We’re pivoting our product, and it’s difficult to plan the roadmap too far out. How do we reset expectations on what product communicates?
I’m wishing you a successful product pivot! You got this!
In this situation, you have your internal stakeholders (sales, marketing, GTM, etc) and you have your customers you need to reset expectations with (mostly for B2B products, less so for B2C)
For your internal stakeholders, the best thing you can do is be transparent and bring them as close as possible to what’s happening. For example, share the challenges, the tough trade off considerations, data you are using to drive your decisions, etc. This builds trust and partnership. Once you do that, sharing a short term roadmap will be more understandable and you can always provide a DFAD (date for a date) on when you expect to know more or have more things planned (milestones).
For your customers, also be transparent about the pivot and why you are making this change. Hopefully this pivot is ultimately for the best interest of your customers. Also, what works really well is if you take the opportunity to solicit feedback from your customers about the pivot and get some insights from them. This builds trust and a stronger partnership with your customers. And since you can’t share plans too far out, a DFAD is also good to manage expectations with your customers.
Say exactly that "We're pivoting our product. There are a lot of unknowns and it's difficult to plan too far out." It's perfectly fine to communicate honestly. If there's a good reason for the pivot, no one will fault you for it.
If you're able to have direct conversations with customers, it's important that you set up these conversations. Having open and honest conversations is important to build trust despite the pivot. It is also an opportunity to solicit feedback and listen to your customers.
Resetting expectations internally within your company will be much easier if you have already held conversations with customers. You can leverage these conversations to prove that the new direction has been validated by your customers.
In any case, pivoting a feature or a product can be stressful. But it's also fun.
I think you say exactly that!
"We're pivoting our product. There are a lot of unknowns. It's hard to plan our roadmap too far out. We're resetting expectations on how much we can communicate..." THEN, I would add this...
"We are focusing on these 3 themes in this priority - 1... 2... 3...Our goal is to deliver these X, Y, and Z customer outcomes by pivoting our product. We plan to have an update on these themes in ABC timeframe."
It's ok not to have all the answers in times of big change and ambiguity. If you did, you'd probably be guessing at best! And that's the fun - figuring it out.
I've had to manage a couple different pivots like in my product career. What's worked best in terms of communicating is the following:
- Making clear the "why" behind the pivot, and the risk associated with not pivoting
- Stating clearly the underlying first principles or vision for the pivot that exists today (it doesn't have to be super detailed - but this more about acknowledging what you do know or what you believe should be true)
- Acknowledging clearly that the roadmap will be in flux for some time, and the short-term is around building learnings and certainty around a long-term strategy
- Committing to some series of regular updates (I like every 2 weeks - if you're not learning enough worth sharing in 2 weeks, you're not pivoting fast enough)
- Following through on those updates, and keeping them as crisp and simple to understand as possible. Bulleted lists usually work well for me.