Best Practices

How to Use Data to Rework Your Product Roadmap

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Pendo blog.

In life, we make plans and oftentimes the universe has something else in mind.

In product management, a similar pattern occurs with the roadmap. Still, product managers are asked to provide a roadmap that reflects the next six months (or even the next year), even though a variety of factors can impact what users need from the product at any given moment.

In reality, the product roadmap shouldn’t be thought of as a stagnant asset. As a product manager, I believe PMs should always be reevaluating and adjusting what’s planned, balancing our customers’ immediate and long-term needs. By leveraging data on product usage, customer sentiment, and other user behaviors, you can better ensure you’re building products and features that best serve your customers right now.

When the time comes to reevaluate (trust me, that time will come), here are four tactics for using data to rework your product roadmap.

1. Narrow in on feature usage

While there are a lot of different product data points to consider, when it comes to your roadmap, one of the most important areas is feature usage. If you’re trying to understand if (and how) feature usage has changed, you can compare feature usage in the last three months to nine months ago. Or, if a recent event has dramatically impacted product usage, you can compare feature usage pre-event and now.

After digging into the data, if you notice that a feature is experiencing higher usage levels, ask yourself if there are any updates or improvements that should be prioritized over other roadmap plans. If a specific feature is now more valuable to your customers, you need to ensure you’re providing the best possible version of that feature.

2. Look at the account and visitor level

Your first thought might be to examine product usage broadly to try and understand any overall themes that could impact the roadmap. Or, you might approach the data by looking at the individual user level to see how your power users’ behaviors may have changed. Ideally, you should be analyzing product usage at both the account and visitor level. Maybe certain industries have more of a need for your product now (shown by increased usage at the account level), or you might notice that usage is up for one of your specific personas (shown by increased usage at the visitor level).

3. Leverage your company website

Product usage data can help inform a lot of roadmap decisions, but you can also take a more creative approach to understanding customers’ current needs. One often untapped source of data is your own company’s website. If you’re able to track how customers navigate certain webpages, you can glean insight into what your users need, based on what they’re interested in.

For example, if you have a resource hub with information about different parts of your product, you can track usage on this page to identify which topics users are clicking on the most. These actions indicate what your customers are thinking about, and what’s most important to them when it comes to the product. From there, you can use this data (or perhaps combine it with information from customer interviews) to circle back on your product roadmap: are there areas of your product that are particularly relevant to your users now, that need to be optimized?

4. Identify any new personas

Your roadmap is always built with your users in mind, but what happens if the types of people using your product suddenly change? When looking at your product usage data, make sure to segment by user type (or role) to get a clear sense of who your most active users are. If a new persona is now at the top of that list, it’s important to reexamine what’s on the roadmap with these specific users’ needs in mind. Think about which features or functionality can help elevate their product experience — if they aren’t already on the roadmap, it may be time to pivot.

Want to learn more about how product leaders can use data to build an effective product strategy? Check out Pendo’s recently-published e-book, “How to Become a Data-Driven Product Manager,” to hear how today’s product practitioners are leveraging product metrics to craft a better customer journey.