Taking Our Roadmap Public
At Giant Swarm, everything we do is intertwined with our values. The decision to take our roadmap public is no exception. We began by challenging the status quo. Our roadmap has always resided in our private GitHub repository. Is this a good enough reason for it to always do so in the future?
Then the conversation started.
We see ourselves as citizens of the open-source community and big believers in transparency. It stands to reason that we would be open to publishing our roadmap.
We had to defuse the what-if scenarios first
Too much feedback and pressure to deliver
Will customers be wondering why we didn’t implement what they asked for, when they asked for it?
Well, our customers won’t be. Our customers have a dedicated person who is a Solution Engineer. They have easy access to this person (think Slack, not a ticket system). And they speak with this person on a weekly basis — at the very least. We can easily put things into perspective for our customers and explain what drove us to the decisions we’ve made.
Loss of flexibility and agility
Will people be asking why a promised feature was delayed or changed?
Probably, but we are all for having a conversation. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is easy to negotiate priority changes when it is known which deadlines are lost and why.
What if the competition gets wind of our plans?
What if they do?
Our mode of operation is not to look around for feature/function parity with our competitors. Our mode of operation is to keep very close to our customers. Learn their needs and then build them the most robust solution we can offer. We also keep tabs on upstream to help us provide the best long-term solution.
Some would say that imitation is the best form of flattery. For us, getting copied is the best form of product validation. Which is one of the reasons that our code has always been open-source. A motivated competitor could already be up to date and using it. If you are interested, you can have a look at it and use it too.
Don’t think we ignored the possible gains from this effort
We are transparent
As I mentioned earlier, we value transparency. If we can be transparent internally and with our customers, why not with the public at large? We hope that making our product roadmap accessible to the general public can turn things like the specs and features into public discussions.
We strive for excellence
A public roadmap is a work product that is, well, publicly displayed. While roadmapping behind closed doors, there were shortcuts and shorthand that we could get away with. We can’t do that anymore. The public roadmap forces us to be diligent about maintaining the roadmap. We must express user stories in an understandable way and add context to maximize clarity. Ultimately, we now have extrinsic incentives to do this job at the highest level.
We encourage feedback
Our customers have always had the opportunity to share their needs, concerns, and priorities. These conversations tended to be siloed with a broader discussion only being held in-house. Now our customers (and you too) can make feature requests on the roadmap itself, rather than through intermediaries. Conversations about the roadmap and feature requests in the public domain could spark meaningful conversations. Conversations held within the communities we belong to and not just within the company.
We are trustworthy
While I wrote a whole post about trust a while ago. When your roadmap is accessible to the general public it showcases reliability and trustworthiness.
Taking our roadmap public was a big project. When we undertook it, we could easily articulate some of the pros as you can see above. It is now live and the main thing that we have gained is a changed perspective that has us continuously improving, which is an all-around win.