Building a product roadmap can lead a company in the right direction, or off a cliff. After speaking with the C-Suite team at Thumbtack, who have built a marketplace matching customers who have projects with the right professional (think plumber, housekeeper, wedding DJ), and growing to a marketplace of over 100,000 professionals and $1 billion in transactional sales, they shared their secrets to building a product roadmap that leads to results for their customers, professionals, and revenues.

Start with a Clear Vision

Know what the vision is from a customer experience perspective. "Without that you have no framework of where you're going or why," explains CEO Marco Zappacosta of Thumbtack. Developing a core ideology around solving a major problem for customers is the fastest way to articulate vision. This will often help the team prioritize which features come first.

Understand Core Drivers

What metrics and key performance indicators are driving the product to success? Metrics should relate back to the customer experience and show that the customer is not only engaged, but successfully using the product and returning for more. The top metric should tie into an important goal that's related to the customer, not necessarily driving revenue. Once the most important key performance indicators are understood, features can be built to support and bolster those metrics for better customer engagement. If a metric isn't performing well, it's time to start looking at how to fix the product to address that underperforming KPI.

Customer Feedback

Feedback expert John Boitnott says building the product roadmap from customer feedback is an action-oriented way of building a business.

"Customer feedback is about listening, and having an acute, accurate understanding of their needs and emotions. I don't necessarily build requested features from customers, but support should be careful to track what customers are saying on social media and forums, and connect it to what problems customers are facing. Look at the problems customers are facing the most, and then work your roadmap around the pain points. The goal is not to build features, it's to solve problems. Sometimes it's by adding features, sometimes its to take them away or modify them," explains Boitnott.

Brainstorm

Once they've clarified what problems they're trying to solve for their customers and professionals, they begin to share ideas about solutions. Team brainstorming is now focused and centered around solving a certain problem. The team has clarity, a problem, and ways to think inside and outside the box to solve the problem. The team will look at ideas on paper and what moves the needle. They may ask, "is this a judgement call?" There is no objective standard that says, "This is what the return will be."

Set Goals

Setting goals around each new feature built allows the team to determine whether or not it was a success. Assigning a meaningful goal will allow the team to know if a certain feature actually solved the problem or if they will have to go back to the drawing board. An example might be: customer's receive 3 quotes within one hour, improving the time by 15 minutes. We hope to achieve this goal within 3 months." A/B testing areas where they're unclear if there's a right or wrong answer often gives clarity or helps to find if there's a best solution for their users.

Published on: May 1, 2015