Let’s be honest for a moment - transparency and communication in business are elements that need constant attention, constant effort, and always could be better. Not necessarily in the degree of transparency or the volume of communication (though those are also a consideration), but in the appropriateness of both.

In this article, I’ll discuss the realities and nuances of transparency and communication in product-led organizations - and how this differs from the ideals teams might strive for or believe to be best.


Transparency in business refers to the practice of openly sharing information, processes, decisions, and performance with employees, stakeholders, customers, and the public.

It would be nonsensical to suggest that a business, internally or externally, has to share everything with everyone all the time. Doing so can be just as dangerous as saying nothing at all. Total transparency assumes that anyone who hears what you say can understand it and interpret it in the way that you mean. It also sets a precedent that you will always share everything, which leaves very little to fall back on when things might not go well.

This still does not suggest any particular level of transparency, but the focus should be on what to say to the right audience at the right time, in the right context, and level of detail. We practice transparency to help build personal trust with our customers and colleagues. Typically (though not exclusively), the discussion around transparency comes up when there is bad news to deliver rather than good.

Here are some examples:

Bugs - they will always be there. Logically, they shouldn’t be if testing was comprehensive and no developer makes any mistake. But they do still appear, and there is never any blame attributed. But being totally transparent would call for all information about the bug, the process, individuals, etc. Clearly, we don’t go into this detail.

However, we might admit that a bug caused yesterday’s outage, and here is our approach to fixing it. It’s also a subliminal reminder that we are all human and mistakes do happen. My audience will be much more at ease, more sympathetic, and more confident that we will improve in recognizing our shortcomings.

Another example is delivery, roadmaps, and timelines. If we were honest, we didn’t deliver feature x when scheduled because more customers wanted features y and z, and a business decision was taken (to go after the money). Will we say this? No.

But, we might explain how we base our decisions on what to build next based on feedback and user need and that we have to prioritize our limited development capacity on this.

How might you respond in this scenario?

These are, of course, examples ‘in the moment’. We would hope that a reputation is already in place based on an understanding of capacity, reliance, regular communication, and trust. This leads to my next point: communication.


Hand in hand with transparency, the frequency, level of technical information, and value derived from your communications, again internally and externally, is extremely important to get right. It’s all about excellence in business communication.

There are different types of communication. Product announcements and updates need to focus on who the end user is, their level of understanding of your product, and ultimately what they can do with that information. Too detailed, and your customers will switch off, not take anything from it, or even misunderstand entirely and think your new release is something else.

Too much irrelevant information is detrimental too. Talking about how your engineers removed 4000 lines of code, and now page x is more efficient - this is lovely. Still, as a salesperson, a marketer, or a customer, I don't really care that much!

It is tempting to overshare. I used to think this way - I used to think that by providing all the information, users could take what they needed individually, for their own needs, and take a piece here and there. But the lesson I have learned is, respectfully, most colleagues and customers do not know the product, update, or feature as well as you do. They do not have the same passion, and possibly most importantly, they do not have the time or energy to be able to fully appreciate your journey in building this.

So, we have to tailor our communications to the audience, which often means we need to curate several communications to meet all user types: admins, power users, casual users, internal staff, and budget-holders. Think of effective communication in the business world.

In a product-led organization, this can be achieved more easily using data on customers, such as their segment (the size or type of customer they are), their product tier (Standard, Premium, Enterprise), their user type, their maturity with the product or how long they have been a customer for. With this information, in-platform communications can be prepped and distributed with accuracy and ease, ensuring the right individuals see the proper information at the right time.

Transparent communications in practice

How can we provide appropriate levels of both transparency and communications?

By no means a complete solution, I developed my ‘Three Step Comms’ framework to support communications that are easy to consume - it is hardly groundbreaking, as you will see, but the best ways never are!

Designed more for internal update communications - and equally applicable to customers:

What was the problem?: Why did we even do this? Explain this in a way that anyone should be able to pick up without prior context and understand it. Whether you have been using the product for a year or a day, what the problem was, to begin with, should be clear.

What did we do?: What was the solution? What is the feature, and how does it link to the problem? How did it solve this problem?

Why is this (the solution) awesome?: Here is the golden nugget - a paragraph explaining all the positives about this feature and how it makes customers’ lives easier, better, faster, stronger… Internal teams love this if you can use sentences or phrases that they can carbon-copy and then go and use themselves!

This micro-framework makes communication clear, simple, and easy to consume by many audiences. Although not necessarily ticking every audience box, it should cut down on just how many variations of updates and communications you might need to provide. It also embodies transparency by making very clear what has been solved, with what solution, and why it is important.

And so, the realities of transparency and communications within product-led organizations are not black and white. They aren’t ‘do or don’t’ processes, but many shades of grey that require context, nuance, and adaptability to each audience, each situation, and an awareness that maximum value is not equal to maximum information.