Like most software companies, we here at Narrative Science spend a lot of time thinking about our product roadmap. Not only is our roadmap the northstar for our product and development teams, it’s the primary way we articulate our vision of data storytelling. Decisions on what to build (and when) can be an exciting bet on our future.
So how do we decide what to build? Well, a lot of it comes back to our customers. Sure, some features come from market research or bolts of inspiration. Much of our roadmap, though, comes from the folks who use our products day after day. We use a four-step process that takes us from brilliant suggestions to software features.
Review and listen
We make it a standard practice to conduct quarterly business reviews with our customers to ensure that our roadmap is aligned to features that will bring them the most meaningful value. It’s often the case that during these meetings, we learn about ideas, use cases, and needs that we had never even considered. Hearing directly from our users helps surface incredibly innovative ideas.
From these conversations, our customer success and product teams sit down and discuss where feedback is coalescing and what the top priorities are for our users. Once these are identified, our product team nimbly spins up early prototypes and wireframes. Designers jump in to start thinking about the user experience and interaction. And pretty soon we have version 0.0 of our newest feature.
Once we have an early version of the feature, we turn it over to our internal experts, usually team members who work in pre-sales and professional services. These internal “customers” help to root out bugs and limitations with the feature by simply using it as part of their job. Since they also own support, training, and documentation, they are especially well-suited to evaluate whether the feature is easy to explain and use.
As our alpha starts to mature into a beta version, we loop in a few early-adopter customers to give the feature a spin. Queue the next round of prototyping and iteration until we feel confident our feature is ready for prime time.
Finally, it’s time to make the feature generally available. Our product marketing team goes into action to ensure all of our customers and prospects have the necessary information.
But this is hardly the last step. In fact, this is when the listening step begins all over again. Each new feature is the first step in an ongoing conversation with our customers.