I spend a lot of time examining and discussing product roadmaps with vendors big and small. A part of this is about deciding what and when something should be on the HR tech roadmap, and I work a lot on a concept called the negative roadmap, which drives clarity on what not to build. This can be a challenging exercise.
Increasingly I’m guiding vendors on how to talk about the HR tech roadmap. The answer to this at one level is remarkably simple.
Don’t talk about the roadmap – if by roadmap you mean a long list of features that you plan to ship over the next two years.
The reason why vendors shouldn’t do this, is that they have no real idea what will happen in the next two years, so promising, or creating a detailed expectation of what will ship in the medium term is just setting up for failure.
Some vendors get nervous when I tell them to stop describing what they plan to ship, and they say, “But our prospects and customers (and our sales people) insist on a detailed roadmap.”
I respond, “I would like to know if the sun will shine on July 17th 2023, because I want to book a beach holiday.”
My advice to HR tech vendors when it comes to features: only talk about those things that are about to ship. Things you are confident will be in the customers’ hands in a matter of weeks. Then spend time talking about themes and vision. What excites you, and why, and what you have discovered from your customers.
I suggest HR tech vendors follow a process like the ones Melissa Perri (escaping the build trap) and Teresa Torres lay out (continuous discovery) and use tools like prodpad (Janna Bastow) to rethink what a roadmap actually is. Break free of the tyranny of the traditional roadmap!
In the last couple of years there have been many advances in product management techniques to get a better understanding of the customer.
My request to you, HR leaders, HR IT experts and consultants, is to read the same books and understand a bit more about what world class roadmaps and product planning looks like. Instead of insisting on a list of features from your vendors, or worse, demanding them before you are even a customer, understand how you can be an awesome partner for continuous discovery. That will get you a better product, every time.
You might also find some of the processes in product management will help you in how you work with your own users. After all, so many companies today are transforming to become product-led organizations.