The Customer Should Not Define Your Product Roadmap

John MacAdam
3 min readNov 25, 2018


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I make products and sell services. My most successful product is Hours Worked. The product has been through many updates over the years. Some major updates and some minor updates. Major updates include: releasing on a new platform, adding brand new features, or rewriting the entire product. Each major update has had two things in common:

  1. They made the product more successful than ever.
  2. Not a single customer asked for these updates.

Solve your own problems

I should clarify. Not a single external customer requested these major changes. They were my own interests. I wanted them. Originally, I created Hours Worked to track my own time. It solved my own problem. The first product was a spreadsheet that did exactly what I needed it to. About a year later I released a web app for the product. A couple of years later I released a mobile app. And, the mobile app has seen a few major updates since then.

The spreadsheet users were not asking for a website. The Chrome users were not asking for a mobile app. The mobile app users were not dreaming up major new features. All major product updates were scratching my own itch. I was defining my own product roadmap.

Solving your own problems with major releases has a few benefits:

  • You know there is at least some market for the solution.
  • You are motivated to deliver the product.
  • Your focus is on building a great solution, not marketing it.

Customer feedback is still valuable

For Hours Worked, customer feedback was coming in. Direct feedback such as customer reviews and emails (sometimes nasty). And indirect feedback through analytics and store metrics. The product received many updates based on customer feedback:

  • Tweaks to existing features
  • New settings based on unique work rules
  • Custom reports
  • New minor features or integrations

But it is important to keep in mind what customer feedback is for. It reflects the current version of your product. The way it is today. Customer suggestions are based on your existing product. Your job is to look ahead. What major change to the product would you personally most like to use? What big steps would you like to see the product take?

A suggested product roadmap cycle

I stumbled onto a product development roadmap that works for me. It goes something like this:

  • Solve your own problems.
  • Ship your solution.
  • Share it with others.
  • Collect customer feedback and update the product accordingly.
  • At the same time, plan major updates yourself.

Customers impact the short term. You control the big picture. This system has worked for me. I hope it works for you as well.

About The Author

John MacAdam is a Professional Engineer and mobile app developer from Columbus, Ohio. He is currently writing about Living with less and Growing a side business. Join the private email list to be notified of new posts.

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John MacAdam

Professional Transportation Engineer and IT Consultant from Columbus, Ohio. Helping companies deliver and understand technology.