Ep. #621 - Creating a Product Roadmap
In this episode of Startup Hustle, join Matt DeCoursey and Matt Watson for Part 21 of “How to Start a Tech Company” as they discuss creating a product roadmap.
Covered In This Episode
Most startups get lost in their early stages. With so many things to take care of, these startups sometimes fail to keep their focus, leading to wrong decisions. That’s why startups need to have a product roadmap.
Matt and Matt talk about the importance of creating a product roadmap for startups. They define what a roadmap is, why it is crucial, how to make one, and that it is okay to make changes and adjustments along the way. The Matts also highlight the benefits of having a product, company, or service roadmap.
Listen to the Matts to learn all about the benefits of creating a product roadmap in this Startup Hustle episode.
Want to skip ahead? Gain access to the complete “How to Start a Tech Company” series.
- Welcome to part 21: Creating a product road map (0:08)
- Matt does product road mapping all day (1:18)
- The importance of having a roadmap (1:40)
- The hardest part of creating a product roadmap (9:32)
- Does a service business need a product roadmap? (13:32)
- Who’s responsible for creating the roadmap? (15:37)
- Start with some goals (22:33)
- Setting priorities (23:45)
- Creating benefits (28:24)
- Break down your roadmap into smaller chunks (31:42)
- Changing the roadmap (33:24)
- Founder’s freestyle (36:39)
- Wrapping up (40:42)
Well, no matter what phase your company is in, the roadmap is important. It’s important when you’re first starting. Because you’re trying to get investors to invest in you, they want to know, like, where’s this going? It’s even important when you hire people; they want to know where we are going. What are we building? And it’s something you’ve got to ask yourself every day. Are you still heading toward that Northstar? Or are you veering off in the wrong direction somewhere, and you need to get back on the map of where you’re going?Matt Watson
One thing I do know is that a poorly defined anything will end up in a poorly created everything. And I think that’s the same way a product roadmap is. It is crucial because how do you build something if you don’t understand what it’s supposed to do, who else to be used by, and all that?Matt DeCoursey
I think the first priority is to generate revenue. And saving money is making money. Yeah, you need to either sell more or spend less. And if you can do both, you’re on to something.Matt DeCoursey
The roadmap is a little bit like doing business forecasts. You know, they’re not going to be accurate. There’s gonna be a lot of changes, but you need to make one. And they are a healthy thing to do every quarter, or every few months, to at least refresh the bigger roadmap. And I think they’re also super important to your employees, customers, and all that stuff to reassure them. This is what we’re doing. This is where we’re going, and I need your help to get there.Matt Watson
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Following is an auto-generated text transcript of this episode. Apologies for any errors!
Matt DeCoursey 0:01
And we’re back. Back for another episode of Startup Hustle, Matt DeCoursey, here, with Matt Watson. Hi, Matt.
Matt Watson 0:06
Hey, how’s it going?
Matt DeCoursey 0:08
Well, you know, I just got back from vacation. And I’ve been up in the mountains wandering around. And I realized that I’m terrible, like literally terrible, at reading maps. And it just seemed like really great timing of me being so lost on mountain trails a couple of times to coming back and realizing that we needed to record an episode, which is part 21 of 52. And we need to talk about creating a product roadmap because I think it’s probably more founders than not are as lost as I was on a mountain trail when it comes to creating a product roadmap, and a little birdie in the forest told me this is what you do all day. So I think it is your sound like you might have a couple of things to say. Now, before we get into that, you do know that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by FullScale.io, helping you build a software team quickly and affordably. And that the software team can and will help you execute the plans related to your product roadmap. So Matt, what do you do all day?
Matt Watson 1:18
Well, now I’m the Chief Technology Officer at Netreo. And so I’m responsible for at this point, really kind of engineering and product side both of what are we going to build? And how are we going to build it and spend a lot of time on a weekly basis talking about roadmaps and planning and strategy and all those things. It’s actually kind of right in my wheelhouse.
Matt DeCoursey 1:40
And if you want to learn more about the company that Matt is spending his days, evenings and weekends, working endlessly for go to netrio.com at n-e-t-r-e-o.com. So now, you know, we talked about a product roadmap and like why that’s important. And I think that a lot of founders and entrepreneurs, including ourselves, on many days will have it in their head. And you know, what you want something to do or how you’d like it to look or that you don’t like the way it currently looks. But getting, you know, getting that plan and that roadmap from your head to your hand. And onto a piece of paper or something digital or whatever is a lot harder than then what it might sound like. And just to kind of lead things off here the definition of a product roadmap, it’s, it’s a shared source of truth that outlines the vision, direction priorities and progress of a product over time. It’s a plan of action that aligns the organization around short and long term goals for the product, or project and how they will be achieved. And there’s different types of roadmaps and stuff like that. We’ll talk about that a little more. But now, as we get started, I mean, what are your opening statements about creating a product roadmap?
Matt Watson 2:50
Well, no matter what phase your company is in the roadmap is really, really important. It’s important when you’re first starting out, right? Because you’re trying to get investors to invest in you. And they want to know, like, where’s this going? It’s even important when you hire people, like they want to know, like, where are we going? What are we building? What are we marching towards? Right? And it’s something you’ve got to ask yourself every day, are you? Are you still heading toward that Northstar? Or are you veered off into the wrong direction somewhere, and you need to get back on the map of where you’re going. So um, that might have been where you were last in the mountains the other day, but
Matt DeCoursey 3:27
I think I was just lost because we’re in the middle of hiking, different trails in the forest, and many of which the direction isn’t clearly marked. And there’s a fork in the road and it doesn’t say, Hey, if you go left here, you’ll succeed. If you go down the metal, you might be okay. And if you turn right, you’re gonna fucking die. Which, you know, is, yeah, right. Right. Right. And there is a bear down this direction. And if you think you know, they always tell you how to handle a bear. Until you right you and you think, you know, until you run into one and I don’t know firsthand, but I can only imagine now, we talked about these forks in the road in these different directions. You and I have spent hundreds of episodes talking about that we’re not you and I aren’t always super planners when it comes to like a formal business plan. product roadmaps are tricky as well. You know, like you mentioned, I think it’s really important for to create a level of transparency and priority. I think those are two, you know, two phrases from the definition, that that kind of that, you know, lead people in the right direction and the bigger your business gets, and the bigger the product gets, the harder it is, in my opinion to to kind of pick up and start a product roadmap mean, you should have it from a very early stage. Matt, what do you think is the most important part of a product roadmap in general.
Matt Watson 5:01
I think it’s having the vision of where you’re trying to go, you know, in short and long term both right? So stop and think about a company like Tesla, for example. You know, they started out building a really expensive luxury car that 99% of people can’t afford. But they got a lot of fans because they’re like, you know, what the roadmap and their goal is to build an affordable electric car for the masses. And so they got a lot of fans and a lot of people that were hyping up what they were doing and believers. And eventually they succeeded, right, like it took them a while. But eventually, they succeeded. And, and I could buy a model three and a model Y, and they’re much more affordable. And let’s say 40%, good for them, maybe, or something that’s not 1% anymore. And but it’s having that roadmap. And so everybody understands, like where you’re trying to go. And getting everybody to believe in you is important. And that’s important to customers, investors, everybody, right? Like, even as a customer, when you buy a product, like I kind of like this, and I kind of like the direction they’re going. So I’m willing to put up with some bullshit, because I believe in the mission they’re trying to accomplish. Right? But if you don’t tell me what that roadmap is, then I can’t. I can’t be along for the journey. Right? So it’s always important, everybody kind of knows where you’re going.
Matt DeCoursey 6:17
Yeah, I think it’s important as a leader to clarify that vision. You know, like I said, it’s often up in our head, and it’s kind of rattling around on Sunday, it’s like rocks and a dryer, you know, and it’s like, you know, but getting, I think the thing when it comes to, you know, great ideas are everywhere, execution is not. And I think that the priorities part of it is is a key ingredient. Because when you look at short term or long term roadmap, and you know, we’ve joked in the past that business school often teaches you it goes ABCDE f g, you know, and in reality, it’s like A to D to E to B to Z, to back to C to before a, and all that. But when it comes to priorities, there’s a lot of things that might not be able to occur until other things do happen. And it could be probably, I mean, that could be related to product or, you know, feature type things, you use the term Tesla, you know, Tesla has been, you know, a decade long and rolling out their self, their driverless, you know, feature. And that required like 10 zillion other things to occur, many of which probably didn’t get the opportunity to even spread their wings or even exist until other things occurred. And I think that without clarifying and being transparent about what those priorities are, and why their priorities, other reasons, for priorities are things that like are just clearly blocking your organizational progress, like, we can’t generate revenue, because every single user we have complains about this. Yep. And those are other things that you know, like, and that’s, some of it is, so sometimes your product roadmap is forced to take that trail that doesn’t have a marker at the trailhead,
Matt Watson 8:07
we were having this conversation. Internally at nitro the other day, we’ve, we’ve got a lot of customers signing up. And we frankly, don’t have enough people to install the software, right? Like we need to hire people, we need to train people and you give the analogy of like, we’re firefighters that all we can really do is piss on the fire, like wouldn’t even have time to go find like an industrial grade walk, you know, water hose that would put up this thing, the best we can do is be on the fire. We just don’t even have time to stop and go find a better thing, like, and that’s the challenge a lot of companies get in, right, they they have to spend a lot of time dealing with legacy things and technical debt and like, Oh, this is the way we’ve always done business, we have to keep dealing with these things. And that that bogs them down, so they can’t work on new things, right? And that’s always the challenge you get in the real corporate world. And sadly, that can even happen in startups, too. You would think they wouldn’t have as much legacy debt. But the decisions you make very, very early cause that, and we’ve talked about this a lot before, right? It’s like every time you do something, it’s like something else you got to carry around in your backpack, up the mountain, right? We’ve talked about that for another episodes. And so even as a startup, you keep saying yes to all these customers and their wild ass things that maybe they’re not really part of what you want to do long term. But now you got to keep supporting all those things, and chews away your ability to do other things on your roadmap.
Matt DeCoursey 9:32
What do you think the hardest part of creating a product roadmap is just like the most difficult thing to get right?
Matt Watson 9:39
Being realistic and and it’s easy to want to say yes to everything, right? So what you got to do is you also have to understand, you know, how many resources you have, what is your capacity and your kind of velocity to get things accomplished, right? And it’s easy to say oh, we have 20 people but you know might take 17 of them to keep the lights on. And you’ve got three people actually, that can work on new stuff, right? So it’s understanding your capacity and how much work you can really do and all that. And we all have big eyes, and we’re greedy. And we’re like, we’re going to do all the things, we’re gonna do all of them now. But realistically, we don’t get we don’t get much done.
Matt DeCoursey 10:18
Yeah, I was gonna say the timelines, and that’s basically what you’re saying, or kind of circling around that word. But you know, not thinking that things are gonna get done a lot faster, not giving yourself and your roadmap, some consideration for the fact that shit happens, just general, like, oh, shit category, like something breaks or people get sick, or, you know, someone’s having a baby, or just all of it. And there’s, you know, it’s easy to look at a lot of that. And I think that most people tend to stay on the optimistic, not the realistic side of things. And I think that that can get pretty tricky, because that the trickle down effect of that is, I mean, it could put you out of business, you know, just really in the end, it could, and that’s just, it’s just that simple. So,
Matt Watson 11:07
I mean, we’re going through some of this now, Netro, we’ve got big, big plans, right. And when we were doing this exact same, exact same kind of planning over the last month, and, you know, I looked at the team and said, Okay, 25 to 35% of the team, we need them just to keep the lights on, like, like, these people cannot help build anything new, they’re there to deal with the oshit moments and the customer problems, and the little bugs all the thing. So it’s okay, now I got like, 60 65% of the team or whatever, they can build new things. And so we did some estimates, and how long is it going to take to do all these things. And then I doubled whatever those were, and then came up with some like realist realistic estimates, right? Like, it almost like whatever you do, you’ve got to plan for, for like, sort of that worst case scenario, and then double it still like because it’s just really difficult to plan.
Matt DeCoursey 12:00
You know, I think you have a really good point there. And one of the things where a lot of veil is alright, so in my book balanced me I interviewed who later became a co author of a book with me, Joel Coleman, who’s a rock star, and these guys, you know, they have this tear down setup mentality, you know, here they are applied, we just saw him play at Red Rocks. And there’s 9000 People that have to set up this big, elaborate stage and then tear it down and set it up somewhere else. And I was talking to him was like, how do you stay sane, and, and feel balanced in life around that he said that we have no choice. But to add padding in between every single time commitment we have every day, all day, every day. Because if we don’t, and one thing gets behind the trickle down effect of that affects the whole entire chain, we’re late. We’re behind, we’re stressed, we’re angry, we’re inconsistent, we’re unreliable, and it doesn’t feel good. And you know that that same approach, I’ve taken that same approach to my own schedule. And in my own life, like you mentioned, I’d rather see a timeline that had double the amount of time needed, and then be ahead of it, then be overly aggressive. And now it’s just literally the ripple effect from that it’s affecting 19 other things. So you’re better off when it comes to budgeting to do that. Now, Matt, do you think there’s at what kinds of businesses don’t need a product roadmap? Because when we say a product, like we’re talking about something that’s physical, it’s something that’s digital? Does a service business, like Full Scale, need a product roadmap?
Matt Watson 13:32
I mean, I think so, like, take Full Scale as an example. You know, one thing we have to get together once well, and decide like, well, do we want to provide resources that do Java? Or Ruby or DevOps? Or do we want to open a call center, like, you know, what kind of services do we want to provide? Right? And, and a lot of times, we look at each other, and we’re like, shitless, just keep doing what we’re doing. Right? But we could say, you know, what, next year, we want to start, we want to be a BPO and have a call center, you know, is that part of the strategy? Is it part of the roadmap, like those are all decisions you have to make?
Matt DeCoursey 14:08
Well, oftentimes, companies like ours, and Full Scale is a tech services provider. So you know, if you need someone to help you build software, we’re here for you. But you know, we have been building our own system to help manage our company, manage our client relationships, we actually have a product and you know, we refer to it as rocks. And it’s our our company management platform, which we’ve been working on for two and a half years. And I’d quite honestly, it has gone astray a few times because it hasn’t been the main focal point of what we do. But I think that I think that services as well do you know we say product roadmap, because it’s the industry term, but serve, that’s the product we offer is service and help so how are we going to shape that? How are we going to define it? It is a little different. Now when it comes to creating it, we I think we should say a product and service roadmap. I mean, it’s really Is your company responsible? Right?
Matt Watson 15:02
Potentially, it’s a company, it’s really the company roadmap to Right? Like, take full skills and example is like, Okay, we’re going to start hiring people in other places, or we’re going to change our go to market strategy. And we’re going to start doing this thing or doing that thing. And we need to hire all these people or whatever, right? I mean, it’s really the company roadmap and take somebody locally who sells CBD oil or whatever, right? Like the roadmap could be like, Oh, we want to open for more locations. Or we want to add these additional products skews or whatever. Right? So the roadmap can is really just the company roadmap as well.
Matt DeCoursey 15:37
Yeah, I agree. And, you know, maybe we should change the name of the episode. Because, I mean, you’re right. And that roadmap in general, like I said, if it’s poorly defined, you’re gonna have people that are taking the left turn, some people are gonna go straight, some people are gonna go, right. Next thing, you know, the whole, frickin teams lost in the form of lost in the woods, you know, and that’s, that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid. These things don’t always have to be complex. Now, when it comes to who’s responsible for creating it?
Matt Watson 16:05
Well, it’s gotta be the executive team. And it depends on the company, if it’s more technical, it’s going to be like the product team, you know, at Metro, we have an entire product team that’s like five or six people. And it’s our job to figure out for every different part of the business, the different needs that we need to do different market segments that we’re in, and then we have to get together and arm wrestle and figure out, okay, are we going to focus on this thing? Or that thing? Or what are we going to do? And we got to say yes to a few things and say no to a bunch of others. And eventually, that has to bubble up to the top, and we have some bigger strategic rocks, you know. And there’s little things in the weeds, too, that don’t make it to the executive level there. But you know, the executive level that usually kind of three to five to 10, things everybody knows about.
Matt DeCoursey 16:52
Yeah, and I think on a smaller scale, when you’re an early stage business, it’s the founder, in many cases, because that’s about all you got, you know, it’s usually the founder or founders and, and, you know, like, this doesn’t have to be x. You know, in the beginning, if you’re not familiar with doing this stuff, I mean, it does have to have some kind of vision and some kind of understanding. Now, when you sit down to actually build it, especially with a software product, you know, we’re here in Episode 2152, of how to start a tech company. So we’ll keep this a little tech oriented. Matt, you’re a developer, and I’ve worked with developers for over a decade. One thing I do know is that a poorly defined anything will end up in a poorly created everything. You know, developers, you talking about people that are essentially modern day carpenters, and many ways that you give, if you give, if you give a carpenter, a half drunk sketch on a bar napkin of how you want your house built, and you’re like, hey, build this for me, probably not going to come out exactly the way you have it envisioned. And I think that’s the same way I think the product roadmap is, is crucial, because how do you build something if you don’t understand what it’s supposed to do, who else to be used by and all that?
Matt Watson 18:07
Well, so I’m interviewing somebody that I think we’re gonna hire. And there was like, one of the number one things he asked me, and it’s the number one frustrations about where it works today. He’s like, we don’t know what the roadmap is, like, we have a hard time even planning for one or two weeks where the work, he said, Should just literally changes every day. And there’s going different directions and all the time. And it’s like beyond frustrating, because we don’t really know where we’re going. We don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish. And people just keep changing the shit every week. And it’s just beyond obnoxious. Right? It’d be like, be like remodeling your house with you and your wife. And like one of you decides to totally change the remodeling plans every week. And you just like, keep demoing the shit and starting over again, like that’s the world you live in. And it’s a nightmare.
Matt DeCoursey 18:51
Well, and that is, you know, that’s a great example, because also if that husband and wife are arguing over paint colors the whole time, yeah, and all of that. It’s just not pleasant to be around. And it’s and it sure doesn’t scream, we know what we’re doing. We know where we’re going. You know, one of the things and we mentioned the the Full Scale management platform that we’ve built, you know, with that, and I finally came down to, because it doesn’t it until two weeks ago, it didn’t actually have a product manager. But you know, Products Manager is as a widely used term for a wide range of things that that person does. But you know, overall, it’s I mean, the best approach is to try to pick one thing and get really good at it, or get one thing right before you’re trying to get six things right simultaneously. I think that’s a mistake that a lot of people make is they’re trying to build seven features with two developers into their tech platform. And they’re trying to do them all at the same time. Pick the one that will get you the most users that will keep the most users or will generate the most revenue. Those are the things that are the priority in the beginning.
Matt Watson 19:58
Well, and that’s that’s the problem if you don’t have a road map, if you don’t have a roadmap early on, your customers very easily pull you around. Right. And, you know, we’ve talked about this before with gig book, giga book was a online scheduling system. But you know, you randomly find a few customers. And next thing you know, they’re like, Oh, I’d like to take payments, or I’d like to do this, or I want this like weird event scheduling, or I want this thing. And then next thing, you know, giga book has built like 30 different features that do all these different things. And that’s great. But like, what was the original roadmap? And what customer do you serve perfectly right? Like, was the roadmap to build like the best scheduling system for a specific industry? And you never got there? Because you had all these one off customers that kept asking you all this weird shit. And you never got to where you were trying to go?
Matt DeCoursey 20:44
Yeah, we learned pretty quickly to listen for the echo. And if you’re a regular listener, you’ve heard me say that a lot. But that echo when it comes to customer or potential user feedback, is that resounding message that you hear over and over? I would pay for this F, I would pay for this F and it’s the same answer. And it sounds like an echo. And it sounds like an echo. And we started hearing that. And I think that listening for the echo applies to more than just like building a product roadmap, I think it also applies to being a leader in your company. Because if you hear the same shit over and over and over again, well, it’s, there’s there’s something to it. And I think that that’s probably the best way to start when it comes to that. And we’re going to talk here in a second about how to build the product roadmap. But before we do that, a quick reminder that today’s episode, Startup Hustle is brought to you by FullScale.io, helping you build a software team quickly and affordably. I mean, Matt, you know, we’ve talked a lot about Full Scale. But most of the clients that we work with do have a product roadmap, they do have a plan, they do have some local help. And what we do is we help you build a team of experts in our office over in the Philippines, getting a little bit of the best of both worlds and little nearshoring and offshoring them out when we talk about how to build a product roadmap, I think we got to first like find the strategy, you know, like, let’s set our vision or goals for the product, like, what do we want this to do? Who do we want it to be used by? What is the problem that that user has that we solve? I think that’s a key ingredient. And our goals are short, I like short, mid and long term, you know, short term might be literally get anything online. And go from there. I mean, when you when you think about your strategies and stuff like that, what comes to mind?
Matt Watson 22:33
Yes, you definitely have to start with some goals. And they could be, they can be really simple goals. It could be revenue goals, or they could be we need to build this feature, we need to build this whatever. Or they could be more aspirational. They could be like, I want to be in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for whatever. Okay, that’s a big goal. How do you get there, right? So the goals could be we want to be profitable, we want to raise a series a or, or just whatever it is, right? It could be all over the board. But then once you kind of figure out what those goals are, and you gotta get everybody to agree, then you got to figure out what are the initiatives that we’ve got to come up with to get us there? Right. It’s like, if we want to be on the Magic Quadrant? Well, we’ve got 11 things to do now. Because we’re our product is, you know, doesn’t meet the standard. We got a long ways to go right, then you got to figure out what all those initiatives are. So it but it definitely starts with setting the strategy. And the problem was so many companies and we had this problem a lot at stack fi it was like, who is our target customer? Exactly? What is our strategy? We’ve tried a lot of different things, some of them sort of work. Maybe we’ve dabbled in too many things we haven’t, you know, focused on one specific strategy. And so that’s the problem you have as an early stage company is trying to do too many things sometimes.
Matt DeCoursey 23:45
Yeah, and I agree. And I mentioned that earlier. And that’s where the prioritization comes in. Now, when you think of priorities, Matt, like, and it comes to, you know, we’ll say company roadmap, a product or service roadmap. I mean, what what, what do you think scores more when it comes to priority? Like when you think about prioritizing anything? What are the first couple things that come to your mind?
Matt Watson 24:09
Well, I’m gonna I’m gonna say something you always say, it always usually comes back to stuff that it’s either gonna make us money, or save us money. And I’m going to include saving money in this is reducing churn. So it’s not necessarily literally saving us money, but it’s not losing customers that we have today. Right? And that’s a big thing. Once you get to be a, you know, you’re out of that early stage, you’re like, Okay, we do a few million dollars a year in revenue, quickly, the number thing the number one thing becomes, don’t fuck up what we have, right? How do we keep the people that we have happy and continue to keep their business? And so then then what you have is you have these competing priorities around like, how do we keep them happy? And just keep kind of doing what we’re doing versus building the next big thing and growing. And so then you have to juggle what always say Here’s the things you need to do you have to do and you want to do. And you kind of have to do a little bit of all of them. So
Matt DeCoursey 25:08
you know my answer to that? Well, first off, I think priorities generate revenue. And like you i And Matt, Matt rarely quotes me, but he got a good one they’re saving money is making money. Yeah, and you need to, you need to either sell more or spend less. And if you can do both, you can do your you’re on, you’re on to something. Now, look, take that same mentality and flip it around when you’re creating solutions. For those that use whatever it is, if you have a business to business solution. That’s one thing. I think one thing that in the last five years that has really, really, really become apparent to me, is the peace of mind factor. Like if you can generate peace of mind, not only for yourself, but your users that has this weird intent and tangible value that people don’t want to turn away from. Right. So peace of mind is like, knowing what we talked about Giga book earlier, knowing that you have something somewhere that your clients, and future clients can access, where they can just make an appointment, and they don’t need to talk to you. But peace of mind means knowing that it’s reliable, that it’s doing what it needs to do blah, blah, blah. And that kind of stuff, is not only in your own business, like for example, a peace of mind thing might just be like Matt, you we’ve seen it or built it or been around, you have some rickety bullshit in your software that’s causing some kind of product problems or some kind of slowdown. And as a founder, you wake up at three in the morning thinking about that, that is the opposite of peace of mind. Those are the things that, you know, it’s kind of well, creating a roadmap is a good way to have a little bit of peace of mind, because you can at least begin to define what’s going on. So you know, when it comes to priorities, the peace of mind factor like because when you have peace of mind, it opens up your it opens up your thought channels and process but user side I mean, really, that is just something that it’s really it’s so what kind of peace of mind do you create. And if you can do that, for a user, they don’t want to get rid of whatever it is that you’re selling. Now, if you’re just a utilitarian, something that can be replaced by another utilitarian something that’s not as that’s not a sticky, so you know, what you get, give some thought to the peace of mind thing and look, turn that around and put that as part of your your marketing roadmap, because that’s what’s going to get people’s attention as well. So all right, so Matt, you know, we’ve talked so much about features, you know, what I’m going to say, features are only sellable if you define the benefits. So I think that’s part of creating that priority as well like which feature or what thing that you’re going to build creates the best overall benefit. I know, we’re just talking, I was just going on about peace of mind. That’s one that I love. But let’s talk a little bit about the benefits. And let’s see, let’s see, let’s see stack a Fie, who was recently acquired by net trio. And congratulations again on that mountain. But you know, when you talk about, like, when you were building sacrifi, you know, what were? How did you What were the benefits, like what’s the main benefit, and attach that to a future so we can give a living, breathing example of that?
Matt Watson 28:24
Well, so that one of the key benefits for us was just giving people access and visibility to information that they otherwise didn’t know. And so we were selling a tool, right? So the benefit was giving them access to data. It’s kind of like analytics type of stuff, right? Think about like Google Analytics, like, how do you know how many people go to your website? And what are they looking at? Like? You don’t know, you have no idea. Right? So you need a tool for that. And so that was that was the benefit. And so for us, the features were just how do we collect that data and make it easy to easy to understand and provide the reporting that the users need?
Matt DeCoursey 29:02
So I’m gonna give a different completely like real world example, Matt is a hammer a hammer. Yeah, on some levels, right. But they have different kinds of hammers, you have chirping hammer, you have finishing hammers, you have all of that. Now, theoretically, they’re all hammers, but they have a different benefit, you know, like a finishing, or the benefit of it is it’s smooth and it’s smaller, and like, you tap that nail in and it doesn’t leave a big hole dividend the board and you know, that’s the benefit of that particular type of hammer. But if you send someone to the store, you say, Hey, Matt, go down to Home Depot, get me a hammer. I shouldn’t be upset when you come back with any type of hammer that they have. Whether it be and you know what there’s, there’s $50 hammers, and there’s $4 hammers, and they’re all different. The benefit of the $4 hammer is that it’s cheap, and if you break it, or barely need it, or whatever, at least you kept some money in your pocket the expensive hammer might have a whole bunch of different things, it’s got a better grip on it, if you swing it all day, it’s gonna it doesn’t leave blisters all over your hands. You know, it does this, it does that. And the benefits are the reason that people choose the different types of hammers. And this is the different kind of stuff in your product that people are going to look for. It’s the benefits that people buy. And I think your product and service roadmap should be centric around that, because really in the hand, people don’t buy features, they buy benefits. So you should be able to describe what a feature is the advantage that it has, when it comes to the competition, and then the benefit of what it is as a user, and we were talking about Giga book earlier, like the peace of mind benefit, we found really quickly that people that were using the platform were really excited, they felt like they had unchained themselves from their business, that’s peace of mind, that was more powerful and more valuable than $15 a month, or $30 a month or $100 a month. And, and you know, don’t be afraid to break that down into real time. You know, you can say it’s kind of like that those ads that are like, for 50 cents a day, you can feed a child and Ethiopia, it’s the same thing. You know, that’s, well, that’s $15 a month, right? And but the thing is, is they break it down and look at it, hey, look, this is only two, this is two quarters today. That’s it. And you know, sometimes you can break that down and create those benefits. All right, so. So Matt, we just created this hypothetical roadmap for the software platform that for a company that we don’t own, that we’re never going to start and that we are going to talk about right now. And all of a sudden, it’s really deep. We’ve got like 60 pages worth of stuff. We think we prioritized it. How the fuck do we roll all this out?
Matt Watson 31:42
Well, you have to break it down into smaller chunks of work that you can actually build and deliver. And so I always say how do you how do you eat an elephant? It’s one bite at a time with a lot of lions and
Matt DeCoursey 31:55
or maybe start with an art and start with the tail? Yeah.
Matt Watson 31:59
And so you got to you got to break it down and in the steps and focus on the first step.
Matt DeCoursey 32:07
What I’ve done this in the past, I think it’s important to give people the longer sense of what you’re trying to build, but not not overflow, like not flood, everyone with so much info. You’re like, Hey, here’s a three year product roadmap get to work. You’re like, what, but I think understanding what you’re going to need later in many cases is important because we’ve talked so much in the past about not creating technical debt. Isn’t that a good way to create it, not having any consideration for what you’re building now might need to do connect to or integrate with later?
Think we’re putting Matt to sleep here?
Matt Watson 32:47
Sorry. It’s always hard. And as you said earlier, you always have to allow time for all the stuff you don’t you don’t even think about and that’s wrong with roadmaps is they, they’re always a guest, right? And rarely ever executed to plan. So things always shuffle around and move around. A customer comes by that says, Okay, well, I’ll give you a million dollars a year, but we need this feature. And you’re like, Well, I guess we’re gonna do that feature before we do a bunch of other ones. And that’s okay. You can make those decisions. But it’s, it’s a guide, if anything, it’s a guide.
Matt DeCoursey 33:24
Yeah, I think one thing we you know, as we kind of head to the end of this episode, it’s funny because I just busted Matt yawning. This stuff is kind of Yambol on Sundays, like parts of it are at the same time. It’s also really exciting. And it should, you know, wake you up and get you invigorated. Now, what happens when you need to change the roadmap? I mean, how do you go about that? Because, like you mentioned that causes organizational chaos. Some people don’t like the changes, they don’t like to hear that what they’ve been working on is now going to get thrown out. And something else is going to occur. I mean, when you know, you have to make a change in a product roadmap. I mean, now, how have you done that in the past?
Matt Watson 34:08
Well, I think early on in my career, I always kind of felt always like, the most important stuff was to do and you would just kind of did it week to week, right. But we never stopped back and step back and build a roadmap. And I think that’s one of the hardest things to do is to take the time to build the roadmap, but what you don’t want to do is keep changing it around. Like the last thing you want to do is go back to your development team and be like, hey, you’ve been working on this thing. We didn’t care about that thing anymore. No, you did 80% of the work. We’re just gonna put that on the shelf and we need you to work on this other thing. You don’t want to do that. And so you got to be careful with the team and give them time and let them feel like they accomplish things as well and you know, see their baby through getting born and raised and accomplished before you decide you don’t care about it. You want to start another one. So, not not moving too drastically, in the short term I think is important. Let people finish the work that you already asked them to do. And don’t drive them crazy by changing the direction every week. So if you got to change the plan, that’s fine, but, you know, just expect, like, get to give them a couple of weeks or whatever, to finish what you already asked him to do, and I’ll keep changing shit around.
Matt DeCoursey 35:22
I think if you do have to make changes, you need to be ready to as a leader, you need to explain why, you know, and save that card. That card? Oh, yeah, I’ll tell you what, man, I save a lot of cards. And that’s, that’s, you know, growing up, you know, my dad would say, you know, you got to pick and choose your battles. And, you know, decide that because because you can either you can either be right, or you can be happy. You know, and that’s the thing is, is, you know, if you’re constantly fighting a battle, you’re constantly changing things. I mean, it’s a credibility thing. I mean, you’re gonna end up with a team that is going to start a new sprint of building something, and they’re on the very first day, they’re going to look at each other and go, so how long do you think it’s going to take for them to come throw this in the trash? It’s just not inspiring. I mean, it’s really that simple. Now, speaking of inspiration that we’ll do the founders freestyle, right after I remind you that today’s episode of Startup Hustle is brought to you by FullScale.io. We help you build a software team quickly and affordably. Alright, so Matt, we talked a lot about a lot of different things in this episode, you know, the product roadmap and how that can affect everything you do over time, why you need one? What happens when you don’t have one? I mean, what are your takeaways from today? And some of your best advice you can give for me, what’s your freestyle for all the founders out there?
Matt Watson 36:39
I think the roadmap is a little bit like doing business forecasts, right, like, you know, they’re not going to be accurate, you know, there’s gonna be a lot of changes just just like with financial forecasts, but you need to make one. And there are healthy, healthy thing to do every quarter, or every few months, to at least refresh, like the higher, you know, bigger roadmap of like, Hey, these are the things we want to accomplish. And I think they’re also super important to your employees, your customers, all that kind of stuff. to always be reassuring them. This is what we’re doing. This is where we’re going, I need your help to get there. And this is why and it, you’ve got to get your employees on board and get them to help you accomplish it. So and they want to know they want to know where are we going? And in? Here’s one of the big reasons why right like, well, the salespeople are on the phone, and they get their teeth kicked in every day because our competitors are whipping her ass. Well, wouldn’t you think the sales team would really like to know that we actually plan to frickin solve that problem, and we’re actually going to be competitive, right? Like, these are all reasons that it’s important to have a roadmap and educate the team. So they know they can tell the customers Oh, yeah, we’re gonna have that in q1 next year. And it’s okay, we got it. We’re, it’s on the roadmap, we’re gonna do it. Right. But you got to then deliver it, or they’re not gonna believe you. So?
Matt DeCoursey 38:00
Well, I think that same thing is important to to be able to tell people it’s not on the roadmap. Yeah, absolutely. No, we used to, we used to run into that because you were talking about Giga book and Giga books, a booking platform. The problem with booking platforms is if they’re not industry specific, they need to be highly, highly customizable, which is the route that we took, and people would ask us all the time, do you plan on doing this? No, it’s not currently in our plan, and I’m not sure it ever will be, you know, and, and that’s fine. Because just kind of say it like it is. And otherwise, you’re gonna end up with people that are pissed off, irritated, cranky, and it just compounds the issue, it’s back to that, you know, Matt was mentioned in the backpack, just kind of roll into my freestyle look, the more things you throw, and when you’re trying to get to the top of the mountain, there’s a couple things to consider one, it is much, much easier to look up and ask those already on top to just pull you up. So look at the things that other people are doing, whether it’s a competitor, or whomever, and try to figure out your own plan. And then also, you know, Matt was talking about the backpack earlier, if you do have to walk up to the top of it, of the mountain on your own, or stuff you put in the bag that you’re carrying, the heavier it is, the harder it is to get to the top of the mountain. And that’s the same thing with, you know, building products and features and stuff. It’s just more stuff to maintain to keep up with to improve, to deal with. And I mean, really, in the end, as I’ve gotten older man, I just really am a big fan of simplicity. At this point. I think you see so many software platforms that are really simple and they are really successful. Because they’re simple, like take get all of the bells and whistles out of it. There are only a couple things that anything should probably do to be considered useful unless you’re a Swiss army knife. Right now Swiss Army knives a whole a whole nother thing. I mean, that’s, you know, that’s, that’s their approach. That’s their product, but in the end, you know, most people just want the frickin Knife. on it. So what are the what are the couple things that you need? I got a Swiss army knife. Now I use the knife and probably the corkscrew that passed.
Matt Watson 40:11
And to follow up on your example about the benefit offense thing, right? Like, at Netro, we’re looking at some software to help with security stuff. And all the benefits have to do with security and our security posture and all that, like, it has a bunch of features. And I don’t even know what all the features do. I just know we need the benefit. Right? And that’s what people buy. It’s like I got a problem to solve. I can improve our security posture. This thing’s gonna help us do it. It’s a Swiss army knife and a bunch of things. However it works. That’s what I need.
Matt DeCoursey 40:42
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s it. Well, Matt, thanks once again for joining me. I guess we’ll, we’ll get back out but next week. I’ll see I’ll see you then.
Matt Watson 40:50
See you, guys.