Roadmaps… How Much is Too Much?

One of my favorite services, Feedly, published on their blog the roadmap for their next major release. Obviously this is not a new practice and through various mechanism companies make available for comment their product development process.

In recent years the evolution of “ideation” applications has provided companies of all types a powerful capability for capturing customer suggestions and ideas as well as providing mechanisms for different types of voting schemes that promise to surface the most requested and/or highest priority items in the eyes of their current and prospective customers.

Here’s the question I continue to struggle with… how much disclosure is enough? Clearly there is value in promoting what you are contemplating building into your products, in effect pre-selling the features, and at the same time capturing valuable feedback that informs your product development process in ways you may not have anticipated. Yet these benefits are not without risk.

Much of what Feedly discloses are features that are best described as incremental, in other words improving on core capabilities that already exist. This is valuable and made even more so by the fact that Feedly publishes the roadmap in a form that easily translates into customer value rather than an engineering roadmap that really doesn’t map well to what customers care about.

How about major disruptive features that a company may be contemplating? This level of disclosure, effectively tipping competitors to what you are building that could disrupt the competitive landscape, would appear to be in all but extreme edge cases irresponsible. Closely related to this is core platform work that, in this case, a competitive engineering group could interpret future capabilities.

Clearly communicating a product roadmap to prospective and current customers should be a core competency for every product and service company however there remains the issue of how much to hold back until the point which you are actually delivering  it. Thoughts?