Do users and, perhaps more importantly, prospective users of software want to know what is in the product’s future “roadmap”? This post is prompted by a Twitter conversation between Duane Jackson, of KashFlow , and blogger Dennis Howlett,
My own feeling, as an obsessive software user, is that I would like to know what the future plans for software are. When I am asked by others for recommendations, I want to know that I am recommending something that either (a) isn’t going to change dramatically and make my advice look silly, or (b) is going to develop to include features that I know the person asking me will need.
As an accountant often recommending QuickBooks in the nineties, I was always very frustrated with Intuit’s policy of never revealing anything until it was actually released. They seems to have got better at this over the past few years though – but now get accused of failing to deliver.
I can understand Duane’s position. He doesn't want KashFlow to become hostage to its own promises about future development or be seen as failing to deliver on them. Software companies are very wary of releasing vaporware.
However, often a user will be 95% sold on a new software solution but find it lacking a key feature. Knowing that there are plans to address the missing need in the near future can give the user comfort to take the plunge and live with the 5% problem for a short time. In the absence of roadmap information, the current lack of a key feature is usually a deal-breaker.
Software companies need to ship product, or sell monthly subscriptions and anything that helps take unnecessary friction out of the buying process should be embraced.
A fair warning that “stated future plans are subject to change and/or delay” can protect the position of the software developer; used in a balanced way.