While commercial lending has been slow to embrace digital transformation, our post-pandemic world of shifting borrower preferences and heightened economic uncertainty has forced lenders to pivot. 

Today, lenders are increasingly ditching legacy lending management systems in favor of customer-centric software as a service (SaaS) solutions. 

Powered by the philosophy of agile software development, SaaS providers can rapidly deliver new features and improvements that benefit customers and end users.

The basis for these upgrades is the product roadmap—a strategic plan that outlines a product’s goals and features over time. 

Although nearly any SaaS lending platform worth its salt would claim to put customer needs at the center of its roadmap, the painful truth is that too many roadmaps prioritize profit over benefit to the end users.

At the end of the day, the crucial question is this: are you adapting your lending business to your software, or does your lending platform adapt to your business?

What Is a Customer-Driven Product Roadmap?

The product roadmap for a piece of software is roughly equivalent to the blueprint for a home.

The primary difference is that a product roadmap is a living shared source of truth, subject to change and continuous evolution.

The magic of SaaS platforms lives in quickly deploying new features without disrupting the user experience—that’s why the product roadmap involves carefully planning and deploying the right features, at the right time.

Generally speaking, there are two broad types of product roadmaps:

1. Business-Driven Product Roadmap

This type of roadmap depends on the vision the executive team has for the product, and what they think will add the most value to the company.

It incorporates user feedback to some degree, but when push comes to shove, it doesn’t get priority. Most of the time, business-driven roadmaps deploy features that end users don’t want or need, and even eliminate features they do care about. 

2. Customer-Driven Product Roadmap

This type of roadmap takes into consideration user feedback as a priority.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the roadmap is an arbitrary laundry list of all the features customers/users have ever asked for—the company keeps clear objectives for their product, but what users need and ask for is held in high regard.

As such, the product remains flexible to changes in priority or business environment, and is subject to frequent assessment to prioritize user-centric features whenever possible.

The Importance of Roadmap Transparency

If you speak to a software product manager, don’t be surprised if they get cagey about sharing their product roadmap.

They remain cautious about setting reasonable client expectations, and they also want to avoid unhealthy pressure to deliver features prematurely. 

A good product manager collaborates with the sales team when making business and strategic feature decisions, to understand the potential and existing customer base—as customers themselves base their decisions on the features and capabilities that a platform has available.

And having a glimpse of the future of a SaaS product is a huge advantage, as they know what to expect and how they can grow together.

When shopping for a SaaS lending platform, you should look ahead and choose one that you know will deliver what you need now, and has the flexibility to evolve as your business grows.

While a product roadmap can contain elements that a software company is hesitant to share with customers, they must be open to sharing an adequate amount of information.

The product roadmapping company Aha! writes about striking this balance:

“It is possible to clue customers into your roadmap without revealing too much. You will want to think through the potential consequences before you do. Then you will need to make appropriate adjustments to your roadmap so it is tailored to your audience.”

When a company is willing to share its product roadmap with you, it shows maturity and reliability. If a company is willing to adapt its product roadmap to your needs, you are well positioned to have a long and fruitful relationship. Now, if a company is unwilling to do either, it’s time to rethink their viability as a long-term strategic partner.

If you are happy with your lending software provider in spite of the fact that they don’t proactively share their roadmap with you, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them where the product is heading.

You could also submit a list of the features that your team wants, which gives them a chance to comment on specific items without disclosing the whole roadmap. 

5 Benefits of SPARK’s Customer-Driven Roadmap

As a commercial and small-business digital lending software provider, SPARK understands how critically important our product roadmap is to our customers.

That’s why we chose to design a roadmap and product that revolve around the needs of our users. Sharing our product roadmap with our customers is key to building the best lending software possible.

There are five primary benefits to this approach.

1. Tailored Solutions

We solicit feedback from our customers, as we want to know what would make our SaaS lending platform a delight to use for your team and for your borrowers. We do this via user research sessions, as well as customer feedback gathered by the sales and customer success channels. Users can also comment and vote on ideas in our customer-facing roadmap.

By asking this question repeatedly, we’re able to deploy relevant and personalized solutions that are truly efficient for all commercial lending cases. 

2. Predictability and Strategic Planning

When you know about upcoming feature releases, your team can make informed decisions about your lending operation and resource allocation.

Our clients can plan around our eight-week release cycle. We also offer a pre-staging area for new features so your team can acclimate to the changes without feeling like they’re dealing with curve balls. 

3. Increased Efficiency

Our collaborative approach to the product roadmap translates into much higher efficiency for our customers, as they have the features that they need to work better.

We’ve seen a 30-40% reduction in the time to close a small-business loan using the SPARK platform, compared to conventional loan management systems. 

4. User-Friendly Experience

All the customer feedback we collect helps us to build a SaaS lending platform that is intuitive and satisfying to use.

Every step of the process, from loan application, to underwriting, to closing the deal, is an integral experience that allows you to focus on your customers and team members. We understand that the more seamless the experience is, the more successful your lending operation will be. 

5. Long-Term Engagement

Collaboration translates into a sense of co-ownership for our customers.

The SPARK lending platform is built to fit our clients’ organizations, and our future success depends on their own success and satisfaction. 

“Customer-Driven” Leads to Better Outcomes

Document collection is one of the most tedious and important aspects of loan origination.

A missing document or signature can put the brakes on a loan application, and nothing is quite as annoying as asking for the same document repeatedly because it got lost in the shuffle.

One of our clients was tired of this rigamarole and helped SPARK craft the document collection experience we have today, including:

  1. Automated checklists: SPARK generates an onboarding checklist of required documents (based on borrower profile), taking the guesswork out of the collection process.
  2. Structured document management: files are automatically renamed and organized consistently, making it easy to manage a diverse portfolio.
  3. Document tracking: the platform records who uploaded each document and when, tracking expiration dates and checking for signatures and missing items.

Keeping a transparent roadmap, and our ears open to customer feedback empowers them to help us continuously improve upon the features of our SaaS lending platform.

SPARK’s Product Roadmap Gives You a Stake in the Game

The “take it or leave it” attitude that most digital lending software providers adopt leaves a lot to be desired.

When a company is willing to collaborate with you to build a high-functioning product, the result is incomparable. 

At SPARK, we want you to feel empowered in a lending experience that is easy to use and constantly improving.

We want to hear about what you need in your lending business. We want to help you grow, and be the best product we can for you. 
Schedule a demo with SPARK, and learn how we do it.


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