If you are running a tech company, managing product roadmap is a tough job.
You get feature requests from all the directions and it’s almost impossible to prioritise the things.
There are defects that need to be fixed urgently, there are feature requests that can improve the product significantly and finally there are some traps that are extremely appealing, highly promising and hence take the top spot on the priority list.
While running ProfitBooks, we are guilty of falling in each of those traps and ended up wasting a lot of development effort, time, and money.
Let’s talk about these 5 traps that can seriously hamper your product roadmap.
1) When a potential customer says – “build this feature and then I will buy your product”
Every now and then we meet a customer who kind of blackmails us. During initial days, we badly needed customers and we would accept any demand made by the customers if they promised to buy the money.
As ProfitBooks is a software product, price of the application is fixed. Even if build a new feature, we can’t charge specific customer for that. When we raise prices, the change is applicable to all of our customers.
So, adding a new feature for one customer was a stupid thing. Out of desperation, we entertained too many requests like this during early days and that resulted in messy code that was difficult to maintain.
When we realised this mistake, we stopped acting impulsively and started recording all the feature requests. We did loose some customers but that was fine. We were to prioritise the feature requests based on the number of requests coming from our target customers.
2) Channel partner says – “I’ve 100 customers who want this feature. Just build it and I will sell 100 licences”.
Out of nowhere you get an inquiry from a channel partner/distributor/reseller who promises you huge number of ‘ready’ customers if you build a certain feature.
You get excited, put other work on hold, prioritise the suggested feature, develop it, deploy it, show it to your guy and boom… nothing happens.
Not a single customer is onboarded!
We’ve been there, seen that.
These channel partners come from a remote country in Africa asking for ‘small changes’ and just disappear when we build the features.
3) Sales person says – “Our competitor has this feature and if we build it, I will be able to sell more licences”.
Competition is inevitable and there is always going to be a case where they do a certain thing better than you do.
Even if one customer asks about it, sales executive thinks that adding this feature will help us get 100s of new customers and huge sales.
This rarely happens unless the feature is essential. If it’s small enhancement, it’s never going to be a deal-breaker.
But working on it impulsively will definitely break your product roadmap.
Rule is simple, if that feature is advertised as a selling point or USP by your competitor, you have obviously build it.
Otherwise, take a deep breath and just ignore it.
4) Co-founder says – “This is a very small feature. If we add it, our users will love it”.
I’m guilty of doing this one. During initial days, I used to signup for competitor’s application and used to spend a lot of time analysing their screens.
I would think that this particular feature is great and if we add it, ProfitBooks will be the best accounting software out there.
I didn’t have any data to back my claim. It was possible that our competition might be thinking of removing that feature as nobody was using it 🙂
So, I used to chase our co-founder and CTO to work on it. That often turned out to be a failed experiment.
Here is my advice – don’t get into FOMO state by looking at your competitor’s product. Build your roadmap based on data and not on emotions.
5) Another company says – “Build an integration with our system and you’ll be able to sell to all of our customers”.
Isn’t it appealing?
Well, this could also be a trap. They might be needing you more than you need them.
We had explored integration opportunities with Gym management systems, hotel booking systems and many more. Nothing worked out and we ended up wasting our time.
Integrations are important but there must be data backing up the demand claim.
We built integrations with payment gateways and those were instant hit with our users.
I had recently met an entrepreneur friend who is running a SaaS company. I saw him walking into one of the above traps and compelled to write this post.
Hope my experience will help you avoid these traps so that you can stay on course to your product roadmap.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.