A product roadmap that helps with "why" rather than "how"

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As a developer whenever you start adding a new feature, many times you have to ask product owner why we're doing it. If that feature has been in the planning for longer than 3 months, people already forget.

October 7, 2020 Today we got our 4th paying client!

It was bizarre to get 3 paying clients all in the same week in June. It also gave me false hope that now we'll start having new clients weekly (or at least bi-weekly). Today, 4 months later, we finally got our 4th client.

I remember reading comments from others that getting the 1st client is hard, going from the first client to 3 is harder, and to the 10 is even more painful. Well, now I understand it.

Nevertheless couldn't be more happier to get one more.

June 17, 2020 First paying client. And then another one.

This one is weird. You patiently wait for your first paying client to arrive and plan to have a huge celebration. Then it's a race to the 10th, 50th, 100th, and so on.

As embarrassing as it sounds, I missed the first client. Well, I missed the payment notification and only found out 4 months later after fixing a bug.

And then there was another client that took 6 weeks of trial and testing, some talking and video calling, and finally they converted. And then few more. But the weird thing is that after waiting for almost a year for the first clients to arrive, I got emotionally numb. The global pandemic and burning out played their part too.

I don't know about you guys, but I think I must follow the advice Tim Ferriss once gave: have a jar at home where you put little notes of things that you must celebrate. Go through them at the end of the week and smile!

March 19, 2020 Released a huge feature

Today I have finally released a team voting feature. Most of the people I spoke to who are responsible for product planning and roadmap gather in a meeting room and vote which features are getting implemented in the next quarter. With distributed teams it's a little bit trickier, and with people in different timezones that becomes a hell.

We've released asynchronous team voting: stakeholders can vote for what should go into the next quarter, and the product manager then prioritizes items on the roadmap based on the votes.

This was the piece I personally wanted since the beginning since it's a major differentiator from other similar tools, and is also super helpful for remote teams.

March 3, 2020 Implemented onboarding

I thought that implementing onboarding with various open-source libraries would be a breeze. But turned out it's actually pretty hard when your product changes often. In the end we decided to use Intercom to build this experience for shipit.

Compared to other services it was much easier to do so. You don't need to be technical at all (which helps with non-tech founders). Initially I wanted to choose from a myriad of React libraries but that turned out to be problematic: we experiment a lot and not needing a developer to updated the onboarding flow is very beneficial. Yes, Intercom is very pricey but we got into their startup program which helped reduce the cost at least for now.

February 12, 2020 Full test coverage for the API

This one is obviously a controversial milestone after lots of discussions about tests. But this is still a huge milestone for me and the project.

Our frontend communicates with the backend using API endpoints, and whenever I add new feature or update an existing ones, it might break something elsewhere. In the past months I've shipped multiple features without proper testing, and that would break project settings, or adding new item, or some other functionality that I didn't immediately think this update would touch. And in all cases a test would have caught that either the output has changed, or the call just breaks. So I invested some time to add tests for each endpoint.

These are functional tests and not unit or integration tests. At the moment I don't have time to add unit tests but thinking about using Selenium for integration tests. There have also been numerous bugs in the UI that were there due to developer fatigue and lack of testing before release. And on few occasions this lead to loss of customers.

February 4, 2020 Customer interviews are finally paying off

After releasing the MVP it was quickly obvious that there isn't any killer features in shipit. But we still needed to release the essential functionality to start with. Since then I've been doing lots of interviews with various companies, big, medium, and small, on different evolution stages (startups, growing, normal businesses, big and corporate), and the picture is starting to shape where we can take the niche.

It's not roadmap building, and it's not an all-in-one solution for product managers, but something much smaller and that helps you actually plan your product development where roadmap is just a small part of it.

Many people confuse release plan with roadmap. Others abandon their roadmaps are doing it once because they don't understand what are these for.

I think we've managed to also identify the ideal client, i.e. our target audience, so now it should become easier with wording on the website, marketing, and sales.

Cannot not recommend enough amazing book "The mom test"

January 30, 2020 shipit got featured on SaasHub

While I feel like it's a minor achievement since every entry gets featured some time on the main page, it's still great way to get a bit of publicity.

Submitting to SaasHub is straightforward, so I suggest you do it for your projects. I'm happy to write a review there as well if you share a link in the comments to your project.

January 27, 2020 Improved app loading times by 2-10X

I didn't expect that this would happen so early in the process. Few months ago I have added support for tags via 3rd-party library, and one of the clients started seeing increased loading times. It got to the point that the main app screen was taking 15-20 seconds to load. After two days of tinkering loading times are now 0.5-1.5 seconds. Yay!

January 21, 2020 The first successful interview

Since launching shipit I've been trying to conduct interviews with various people, both registered users and potential ones. What I'm trying to achieve with these is to figure out the exact target audience and how to approach them.

I'm building a product for product managers, people who communicate with clients, gather requirements, discuss these with the development team and management, create roadmaps. The problem is that people do it very differently, and many confuse a roadmap with a release plan. Some do planning entirely on their own while others talk to their teams, clients, and management. In every interview people were talking about completely different things and their approaches to planning. And they say (a collective term for various startup books and presenters in Startup School) that you have to do the interviews until you start to see the pattern. Well, today is the first day I saw a second person mentioning the problems we are trying to solve.

Two people is not much. But the answers they gave me are strikingly similar. The issues they face are almost the same. And I was told again that the tools for these processes are missing. I guess, hooray!

December 30, 2019 A request to Santa

So much has happened since the last update, but we're still missing the most important bit: a paying customer.

The initial version of the product was ugly and had minimal functionality. Everyone who signed up were abandoning the tool in mere seconds. These days we have users staying 30-50 minutes exploring the platform, building their product roadmaps, setting up integrations, but still none of them have converted. The fact that new users spend more time is inspiring, but zero conversion hits me really hard. And so the mood fluctuates.

This coming quarter I am focusing most of my time on trying to find that first customer and then increasing this number as much as possible.

Santa, can I ask you for 10 paying customers in the first quarter of next year? I'd be the happiest founder ever :-D

As a developer whenever you start adding a new feature, many times you have to ask product owner why we're doing it. If that feature has been in the planning for longer than 3 months, people already forget.