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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.
And for companies that want to be truly customer-centric, that requires knowing more about your customers and their needs. For most companies, the secret is involving Customer Success (CS) in the product roadmap process.
If you’re 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.
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:
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.
Product managers are responsible for ensuring that the product roadmap is a collaborative effort. Including all the stakeholders (from teams like marketing and sales team) and asking them to participate, results in an efficient product roadmap.
Encouraging executives from different teams to contribute makes it possible to get new perspectives on what’s important for your organization and increase innovation. It also ensures everyone’s on the same page about what direction the product is headed.
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.
Data helps you understand your customers and gives you a fair idea of what they want and when. And by using data, you help other stakeholders see why some features are being prioritized first.
Yes, customer success will be included in involving all the stakeholders. But what differentiates customer success from other departments is their close involvement with your customers.
Sales know what features your competitors have that prospects mention frequently. Support knows when there are bugs that need to be fixed. But CS knows how your customer uses your product for various use cases with data that’s valuable to the planning process.
That’s why it’s important to work closely with the customer success department on product roadmaps.
You can use the feedback that CS has gathered to address your customer’s needs.
Involving the Customer Success team in the process also helps set the timelines. Their inputs helps you prioritize with a more data-driven approach.
Here are a few ways involving Customer Success on product roadmaps benefits your organization:
Customer Success teams are well-versed with the wants and needs of the customers. Along with their knowledge, as we mentioned before, they have the data to back up their suggestions. So, involving them in the roadmapping process is extremely helpful in improving the product and features.
Customer Success teams have a deeper understanding of the customer journey. Hence, they can be of immense value to give a more strategic direction that allows your team to create a more customer-centric roadmap.
When you’re able to work closely with CS, you’ll be able to see how effective your current roadmap is. And with this proximity to your customers’ feedback, you can see if there are any changes you can make that keep both your customers’ needs and the organization’s vision in mind.
Involving the Customer Success team in product roadmapping is also an effective way to bring down the departmental silos and get the teams to work to be more productive.
While customer success has an invaluable perspective, CSMs might also be biased about what features must be prioritized based on their individual customer needs. And this can result in a ‘too many cooks in a kitchen’ scenario where everyone is passionate about certain features, with the end result not being well-rounded and not in the interest of all customers, just a select few.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid CS feedback, but more so create a system that allows customers’ voices to be heard through their CSM but with limitations. This initially will require some testing to see what works for everyone. It will certainly require collaboration between each department’s executives to create a system that’s fair.23
Any product roadmap you create is for the customer and to help them succeed with your product. So, involving customer success in the product roadmap is a logical strategy that benefits everyone, from the customer to your organization. While it will require some adjusting to find the right balance while collaborating, it’s allowing you to create a sticker product and your company to be more customer centric.
Rakhin has over 10 years of experience driving business development and client services. In his prior roles, he stayed close to customers to understand their requirements and help them achieve their business goals. He is passionate about customer success.
Published September 19, 2022, Updated January 30, 2023
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