This is a very basic question that, in my opinion, every customer has the right to know about a company they are working with and invested in. You will see a whole bunch of different articles and methods talking specifically about what a company is working on and when to expect it. This is important, don't get me wrong, but if you're an outside customer looking in at a roadmap there are usually a few different reactions and questions that come up.
1. "Where is the feature that I have been advocating for?"
2. "Why are they working on this feature that we don't even use?"
3. "I literally have no idea what this "thing" is that they are spending 4 sprints on."
These are all natural questions and reactions to have when a detailed roadmap is slapped in front of you without any context. That's because you don't have the proper context of "How". How did the company choose what is on that roadmap you are looking at?
Well that's what I want to attempt to answer on the behalf of AgriSync.
How do ideas come in?
1. Customer Feedback
AgriSync has a Feature Request Board that we utilize to gather ideas and feedback from our customers. Our customer success and sales team do a great job of not only keeping it up to date and answering questions, but also leading customers there who maybe aren't familiar.
When using a feature request board, often times the most difficult part is making customers aware it exists. Once they know, then the rest will take care of itself.
The other avenues for feedback are pretty self-explanatory. We're always willing to take note of feedback we receive in phone calls, emails, chats, etc.
It's one thing to listen to feedback, but it's even more important to act upon it. For AgriSync, that means taking feedback and either creating a feature request post, immediately assigning it to our Product Team, or discussing the feedback in our internal meetings that will be covered down below.
2. Employee Ideas
Who knows better than the people living and breathing your product on a daily basis?
Often times, employee feedback is the easiest to gather because I can turn my seat around or fire off a chat/email. However, these are the hardest requests to get into our pipeline because we like to take a "prove it" approach to these ideas.
What does this mean? It means that if someone internally thinks we should be working on something, that employee needs to be able to logically defend the request. We want them to ask themselves, "How many customers does this impact?" "Are there any concerns of a negative impact with this request?" "Will this feature attract any new customers?" "Is there data to support my idea/request?"
All of these are questions that an internal employee might need to answer to get their ideas across the finish line. Whereas, a customer has the benefit of being able to just say "I want this because it will make my life easier". And the customer is always right 😃
How do we take ALL of those ideas and funnel them down to what we feel is most important?
1. Weekly meeting with customer support, sales, and product
We call this Triple P (product, planning, priority) and this is the most valuable meeting I have on my calendar. This is where I get my weekly dose of what's happening with our customers. The good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly. It's what every product team needs to have a pulse on because it's too easy to get swept up in the day-to-day tasks and forget about the bigger picture.
We have a dedicated document that we go through every single Friday that lays out what product improvements we are currently working on, what's coming up in the next 1-2 months, and what do we want to add to our future roadmap. Each person in this meeting can add to the list and highlight specific items that need to be discussed in the meeting.
2. Weekly grooming with development
We take what we learn from our Friday meeting, let it marinate in our minds over the weekend, and then first thing on Monday morning we gather our development team to review.
If there is anything we are currently working on that needs to be discussed, we do that first. Otherwise, we focus on the new. We talk about the efforts and resources that will be needed to knock out our next tasks coming up.
3. Quarterly roadmap planning
About 1-2 weeks prior to a new quarter starting, the product team meets with the leadership team to discuss the next quarter's product roadmap. Before jumping into the next quarter though we have to review how we did in the previous quarter. Did we accomplish everything we wanted to accomplish? If not, then why and will that be something we now need to account for in upcoming quarter?
Ideally there shouldn't be any surprises in this meeting because of the frequent communication and constant review of deliverables in the meetings listed above. The hardest part about this meeting is not what we are going to work on, but how can we accomplish as much as possible with the resources at our disposal.
To wrap it all up
So there you have it! There is no right or wrong answer. Every company goes about scheduling and road-mapping in a different way but I would argue that whatever method you use, don't let it be a secret.
Let your customers know the best way for them to be heard. Don't be afraid to put in a request on our changelog. I can't promise an immediate new feature but at least you'll know how we select things to work on next at AgriSync!
Product Manager at AgriSync