You’re probably familiar with the idea of a product roadmap when it comes to software. Generally, a product roadmap tells you what features and functionality are planned for future releases of a product. It also serves as a map for the product team to help them begin with the end in mind.
But not all product roadmaps are created equal. Often, they involve a three+ year outlook that lists specific features and functionality planned for each product release over that timeframe. The problem is that the worlds of technology and business evolve rapidly, which makes it hard or impossible to correctly guess what specific features are needed 3 years down the road. By the time you get to a planned product release, the features and functionality you expected to see may have changed or the features may already be outdated because they didn’t adapt to inevitable change. Product roadmaps need to be designed as a guide, but also flexible enough to make changes necessary to remain relevant and useful.
The Now – Next – Later approach to product roadmaps
This is why the Nimble AMS team takes a different approach to product roadmaps – an approach we refer to as our “Now – Next – Later Roadmap”, or NNL Roadmap. We break down our roadmap into three sections to show what we are working on now, what do we have planned next, and what else is on our roadmap later. Using this approach, at any given time the Nimble AMS team can show customers the following levels of detail while leaving room to make adjustments.
This approach guides our Nimble AMS Framework First strategy to building the product and the continuous delivery approach to product upgrades. The Nimble AMS team adjusts the roadmap along the way to align with the changing business world and evolving customer needs.
Product roadmaps need to be designed as a guide, but also flexible enough to make changes necessary to remain relevant and useful.
This stage includes what the Nimble AMS team is working on now – what will be included in the upcoming release. In this stage, the Nimble team can show specific details about functionality and features, including designs, prototypes, functioning software and demonstrations. For example, in the Spring ’19 release of Nimble AMS, we are getting ready to release our new Recurring Payments capabilities. The team has already shown demonstrations of Recurring Payments functionality to customers and has gotten feedback along the way.
Something that’s unique to Nimble AMS in the association software world is that if a customer sees Now functionality that has been approved for customers, and they would like to begin using it right away, they can do so – even before the release is officially rolled out during one of our tri-annual releases.
This stage is broader than the Now stage. It includes the business challenges that Nimble AMS plans to address in the next release of the product. But because it’s further out, it’s more flexible than the Now stage. We focus on better understanding how we can solve jobs to be done without falling into granular details yet.
This Next stage is when we share what we are thinking about for our next release and get feedback from customers on high level approaches. We also use this time to develop our OKRs, or Objectives and Key Results, that will help ensure the next release will truly help our customers and not sit on a ‘feature shelf’.
This stage is a higher-level look at what’s coming much further down the road. What else are we thinking about but don’t have penciled in an upcoming release? We think more broadly about what problems our customers will be facing in the next 1 to 3 years. How will technology or landscape change, and what should we do to prepare our product for those challenges so customers can face them head on?
This approach allows us to talk with customers conceptually about business issues and technology, without committing to a specific feature or functionality too early. For example, we are exploring how Nimble AMS can help empower associations to be AI-First and take advantage of the advances in artificial intelligence (AI) with everything they do from the very first planning stages. Items on our Later roadmap are high enough level to gather feedback to better understand from customers what business challenges need to be addressed with AI and begin deciding how to address those problems in the product.
Something that’s unique to Nimble AMS… is that if a customer sees Now functionality that has been approved for customers, and they would like to begin using it right away, they can do so – even before the release is officially rolled out
Hitting the mark for associations
When you think of the Now – Next – Later approach, consider the idea of launching a spaceship to the moon: If you’re just one degree off at launch time you’ll end up thousands of miles off target when you reach the moon unless you correct your course along the way. By working with a product roadmap that’s flexible enough to tweak along the way, the Nimble AMS team can correct its course whenever necessary to hit the mark for customers’ needs.