link to their community form for conversation on features. And looking at the board’s activity, it’s kept up-to-date and users are invited to get involved often.
I wonder whether it’s easier for the Monzo US product people to keep their roadmap up-to-date as they might be able to port UK features over to the US market. Less time spent devising and developing features may mean there’s more time to focus on product ops – but that’s an assumption of mine.
Thanks to Paul O’Neill for this suggestion!
Another Trello roadmap from Buffer, the social media management tool. It’s split up into ideas they’re exploring, work in progress, work they’ve shipped, things they’re leaving for now. Operational improvements such as optimising user journeys are included, but I couldn’t see anything about under-the-hood improvements.
Like Monzo and Artfinder, Buffer invite their users to comment on and vote for features. Buffer staff also invite users to have a chat over email (which might lead on to phone calls, video chats or user visits). It’s a really active board! Just yesterday, someone on Buffer’s product team added a card to the list of ideas to explore. And it’s been going for 4 years!
Thanks to Chanel Can and Ben Unsworth for this suggestion!
AWS container services
Amazon Web Services host the roadmap for container services on GitHub, similar to GDS’s Design System roadmap. It shows features they’re researching, stuff they’re working on, work that’s close to shipping, features in developer preview (private beta), and things they’ve shipped.
Roadmaps on GitHub require people to raise issues, giving a place for conversation to happen, in the open, and to be linked to code when it’s released (if you use GitHub to manage your code). It’s great for developer audiences but might be a barrier to anyone not using GitHub regularly.
Thanks to Dan Blundell for this suggestion!
What we’ll do next
It’s been useful to see how other organisations approach roadmapping and the conversations they’re having with users, in the open. Miika Savela from the Mind the Product community shared an article from Shipright, a product feedback tool, on why your feature voting board may be messing up your product.
The article points out that you can’t rely solely on voting to help you set the roadmap, product teams should use many of the feedback signals coming in from the userbase to help set direction. So as long as a roadmap is used to start conversations with your users, one way to open up collaboration on prioritisation to show them the trade-offs you need to make, you’ll avoid relying on it as a Magic 8-Ball.
Since we’re looking at our engagement model and product pipeline right now, we’ll consider how we can fit an open roadmap into user group meetings and conversations over support channels.
Things to consider
- How much time can we dedicate to keeping the open roadmap up-to-date?
- How will we encourage users to look at the roadmap? e.g. which support channels?
- What questions and concerns can the roadmap help us answer for users?
- Do users care about features only or is it useful to know about operational work?
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