One thing we’ve been working on as our product organization grows is how to effectively communicate with different groups internally and externally about our product. The ideas below are still in the midst of iteration but I wanted to share here the ways I am thinking about communicating our product plans across time horizons with both internal groups (sales, marketing, support, implementation, and consultants) and the market (which means both existing clients and prospects as well as into our marketing channels).
- We want people to know what we are releasing.
- We have an internal process to communicate about what we release every 2-week sprint as well as a process for crafting release notes and (where needed) more in-depth and specific communications for clients about what is changing in our platform.
- We have broader ways to communicate bigger feature or module releases both with core clients who might see functionality early and with the wider market when a release is ready for wider promotion and adoption.
- We want people to know what we are planning.
- When through our discovery process we determine that some functionality needs to be added, enhanced, or corrected we work with key internal stakeholders both to keep them informed and (where it’s useful) to involve them in the planning and prototyping stage.
- We try to get prototypes in front of both clients and prospects to gather market validation that we are heading down the right road and that what we will build will make intuitive sense.
- We want people to know what we are thinking about.
- Whether it’s part of our annual client conference or worked into broader communications with current clients, we talk at a high level about our product roadmap to get a feeler on what seems to resonate with the market. We also try to pick up industry trends and competitor plans from conferences to see what other people are thinking about.
- Internally we talk regularly with our business development team to find out what they are hearing in the market and to see if our roadmap aligns with their intel; of course the roadmap beyond what we are currently working on or actively planning is largely a possible developments so until something gets validated through our discovery process this high level feedback is good enough for what we need.
All of these communication efforts are designed to avoid as many surprises as possible; we don’t want our clients or our internal teams to be surprised by product changes and we don’t want to be surprised by market shifts that undercut the value of what we are building. All of this multi-pronged communication takes work and of course some things still slip past in spite of our efforts because in truth it’s not that simple.