builds and ships products at a rapid pace. There are lots of moving parts and statuses, dates, and plans are constantly changing. The company is also split between Dublin, London and San Francisco, so different time zones make communication especially tricky at times.
Before Coda: Two different document types that didn’t talk to each other
To keep up with all these moving parts, Intercom implemented a shared roadmap and
. The roadmap defined all the problems the product team would work on for the quarter, while the 6-week cycle goals listed specific ways they would execute on the roadmap items.
The R&D org began tracking roadmap items and cycle goals in tools that were familiar — spreadsheets and documents. While flexible, the docs and spreadsheets also had a critical downside. They were disconnected. Teams were using different docs, and even different kinds of docs — spreadsheets vs. text editors — for various parts of the roadmapping process. Updates got lost in a sea of tabs, tables, and text across docs that didn’t talk to each other.
“We used this big, detailed, hardcore spreadsheet that only a few people in the company knew how to update, and nobody referenced it.”
, Intercom’s Senior Manager of Program Management, remembers, “It was a nightmare updating the spreadsheet, so nobody outside of the R&D team wanted to touch it for fear of breaking it. And since it didn't map to specific roadmap items, it was difficult for other teams to reference.”
Separately, the company’s R&D roadmap was tracked in a 15-page Google Doc. The document had a table for each team that showed the teams’ current working items and roadmap, and was updated by the product managers once a quarter.
The other problem, according to Aislinn, was that dates weren't being captured anywhere in the process, so it was hard for other teams to plan ahead. "The PMM’s and the sales team had little visibility into when things were going to ship. PMMs got their updates through weekly one-to-one conversations with the PM of the particular product team. As dates changed, which they often do, updates wouldn't necessarily get communicated to the SF-based PMMs in a timely manner.”
, Director of Product Management, evolved the roadmap process to give other cross functional teams more visibility into what the product team was building and when it might ship. At the same time, Aislinn was looking for new tooling for her Program Management team, and had trialed multiple project management software tools. None of them had the flexibility that her team needed.
Then Aislinn tried Coda. She describes the magical moment moment as “Oh, wow, it’s a combination of docs, spreadsheets, and databases, all in one place.'” She proposed that they use it for the improved roadmap process.
“Oh, wow, it’s a combination of docs, spreadsheets, and databases, all in one place”
With Coda: A doc that could handle it all
Seeing Coda immediately sparked a question — what if they could link the 6-week cycle goals with the roadmap items?
At the time, the idea of combining the two processes into one doc hadn’t been discussed. “They weren’t linked at all, in any way — people didn’t even connect them even mentally. But with Coda, it was as easy as adding two tables and connecting them with a lookup column.”
After connecting the basic tables in Coda, Aislinn built customized views for each of the product teams. She used Folders to give each team their own space in the doc (each one contained a few sections). That way, each person knew exactly where to go in the doc to update their data. Some teams wanted to see a simple table of their team’s cycle goals. Others, the roadmap displayed on a Gantt chart. By creating filtered views of the same base tables, everyone could interact with the data in a way that made the most sense for them.
Updates in one view flow through the entire doc, keeping everyone up-to-date.
Aislinn also added an expected ship date to each roadmap item, which the PMs update each week. Now, instead of having to track down a PM, anyone in the company could see the expected ship date for an upcoming feature. Of course, dates can sometimes change as you get closer to shipping a feature, so each ship date was paired with a status that indicated the level of confidence for that date.
Now when the sales and marketing teams want to see the release date of a particular feature, they can look at the roadmap items in a calendar view.
And the executives can see the status of the roadmap at a glance, without having to dive too deep into the weeds.
A tool shaped to the team, not the other way around
Aislinn built and customized her doc to fit Intercom's R&D needs. She didn’t need to change the teams' processes to fit a rigid tool, nor did she consign herself to keeping disconnected spreadsheets and documents up-to-date.
Global marketing and sales orgs now have one place to see what's shipping, when. At the same time, company leaders can see a snapshot of the problems the product team is tackling, without having to check in with each PM or team. “It’s hard to remember a time before Coda when we didn’t have this much visibility", Aislinn says. "Now we manage the entire R&D process in one connected Coda doc.” That doc has become their one source of truth — they call it the R&D Hub.