Roadmaps, Focus Groups, Personas and Other Ugly Crutches


I work on 20Skaters, ThreeFortyNine, Ontario Startup Train and a few others. My vanity site is

Have you ever created and maintained a Product Roadmap? It’s an excellent tool that allows a team, or the execs, to plot the precise path a software development team is heading. You then simply share the roadmap with the team and they start following the directions that will take them on their way to a successful product.

It’s pretty much identical to the way real roadmaps work. You and the kids sit down to plan the road trip down to Florida. Mom and dad, while consulting little existing tools or data, get out the paper and pen and sketch out how you’re going to make your way to the sun. Or wait, does that metaphor even apply?

What about focus groups and surveys, have you used those for product development? Customers always end up doing exactly what they said they’d do right? I’m assuming there were no leading questions in your surveys that lead people to tell you precisely what you wanted to hear, if only to just finish the stupid survey.

How are your personas these days? Do they live and breath? Are your personas so detailed and well written that your team feels like they haunt your offices?

The above are a few examples of tools used in software development in an attempt to guide the development of the product without having to talk to real people. That’s right, without talking to real customers! All of the above can play valuable roles in product development, however, they need to be kept in check.

As an example, surveys shouldn’t be used in place of speaking to real customers. Personas should be abandoned once you have real customers you can engage with, and talk to. A product roadmap is a terrible tool when compared with a development team who is deeply engaged with your real customers.

Use all the above tools and more but please, treat them like the crutches they are. Your goal is to develop your team and it’s connection with your real customers to the point where you can discard these crutches. You want your team running fast not hobbling along burdened by walking aids.

I’ll be digging into this a little more this evening at our weekly Founder’s Club. We typically have room for guests so if you’re interested in discussing this more, contact me about joining us at 8pm Wednesday night.