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Coming up with a product roadmap is critical for any business, irrespective of which stage the company is in.
You’ll have to factor in demands from customers, look into what competitors are working on, study what industry trends are like, and take inputs from multiple stakeholders such as product managers, engineers, and executives from the marketing and sales teams.
How does one go about charting out a product roadmap? How do you work around these varied requirements and handle inputs or demands from multiple stakeholders?
We sat down with Hiten Shah, co-founder of FYI, to talk about this. Hiten has built and scaled more than 10 SaaS products and is on a mission to de-clutter the online storage space by helping you find your documents in less than three clicks, and is equipped to tell us all about building product roadmaps.
Obsession driven product roadmap
Customer obsession should be the only thing driving product roadmaps, Hiten says.
“Product roadmaps should come from this idea that you’re actually obsessed with the customer, that you’re looking to solve the problems that your product is supposed to solve for them in a way that’s better than any other business or product or solution or alternative in the market”
This obsession creates an instant filter to all the inputs you get from all quarters, says Hiten.
You will question any request that comes your way…Is that something I should pay attention to? Is that something that’s important now? Is it important later? When does it matter? What’s happening with your product today? And what are the things that you want to improve?
Putting customer obsession to practice
But this is easier said than done, right? How does one actually put this into practice?
Hiten took the example of a current product he’s building called FYI.
Hiten’s and his cofounder’s goal with the product is to help users find their documents in three clicks or less. All their product development efforts are focused on getting this experience right. Given this goal, Hiten says that they do not do anything that might come in the way of the product fulfilling this promise, even if it is something that customers explicitly request for.
For instance, a couple of FYI customers had asked him to provide then with an option to create folders so they could organize their files better. But Hiten refused to add this feature request to his product roadmap.
“…that would be based on a customer need, that wouldn’t be based on a customer obsession, because when you think about folders, they’re not three clicks or less, they don’t make it easier for someone to find their documents in three clicks or less. The reason is, you have to create the folder now. And then you have to put documents in the folder. And you have to do all these things that people are used to doing and other products, while our products value prop is not that.”
Focusing on your product’s promise
Your product map should be based on what your customers are coming to you for and how your product will be uniquely positioned to solve the customer’s problem. Look at your product’s promise or what you set out to solve, and double down on that.
Including something in the product roadmap simply because someone asks for it, or because of pressure to catch up with competitors will only lead to a bloated product.
“If you just go blindly add a feature without thinking about the value proposition of your product, then what ends up happening is nobody cares about that feature. Nobody is actually going to use it or adopt it”
Similarly, it is important to look back at the drawing board periodically and check how well the product and its features are being used. Not many people rewind and look at why a specific feature was built, what problem it solved, and whether building the product feature was worth the time and effort that went into it. This will help you plan better for the future.