After Hours

Poll: Do customers need to know your roadmap?

Do you share your roadmap with customers? Why or why not? Share your thoughts on transparency with customers.

Stardock recently released the game Elemental. Unfortunately, when the game launched, it was not nearly as bug-free as many customers expected, and player feedback suggested that it needed a lot of additional tweaking to be a better game.

Not-quite-ready games are an unfortunate reality, but Stardock's response was rather unusual: The software company is working extremely transparently to let customers know exactly what problems they are working on, why the issues are being addressed in the order that they are, and so on. While Stardock is hardly the only company I've seen act with this level of transparency, it is interesting to see a company do it in so much detail, or have the CEO be the "face" of the efforts.

I think this transparency is great, because it shows a potential buyer that problems will be fixed and that the company takes these issues seriously. At the same time, it can also turn away potential customers who see the product's problems. In this instance, I fall into both camps: I am waiting until a few more bugs are resolved before buying the game.

Few companies take it to the extreme that Stardock has done with Elemental. How do you feel about companies exposing their roadmaps to customers?

J.Ja

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

5 comments
Osiyo53
Osiyo53

In the case of the company for whom I work, its pretty much a business necessity. Since we create custom made applications under contract as versus applications meant for the retail market.

120529-000107
120529-000107

It depends on the definition of roadmap. If you mean an advanced look at the features we plan to include in a product offering, the answer is no; lest we provide an exploitable advantage to our competitors. If you mean technology upgrades, the answer is still no; lest you tip those who would exploit your system knowing that you may have initial install vulnerabilities. Other than generating sales with FUD-marketing or a feeling of customer involvement, I cannot forsee sharing proprietay information without a non-disclosure agreement and a real need to know.

gscratchley
gscratchley

I've worked for several technology companies, hardware and software. If "roadmap", as I infer from your post means "a list of bugs, and the order that we are fixing them", then I also 'fall into both camps' as you've said: I want customers and prospects to know that I don't believe that my product is perfect; otoh, I don't want to scare aware potential customers. If, on the other hand, "roadmap" means "the direction our development is going, and what future products and features are in our plans", then I would have a longer answer.

Realvdude
Realvdude

In this scenario, a game is interesting, in that the end users represent a sub group of software users as a whole. For example, I'm guessing that you had to do just a little digging to find the roadmap information. It's not likely that there was a link on the product page for "bugs and correction schedule". I'm guessing that most gamers are more tolerant of bugs as long as they are not show stoppers. In contrast, I'd bet users of business applications are less tolerant of bugs, but also less likely to look for roadmap information.

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