Creating your product roadmap can ignite ingenuity, inspiration, and collaboration. But when you leave your customers out of the equation, your best efforts may not be enough to truly serve your user base. Beth Toland, the Head of Experience Research at Asana, shares her tips for making your roadmap inclusive of customer needs and ways to use insights to improve your product development.
The Status Quo Fails to Optimally Serve Customers
A typical SaaS roadmap can often involve more reaction than planning. When you don’t plan ahead of time, your team will often resort to “cramming,” a style of haphazard strategy that fails to address customer satisfaction in a meaningful way. Toland: “We put the onus on our customers…for sure we want to ship things out there, and we do have to ship and learn. But so often it leads to the situation where you get [product updates] out there and you feel like you’re giving a gift to the customer, when really…you’re going to learn at their expense.”
This cramming within a roadmap plan can lead to a couple of significant issues:
- Half-Baked Ideas: Your team scrambles to meet a sudden demand and they push out an idea that seems “good enough” or an experimental item they can ship and then gather learnings.
- Missed Opportunities to Innovate: Simply making updates in response to a problem won’t cut it if you want to create a truly exceptional experience. The missed innovation opportunities negatively impact your employees as much as the customers. Toland says, “When you innovate, and you have planned space to innovate, and you are practicing it, your team is excited too. It’s a virtuous cycle.”
When you break the status quo and take the time to plan and innovate, your team gets to work on compelling, impactful projects. They are creative, thinking participants, not just reactive order-takers.
The Double Diamond Innovation Framework
The approach that Asana takes to product development and innovation relies on the double diamond framework. Essentially, the diagram consists of connected diamonds with two points each.
Diamond 1: Opportunity Phase
- Identify: Research the general pain points and needs around your target customer base. Identify different customer profiles that would be ideal candidates for the market category.
- Define: Narrow your focus to define the pain points that your product is uniquely qualified to solve. Hone in on a specific type of customer on which to set your attention.
Diamond 2: Solution Phase
- Solve: Discover ways customer problems and pain points can be solved.
- Differentiate: Create company-specific problem-solving methods to solve these issues in your distinct way.
It’s essential to understand the double diamond method in order to innovate for your customers in the short term and for the future.
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The Customer Needs Framework
Customer needs fill two general categories: the “now” needs and the “future” needs. To maximize product performance, you should address a little of both at a time.
- Now Needs: This category encompasses urgent, immediate fixes. You can identify Now Needs in two ways: Push, where customers actively make you aware of issues, and Pull, where you must do the work to seek it out.
- Push Needs: Asana kept tabs on their push needs by creating weekly digests of churn surveys and NPS scores. This way, the trend and patterns of customer needs became clear organically over time.
- Pull Needs: Toland recommends pulling VOC (Voice of the Customer) Consult. This entails asking customer-facing teams for information on trending requests and problems, digesting it as a group and coming up with creative solutions to solve pain points.
Future Needs: This category requires some analytical thinking and strategic action on your team’s part. These needs may be more ambient or appear as something a customer can’t quite put into words or specify what’s bothering them.
You want to stay ahead of the curve for this type of innovation. Charge your team leads with specific AORs (areas of responsibilities) to uncover opportunities for innovation. Also, Toland recommends taking on big bets and fresh strategy ideas to take your product and services to the next level.
- Give your team time and space to be creative problem-solvers.
- Maintain a healthy balance of learning from insights and serving your customers.
- Use the Double Diamond method as a model to create a category-defining experience.
- Maintain a company culture of innovation to inspire customers and grow your business.