The Secret to a Great Product Roadmap: Involve Customer Success in the Planning

Every CSM wants to know the secret to a great product roadmap, but very few are able to decode it. In this write-up, we look at how customer success can play a pivotal role in achieving this endeavor.

The Secret to a Great Product Roadmap: Involve Customer Success in the Planning
The Secret to a Great Product Roadmap: Involve Customer Success in the Planning

You may have a destination to reach, but without the right directions to get there, it is possible for you to get lost. This is also applicable when it comes to products, which is why product managers put so much emphasis on product roadmaps.

A product roadmap is one of the most important tools that product owners and managers need in their arsenal. For development teams, the product roadmap serves as the shared source of truth that highlights the product’s vision, the priorities or milestones, and the progress of the product.

However, as product development and consumption dynamics change, product roadmaps also undergo sizable number changes. When drafting the product roadmap, one notable change is involving your Customer Success (CS) teams. This is now a secret to a useful product roadmap.

If you are wondering how the CS team can contribute to your product roadmap, this article is for you. We will discuss how the inputs from the CS team can help come up with a failproof product roadmap.

What is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap can be defined as a strategic document highlighting all the important milestones/ stages of product development. The key objective of a product roadmap is to communicate a new product’s strategic direction and progress. It uses a visual representation to communicate the product’s short-term and long-term goals to be achieved and those that have already been fulfilled.

An effective product roadmap provides a visual overview of the product goals, features, timeline, and resources. By looking at the product roadmap, the product owner or the manager can see –

What the development team is working on

What issue that the technology or software is or will address

The commercial objectives the new product will meet

Most software businesses and other organizations that produce technology utilize product roadmaps.

Note: For your product roadmap to be effective, you need to have a good understanding of what you want to build and why you want to build it. Once you have the knowledge of what and why you will be able to visualize how to get there

Why do you need a product roadmap?

The product roadmap is an immensely powerful tool, not only for the product development teams but for the entire set of stakeholders. Here are a few reasons why you need a product roadmap –

  1. Product roadmaps serve as the single sources of truth that help the team members access the product/ organization’s vision and strategy.
  2. Product roadmaps are visual by nature; this helps the teams involved to understand the plan-of-action, and what is expected from them.
  3. It serves as a strategic tool for creating futuristic objectives and strict timelines for product development tools.
  4. It improves communication between the teams as well as the customers as all the stakeholders involved can comment on the objectives and development of the product.
  5. Designing a product roadmap is a discussion rather than a decree. It facilitates regular discussions and the exchange of feedback; this way, it also boosts the teams’ motivation.

Creating a product roadmap

There are five key stages involved in creating a product roadmap. The steps include –

Step 1: Start by establishing your organization and product vision, and goals with your team.

Step 2: Define and discuss how the proposed product will fulfill the set goals established in Step 1.

Step 3: Build a draft roadmap.

Step 4: Get feedback from your team and ask for stakeholders’ buy-in.

Step 5: Implement the feedback and rework the roadmap.

Best practices for building a great, value-added product roadmap

1. S for strategy

As discussed earlier, a product roadmap is a communication document. It serves as the single source of truth for all the stakeholders involved. Therefore, you need to stress making it strategic. By adopting the “true north” approach, i.e., by explaining the ‘why’ behind every decision made during the journey. For instance, if the roadmap mentions a specific set of the target audience, then it should also be able to answer ‘why’ the specific set.

2. Involve all the stakeholders

Product managers are responsible for ensuring that the product roadmap is a collaborative effort. Including all the stakeholders (from teams including the product development team, marketing, and sales team, etc.) and asking them to participate, results in an efficient product roadmap.

Encouraging executives from different teams to contribute makes it possible to open up to newer perspectives and increase innovation levels. It is also an excellent opportunity to ensure that the entire team understands the product/ organization’s vision and is on the same page. However, when a lot of people are involved, it is possible to lose sight of the vision and drift away. So, product managers need to guide the executives to remain focused.

3. Prioritize frequently

The product development life cycle is broken down into several sprints. New features or product updates are released during each of these sprints. The events that happen during these sprints also dictate the overall project management – the product features define how your end product shapes up. Considering this, the project managers monitor the sprints and prioritize the features/ events to be released. The prioritization should have a strategic approach; the product features are what add life to your product strategy.

Project managers get a number of prioritization requests from the stakeholders involved. However, they need to prioritize what needs to be released first. At the same time, it is also important to note that prioritization needs to be done frequently – even the features pushed into the backlog.

4. Be agile

The current day business environment is evolving quite rapidly. This also has a significant impact on the product development process. In the current day, there is no place for rigid, long-term strategies. Short-term goals, innovation, and the ability to incorporate feedback are now the mantras to success. In short, it is all about agility. Keeping this in mind, product managers need to emphasize making the product roadmap agile.

When using agile methodologies, it is possible to make changes to the roadmap at regular intervals to suit the evolving market trends. A high-quality product roadmap is one that starts small but thinks big. So, to make the product roadmap agile, product managers need to draft it for shorter timeframes and stress continuous integration and development to fulfill the long-term goal.

5. Use metrics

Data is of extreme value, especially when it is data related to the customers. It helps you understand your customers and gives you a fair idea of what they want and when. Teams can also understand better and be more motivated when there is quantifiable data available. So, ensure that your product roadmap provides data to justify your choices.

6. Involve Customer Success in Product Roadmap Planning

Now, here comes the most important practice to add value to your product roadmap…

Involve CUSTOMER SUCCESS in product road mapping

It is not new that businesses are emphasizing walking the customer-centric path to grow and succeed. For this, businesses need to integrate customer success into every aspect of their process – including the creation of product planning.

By bringing Customer Success on board when developing a product roadmap, the organization can have a clearer understanding of what customer wants and their behaviors.

This information is invaluable for the product development teams – they can use the information to work on improving the product to address the needs of the customers.

Involving the Customer Success team in the process also helps set the timelines. Their inputs help meet the customer’s needs and desires at the time when they need and appreciate it the most.

Here are a few ways in which involving Customer Success in the process of product roadmap helps –

1. To improve on the features

Customer Success teams are well-versed with the wants and needs of the customers. Along with the knowledge of the market, they have data to back up their inputs. So, involving them in the road mapping process is extremely helpful in improving the product and features.

2. To boost the customer centricity of the roadmap

Customer Success teams have a deeper understanding of the customer journey. Hence, they can be of immense value to give a better strategic direction to the product roadmap.

3. To set efficient, realistic product milestones

The Customer Success teams work extensively to gather customer feedback and do so continuously. Thus, they have a better understanding of the right time to service the customer. Considering this, it is more practical to take inputs from the CS team when setting the product milestones 

4. To access the impact and build on the product

By involving the Customer Success team in road mapping, it becomes easier to access customer feedback much earlier in the cycle. This will further help in improving the product earlier in the cycle.

5. To boost inter-departmental collaboration

Involving the Customer Success team in product road mapping is also an effective way to bring down the departmental silos and get the teams to work to be more productive.

Final thoughts

The product roadmap mirrors the future of your product/ organization. Involving the Customer Success team when planning the product roadmap brings with it a number of benefits. Above all, it makes the roadmap more customer-centric.39

Hope this article has helped you see its value.

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