The unexpected confession of a technology company
Product Roadmaps and Reward Gateway – the history
Until not so long ago, we were pretty consistent in mapping out what the future of our products looked like. We wanted to show our people and our clients that we had a clear vision which spanned years into the future. We were determined to demonstrate that we were constantly innovating and that we had a plan. After all, having a plan is a good thing!
With 80 people in product development organized into 14 teams across our products and major product features, we followed what a lot of tech companies did when it came to future planning.
What we used to promise
What actually happened
Read Jeff Gothelf’s Sense and Respond book. He explains it beautifully.
Time and time again, we set out our product roadmaps, and time and time again they were wrong. The problem with planning several months ahead was obvious: in the weeks between the decision and the work, we heard from our clients about other ideas or developments that were actually more important, more valuable or more urgent.
We kept re-prioritizing features, shifting the focus between products and even starting again from scratch. And that was OK. Our most important value is “Delight your customers”, so if our clients were telling us that something else was more crucial to their success, we listened and we did our absolute best to make it happen.
Roadmaps don’t make sense anymore.
All this meant that our roadmaps changed. And they changed often. Instead of point A to Z, we’d stop at D, go back to B and skip ahead to M, and forget about Z entirely. The idea of a roadmap didn’t make sense anymore. So we stopped and took a very hard look at how we were building products.
We had some key goals in mind:
- Get closer to our clients
- Delight our customers by building the right products
- Minimize wasted work, maximize time spent on developing improvements and innovations
- Be nimble enough to have the flexibility to successfully react to our client's urgent needs and continue to provide solutions
A customer led Product strategy means we’re building products that help them reach their success goals sooner.
To build products that worked the way our clients wanted them so we needed to get our products in front of them as early as possible. Therefore, we introduced:
- A Client Advisory Board - a regular workshop with existing clients who help us shape our product enhancements
- Employee interviews and usability testing - we take any opportunity to talk to your employees, so we can understand their needs and provide them with the best possible experience
- Regular surveys and webinars to both clients and their employees
- Extensive data insights - we use tools such as Fullstory and Google analytics to drive meaningful improvements triggered by user behaviors and usage
As a result, we started hearing our clients and our user very clearly:
“Yes, this is exactly what my employees need” or “No, I can’t see our people using this product”
The quicker we got feedback, the better our products became. We started binning ideas with a ferocious speed and only concentrated on the ones which our clients approved because our customers are our North Star which our mission and values are created around.
We’re committed to hearing our clients problems and making this the basis of our design.
We started to see amazing results – increased usage and a better user experience. We weren’t creating a roadmap at arbitrary times throughout the year. We’re creating solutions as they were needed, we were responsive to your needs, we weren’t restricted by plans we’d made months ago and it was working! So we wrote it all in our Product Manifesto and we committed to hear our clients voice and make this the basis of our design.
We're no longer designing products. We're designing solutions that address relevant feedback. By working on our clients feedback we’re true to our mission of making the world a better place to work, rather than ignorantly presuming we know what our client's employees want and that they will love what we deliver regardless.
And in this amazing customer-centered world, our roadmaps would be increasingly misleading and untrue. Yes, we were working along the right path (Build / Measure / Learn), except that wasn’t what we’d committed to on our roadmaps a year or even 3 months ago.
So we scrapped them. No more roadmaps!
No more roadmaps mean we now work on smaller projects which we get in front of customers faster. If you’d like to know what we’re working on, that’s fine – we can tell you what’s guiding us over the next week and month. We do this on a weekly basis internally through our Product Success Newsletters already. Here’s an example.
Predicting what we’ll be delivering in 3, 6 or 12-months time would hinder our ability to build, test, learn and iterate on weekly basis. It would stop us from being able to react to your requests as they happen and stop us from being able to adapt to the market as employee needs change and evolve.
Roadmap or not, our destination will always be to Delight our Customers.
One thing that is a constant though, is our determination to help our clients to be successful on their employee engagement journey with us. Everything we’ve done and we will keep on doing aligns back to The Engagement Bridge™.
The destination, to Delight our Customers, is always the same and we work very closely with all our clients at making the world a better place to work by building smaller, but perfectly formed products and features that we deliver fast and without a roadmap. It’s our client’s voice that guides us, it’s their feedback that leads us to our next objective. We don’t need a map to show us the way when it’s our clients and their employees driving the innovation at Reward Gateway.