How we planned our 2020-2021 product roadmap

In some organisations the product roadmap is set from the moment it’s signed off and deviation is not permitted. We don’t take that approach. It reduces flexibility and doesn’t hold up when tasks are more complicated than they first seem. Instead, we prefer to adjust our plan at regular intervals, based on our experience, customer feedback, and market influence.

A roadmap should contain a selection of features we want to drive our product and company forward, while delivering the best experience to existing users and customers. We’re not short on ideas, so how do we decide what will give the most benefit for all parties?

Managing many ideas and opinions

Our team has grown substantially over the last 18 months but we’re still product-led and believe that everyone at Bipsync should be able to contribute to the development and design of the product. Consequently, we ran two sessions in Q4 of 2019 to find out what everyone in the company thought we should focus on building in 2020 and why. We ran one session in Cardiff with the product team and one in New York with our sales, marketing and customer success teams.

We felt two sessions of smaller groups in the same room would be more focussed than the alternative of having everyone in the company on a video call, this approach brings an additional challenge of reconciling the feedback from each meeting. The second session was not privy to the results of the first to not prejudice or influence anyone, because we wanted as broad a set of ideas as possible.

As it happened the reconciliation was pretty easy to achieve, because there was a lot of consensus and cross-over of suggestions – a reassuring outcome that demonstrates a shared understanding of where we are, what our clients need and where we want to go as a company. There were plenty of new suggestions that weren’t shared across teams though, and we had the space to explore and debate them. Many were accepted as a result. None of the proposed roadmap items were mutually exclusive.  

To maintain a focus on how to best deliver for our customers and users we ranked the issues as they were raised. The ranking used fairly simple process. We mapped each item on a graph with axis for Effort and Reward:

This way we could easily see which ideas would deliver high reward and the potential effort involved in producing them. The further to the right hand side of the chart the higher we felt the reward was, the further into the top half the higher the effort of producing the item. 

This made filtering items quick and easy because we can review the left hand, lower reward items and recognise that they are not going to deliver much benefit to customers. This leaves us with the right hand side of items which vary in effort. In order to clearly define these items we took each one in turn and talked through its benefits and the scale of effort involved and worked them into a simple list of high, medium and low priority.

But does it all fit?

Next we put some extremely basic estimation against the high priority items and used this to plan some rough delivery dates, giving us a basic schedule for the year.

We are now working through a multi-staged approach to delivering those high priority, high reward items. A lot of companies will split roadmaps into quarters across the year, as we have done in the past. It felt too rigid so this time we have six phases, derived from the initial estimates of how long each task might take. This is likely to change as we get further into each task. Some may take longer, others may complete more quickly than anticipated.

You might be wondering why we only applied a very basic estimation to these important items of work. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Firstly, an estimation is a best guess given the current information. It’s informative, but cannot form a commitment. At this stage we only had an idea of what we wanted to build for each roadmap item rather than a full specification. Consequently there is limited information to estimate against so we can only offer the most basic of estimation.

Secondly it can be tempting to get lost in trying to nail down every last detail in order to deliver an “estimate” that is as close to accurate as possible. This is a counterproductive use of our time. We’d much rather work out an approximate number of sprints it may take to build something and then be flexible with our delivery plan as we learn more while doing the actual work. It gives us the space to be more creative in how we build and deliver our product.

Next we considered the medium and lower priority items. These haven’t been added to the roadmap yet, but they could still be developed. This could happen in a couple of different ways.

If we complete everything more rapidly than expected we have our next batch of tasks ready to go; we just need to run a sanity check and review to see they are still valid across client need, overall roadmap balance and market dynamics. Alternatively, they may become more urgent, as a result of client feedback, for example – in which case we will do everything we can to deliver these items.

Positive outcomes

The underlying focus of our roadmap is one of growth. Our team doubled in size last year, and it’s time to really leverage the team’s expertise to expand the product’s capabilities for clients both new and existing.

We have a broad mix of LP (Allocator) and GP (Fund Manager) clients, varying in size from start-up to large global enterprise, and with users across investment, operations, compliance and technology teams. First and foremost, its critical our roadmap is focused on features that support growth across all aspects of our customer base.

Everything we’re working on drives toward maintaining and extending Bipsync’s global reputation as the compliant productivity environment for the investment front-office, for example expanding our process management capabilities, via features like Calendar Sync and Mailbox Integration.

We are also further advancing our reporting and analysis tools and capabilities to offer even more comprehensive custom reports to give our users insight into their end-to-end research process, and numerous integrations with complementary products in the GP and LP space to streamline users’ workflows with data imports, portfolio system integrations and more.

We continue to balance all of this in our roadmap with the continued expansion of Bipsync’s Enterprise credentials with more features for Single-Sign-On and User-Provisioning, while acknowledging the challenges that operating at such scale brings.

Across everything we have planned, we will work to ensure our high level of user-experience and interopability. One of Bipsync’s key differentiators is just how configurable the platform is – maintaining the product’s unrivaled level of flexibile configuration throughout our product development remains key to ensuring Bipsync remains as effective for a NY-based hedge fund as for a top 5 global university endowment or Sovereign Wealth Fund.

At Bipsync we operate in continuous delivery, with a new release pushed every 2-3 weeks and, we also publish our release notes publicly right here on our blog. So, keep an eye out here to see how our roadmap progresses.