No excuse for not disclosing your roadmap

Software is a fast-paced industry. New technologies soon become obsolete ones, and you need keep your mindset in Fire and Motion mode to move forward. Yet, when something really big emerges, say cloud computing, you end up in a crossroad and you need to make a choice about the future of your business.

This future depends on the 3rd party technology you decide to rely on. This is true for software companies buying software components, but it’s also true for brick and mortar companies moving to the next generation ERP.

Trying to push my own little company forward, we can’t afford reinventing the wheel. Thus, we are relying on loads of 3rd party tools and technologies; most likey any software company I guess - with the notable exceptions of Microsoft and Google that are nearly self-sustained.

There is nothing wrong in itself depending on other business. Specialization has been a driving force behind business growth for the last two centuries. Yet, in order to take good decisions, I need to be informed about future plans for key technologies that we are adopting.

Plainly put: I need business & technology roadmaps.

A roadmap helps to understand:

Looking around me at companies who disclose their roadmaps, I realized that roadmaps are strong drivers to establish trust and commitment. It shows to your customers and partners that you are committed to move forward with them; not just to leverage status quo.

Yet, it’s still sad to see that many companies adopt the Absolute Radio Silence strategy of Apple. It might work in the case of Apple, because they have become expert at leveraging the media buzz around their own plans; but it looks to me a total nonsense for B2B markets where relationships last for years if not decades.

The average lifetime of an installed ERP is 8 years.

Hiding behind the argument we don’t want to over-promise  to keep your customers and partners in the dark looks to me a lame excuse. The roadmap represents a best effort attempt at summarizing directions, not an exact schedule. Obviously, it comes with a level of uncertainty. In B2B markets, your customers are smart enough to understand that.

Thus, I have decided to publish a public Lokad roadmap for 2010.

Obviously, one can argue that this roadmap is going to benefit to our competitors. Frankly, I don’t think so. If disclosing a 3 pages document is sufficient to put your business in trouble then it means that your intellectual property is really weak in the first place.

The roadmap tells what you are going to do, not the fine grained details to make it work. As usual, ideas are dime a dozen, many investors would even offer them for free, execution is everything.