If we had a Roadmap . . .

Some examples of emails we get about our product roadmap at Highrise:

Hope something like this is on the product roadmap.

Is such development planned in your roadmap soon?

I’m following up to see if we can add this to the product roadmap.

You want the truth?

Here it goes. Highrise doesn’t have a roadmap.

Our team doesn’t have a list of features with exact dates for release. We don’t know what’s going to be released on Tuesday, August 23.

We can’t advise when something will be possible. We can’t confirm if something is on our roadmap. The product roadmap doesn’t exist.

We don’t make promises.

And really that’s all a roadmap is. A promise.

A product roadmap is a promise that customers will get something on a specific date.

That’s a real photo of a map at the top of this post. It was an Uber ride Jon and I took from a Boulder hotel in an attempt to get to the Denver Airport.

Highrise is a remote company. This means all of us work where we’re comfortable. We have team members in Chicago, Boulder, Minneapolis, and Charlotte. All over the country.

Remote work is refreshing. It puts all the focus on getting work done. Our ancestors (aka Basecamp), wrote a book on it. We believe in remote work.

While remote work is great, every so often you need to meet your team face-to-face. There is no substitute for being able to look a colleague in the eye when you’re explaining something or giving them a hug instead of saying thank you over chat.

Our team met in Boulder in the middle of March for a team retreat. Michael, who resides in Boulder, told us the weather would either be perfect or it would snow a couple feet.

The retreat was delightful. We caught up and got to know one another better. We made progress on ways to improve Highrise and defined our priorities.

The weather was perfect. We went on a hike together and enjoyed the outdoors. Had a lovely team dinner. The trip was going really well.

And then it changed.

Most of us were scheduled to leave on Wednesday, March 23.

I woke up early and looked out the window of the hotel.

Holy shit.

There was about 4 or 5 inches of snow on the ground. And it was still snowing. Hard.

I looked at my phone. Blizzard warning for Denver.

I checked my flights. Still on-time. Allegedly.

The next 8 hours of that day were something I’ll never forget.

Jon and I walked to a coffee shop in downtown Boulder and met another member of our team, Grant, to get some work done.

We were checking our flights every 15 minutes or so. Nathan and Lynette’s flight was already cancelled.

Somehow the flights Jon and I had were still on-time.

We needed to get to the airport. And Jon scheduled a shuttle from the hotel.

It was time to go. The snow hadn’t stopped. It picked up.

As we got to the hotel to grab our bags, Jon got a phone call. It was the shuttle. They cancelled.

We had a choice to make.

Try to take the public bus an hour from Boulder to Denver. Or call an Uber.

We chose an Uber. I pulled up my phone and braced myself for what kind of car the driver was going to be in.

Chevrolet Suburban.

Jon and I looked at each other. That might work.

We got in the Uber. Our driver, Marty, couldn’t have been nicer. He was a mountain man. Prepared.

“Alright, gentlemen. It says it should take about an hour and a half to get to the airport. There’s a few different ways we can go. If we get in trouble, I’ve got some blankets and Heath bars,” Marty said.

Marty’s pitch made us laugh. Blankets and Heath bars? We’re not going to get stranded.

As we started our route, the first highway we attempted to go on was closed. This was 10 minutes in.

Marty tried the next route. Gridlock. Bumper to bumper. The snow wasn’t stopping.

Marty said let’s turn around and try another route.

Jon got a notification on his phone. Flight cancelled.

My flight was still on-time. Marty takes us to the next route. More traffic. We’re going at a snail’s pace.

A little over an hour has passed now. I check the Denver Airport’s Twitter account.

A minute later, my flight is cancelled. No surprise.

Now, we’re in no man’s land between Boulder and Denver. We’re not leaving today and we’re not quite sure where we’re going either.

Marty suggests we try to get to a hotel that’s in the direction of the airport. Jon calls what feels like 20 hotels. Almost all are booked.

Jon lands a reservation for us at a hotel in Thornton, Colorado.

The destination is now a hotel in Thornton.

We stopped moving. Must be an accident ahead. Marty takes us on new route.

We’re coming up on 2 hours in the car. I’m starting to think we might need that blanket and Heath bar.

The new route is a little more open. The Suburban is gaining some speed as we approach a hill.

The car fishtails a little. And we’re stuck.

Marty asks if we can get out to push the car.

You might think team building happens with things like trust falls. Nope.

Try pushing a stranger’s car in driving snow with a co-worker. You’ll get to know each other. Fast.

Jon and I get out and head to the back of the car. It’s a white-out. Snow is falling fast. And it’s wet. The snow on the ground is so packed it feels like cement.

We push the car and nothing really is working. A few folks in passing cars stop and help.

The best advice they give us is the road ahead is closed. Turn around. Instead of pushing the car forward, we can go back now.

Marty maneuvers the Suburban and flips it around. We’re moving now.

We all take a deep breath. Share some four letter words. And agree let’s go back to Boulder if we can.

Marty drops us off back at the same place he picked us up. Almost 3 hours later.

We made it. My goodness.

When Jon and I got in that Uber, our flights were on time and we’re expecting to get to the airport in 90 minutes.

The “roadmap” said we’d be getting home today. That was our expectation.

And that didn’t happen at all. It sucked.

This is why our team doesn’t have a product roadmap.

Our team doesn’t like making promises we can’t keep. We don’t like setting expectations and then letting people down.

If we did have a roadmap, I’d bet it would be full of detours. Much like our Uber ride. It would resemble a child’s first attempt at using an Etch a Sketch.

Lots of twists and turns. Backtracking. Turning around. A little messy.

This isn’t to say we don’t have any clue what we’re working on. That’s far from the truth.

Our team has announced over 70 updates since taking over Highrise. Seventy. New features and improvements are announced almost every week. And that’s just what we choose to announce.

We can’t do that without some planning.

Our team has a general idea of what’s coming in the next month or so. After that, we gather the response of what we released and go from there.

Sometimes this means we continue on with what we had planned. Other times it means we have to turn around. Scrap our plans and work to improve what was released in the last few weeks.

For example, when we released Broadcast, we started to notice a frequent feature request. Broadcast makes it possible to email multiple contacts at once. It replaces the need for an extra tool like MailChimp.

But we found people were having trouble selecting a group of contacts to email. Tags and filters were limiting, and it put pressure on our team to improve it. Fast.

This changed our priorities. We scrapped what was initially planned to improve tag filtering. We added company tags and NOT tags in our next releases.

We changed our focus to help people use Broadcast. And that’s not something we anticipated until people starting using it.

A roadmap wouldn’t have helped us there. It would of been pre-determined what we should be working on next.

Roadmaps are predictions and assumptions.

But you can’t predict the future. Priorities change. Shit happens. And you have to adjust.

Just like Marty did when trying to get us to the Denver Airport. And the hotel in Thornton. And then back to Boulder.

We don’t have a product roadmap.

But if we did, it would have lots of detours.

P.S. Wondering where our next detour is going to take us? Follow @highrise on Twitter, check out our recent announcements, or ask me @cjgallo.

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