It is not easy to do product prioritization and feature prioritization. Product prioritization is considered more art than science by most product managers.
Prioritizing product features requires that you align your executives and internal stakeholders around your short-term goals. However, you also need to convince them how this aligns with the overall product strategy. You should explain how certain things you are doing now could help with future feature development.
Next, tell us why you are dealing with tech debt now rather than later. You’d also have to respond to customer requests. You’d have to manage everything and keep your customer-facing team happy.
As a product manager, you need to keep track of many things. It’s not hard for them to believe it’s an art. It can feel that way if they don’t have any systems.
What’s Feature Prioritization?
Feature prioritization refers to the process of prioritizing which features are first.
Feature prioritization refers to a process whereby the priority features are determined for the product to be of maximum value. This is challenging because it requires customers to understand what they want and how they use the product.
Feature prioritization’s main purpose is to provide value to customers quickly and efficiently while still providing an enjoyable experience. Feature prioritization allows you to determine which features are most valuable for your customers and prioritize them.
Rulers in product management are prioritization frameworks that allow you to make better decisions. Before we get into the details of all these frameworks and how they can be used to prioritize features in your product, let’s first discuss what you should not do.
Avoid making top feature prioritization errors:
First stakeholder to speak out
This is often the main reason for poor product prioritization. It is tempting to please the most vocal and ignorant customer or the highest-paid stakeholder who believes they know the best way to get the ship where it should go. You make decisions based on their angst.
Bad apples spoil the group. You might get an email from someone who is trying to solve a problem in a particular way.
You are entering a highly competitive market where incumbents already have a fully-fledged product with tons of features. The ship is yours to steer. Chances are you’ll pick the must-haves and good-to-haves. This can lead you down the rabbit hole if your users aren’t being heard.
Once we are clear about what we shouldn’t do, it is possible to move on to better pastures and figure out how we can prioritize features like a pro.
Your team is constantly trying to keep up with technological advancements, and you try to bring them to you — even if it means poor strategy. The team of developers who want to do yet another rewrite is easy to persuade. This happens more often when you don’t have a strategy.
Build for yourself
When founders are trying to solve their own problems, one of the first things they do is to create a product that does exactly what they want. This is not only efficient, but it’s also a good strategy for the beginning.
As your startup grows, customers and other stakeholders will become more important. This is where intuition-driven strategy falls apart. It’s easy to get lost in the web of must-haves and good-to-haves. This can lead you down the rabbit hole if your users aren’t being heard.
Once we are clear about what we shouldn’t do, it is possible to move on to better pastures and figure out how we can prioritize features like a pro.
Let’s look at these product prioritization frames for product managers.
- RICE Framework
- The Urgent vs Important Matrix
- Value Vs. Effort matrix
- KANO Model
- Opportunities Scoring
- Weighted Scoring
- The Moscow Method
- Product Tree
- ICE Scoring
- Feature Voting
- Story mapping
You can measure your features against four elements using the RICE framework.
Reach: How many people this Feature could affect in a given time period.
Impact: How will the Feature impact each user?
Confidence: A company’s confidence in the Feature’s reach and impact.
Effort: The amount of time that the company will need to invest in this Feature.
You’re going to turn the individual scores (hence RICE) into a common score using a pre-established algorithm, which improves the company’s priority system.
Intercom developed RICE, a scoring system that helps prioritize ideas in your product roadmap. RICE encourages teams to consider their priorities and carefully consider the audience, available resources, return on investment, and return.
Furthermore, RICE stands for Reach, Impact Confidence and Effort. Each factor gets a score to help determine which factors would require the most effort, reach the most people, have the greatest impact and how confident we are about this.
To calculate your RICE score.
(Reach * Impact * Confidence) / Effort = RICE Score
The RICE method is a good choice:
- Before you quantify the initiatives, convert your product metrics to SMART ones. Because RICE relies heavily on different metrics for accurate evaluation, your product metrics must be precise, measurable and attainable.
- The RICE method helps you bring your entire team to a consensus. It requires estimation effort, analysis, and so on. Before development can begin, it must be established.
- This helps you eliminate biases in your prioritization since every initiative is examined by the team and assessed objectively without any speculations. The initiative is not affected by an inherent bias of one member of the team.
Cons to using the RICE Method:
- It is quite difficult to calculate without specialized spreadsheets and software.
- Assume your product team already uses SMART measurements.
- This method is not for everyone. There will be a learning curve. You may need to explain the process and run trial runs with your team.
- Every developer has a different level of confidence in completing a task. This can make it quite difficult.
- It is difficult to answer the question “What should I build next?”
2. The Urgent vs Important Matrix
This is one of the most common product prioritization strategies. It helps you determine the true priority of each task.
All you have to do here is write down your product goals, the company’s goals, and what you should do to reach them. These objectives can be updated monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Create a matrix. Label the Y-axis Important and the Urgent X-axis. You should now have four quadrants. These will break down your tasks according to two parameters: urgency level and importance level.
Quadrant #1 – Do
These are the urgent tasks that require your team’s immediate attention. These are both urgent and important. You should schedule certain tasks in this quadrant if they are related.
Quadrant #2 – Schedule
These are important tasks that are not immediately urgent but must be completed. Sending an email to a customer for product feedback is one example. Although it is not urgent, it can be delayed if necessary, but it is crucial to gain valuable insights.
Quadrant #3 – Delegate
These are important but not urgent tasks for your team. Although very few tasks fall within this quadrant, delegating as many as possible is important.
Quadrant #4 – Eliminate
It is a lot of work that has no impact on your company’s goals or objectives. These tasks are not urgent. You should eliminate them from your backlog.
3. Value Vs. Effort matrix
You can use this model to prioritize features. Ask your team members to assign each Feature a value and an effort. In this example, the value would be the potential revenue of the Feature. The measure of effort would be how long it took to accomplish that Feature.
Your team can use the value versus work method to identify which Feature will impact your audience and how much it will cost your company. This can be combined with the urgent/important feature prioritization matrix to reduce the risk of having to do the grunt work.
This method has a downside. Your team must conduct thorough research to determine the true value of a feature. Sometimes, teams can underestimate or exaggerate a feature’s worth, which can lead to problems later on.
How can you measure the value the best?
You should use value to help you understand how it aligns with your business goals. What value does it bring to your customers? Here are some things to consider.
Business value Your business is based on KPIs or OKRs. All your decisions should be made based on the value it creates for these objectives. Your business may have goals like decreasing churn and increasing click-through rates.
Customer value Your customers are your biggest stakeholders. It is important to consider your customers’ pain points and the extent that you can reduce them. The oder have they requested this Feature in your feature voting Board.
How can you measure your effort the best?
It is important to determine the effort required to complete this task. Most product teams use a “Story point”-based system. The team decides the number of hours required to complete the task prior to the sprint. It is important to consider the hours of developers, external costs, and external risks.
The advantages of using the Value vs Effort Matrix
- It is very intuitive to use and easy to implement in a team.
- You are extremely flexible and don’t waste a lot of time
- Any product team can use it
- Clear prioritization will help you get buy-in from your stakeholders.
Cons to using the Value vs Effort Matrix
- Sometimes, teams underestimate how hard it takes, which can lead to spillovers between sprints
- Larger organizations with complex pipelines make it harder to adopt.
4. Kano Model
Kano is another useful prioritization tool you can use with your team. It focuses on prioritizing features according to their potential to delight customers.
The main difference between this model and other models is the use of a “Value-vs. Satisfaction” graph. Each potential Feature is viewed through the lens of customer delight.
Although it is more complex than other prioritization methods, it is well worth the effort as it can lead to some incredible insights when you are stuck.
These categories and emotional reactions can be used to classify the new features of your product.
- Basic Features These basic features are what your customer expects from your product. It’s dissatisfying not to have the foundation in place. Schedule the important pieces of your product as soon as you can if they are missing.
- Attractive features – These features create feelings of delight and satisfaction, but users don’t feel dissatisfied if they are missing a feature. These features are more likely to be in the “not needed” category.
- Performance Features – These features can bring you delight when they are present and dissatisfaction if they aren’t.
- Inexpensive features – There are also some features that can make your product very complicated and ultimately unattractive. These features should be avoided at all costs.
Because it is easy to understand and use, the Kano model can be one of your best options.
5. Opportunities Scoring
This model is sometimes called ‘opportunity score’ or opportunity analysis. It measures your chances of achieving a specific feature.
You can create a list of possible outcomes for your product’s features and then get feedback from users. You will have a list of the most important features for your users but with low satisfaction scores.
These ranks indicate the features that you should prioritize. It is an easy way to identify solutions to ongoing problems. Opportunity scoring may be a good tool.
Opportunity mapping helps to identify and capitalize on emerging business opportunities. It also provides clarity about where and how to allocate resources.
This method is best implemented by businesses that identify and assess potential providers and projects before they start to implement them. This will minimize wasted resources.
5. Weighted Scoring
Your team will rank projects, ideas and tasks numerically in the case of the weighted score. All you need to do is give a score to your ideas and rank them. Then, you can choose which features you want to prioritize based on the list that you created. Scores of initiatives are used to rank them.
Because it is easy to customize, the weighted score method makes it ideal for companies that want a simpler approach to prioritizing features. However, each member of the team may have their own ideas and scores.
This model has one goal: to determine an objective value for each item in the list. This will allow you to determine the order in which items should be prioritized.
The advantages of weighted scoring:
- You can easily align your efforts with company goals
- Collaboration between product teams can be more effective
The Cons of Weighted Scoring
- This model can lead to biased scoring
- It’s subjective because weights are assigned by teams.
- It is a little more difficult to implement in larger organizations
7. Moscow Method
MoSCow is short for “Must, Should, Have, Could-Have and Won’t Have.”
- Must-Have: These are features that must be present at the beginning of the product’s life to make it work.
- Must-Have Feature that is not necessarily necessary but still essential to be done.
- Could-Have Feature that isn’t essential or urgent but can still add value to the product.
- Will Not-Have: Features that aren’t needed at the moment but may be added in future releases.
The MOSCow method can be highly dynamic and help your team to come up with a solution quickly.
The advantages of MoSCoW:
- Customers’ needs are always considered a top priority
- Facilitates team collaboration
- It is intuitive because the premise of the program is simple.
- Easy to implement in new product groups
Cons to using MoSCoW Method:
- The pecking order begins with “must-have” and can lead to spillage of “should be” and “could have”
- The order does not account for urgency.
8. Product Tree
This was developed by Bruce Hollman. It involves shaping the product so that it matches customer outcomes and provides the greatest value to the company.
In simple words, draw a tree with large branches. The trunk represents the features of your product. The outermost branches are future features. The rest represent inaccessible features.
Ask users to suggest features for your product. These ideas will be displayed as the tree’s branches. This will allow you to quickly identify the most important features that need to be prioritized in a more visual way.
9. ICE Scoring
ICE stands to “Impact Confidence and Ease.”
Your goal is to assign a numerical score for your features based on their value as per these parameters.
These features can be ranked from 1 to 10 and then added together to calculate the ICE score. The objective is to determine the impact that the Feature will have on the goals. “Confidence,” refers to the confidence that the Feature will have the expected impact.
The final word is “Ease”. This refers to the difficulty or ease of achieving the objective.
10. Feature Voting
Your customers or team can vote for the features that they are most passionate about using feature voting. To create a roadmap and capture feature requests, you can use Saasfe , a feature-voting tool. You can also collect upvotes.
Benefits of using feature voting
- Customers will vote for features that do not consider wider goals like profitability, time to grow, etc.
- This is a great way to engage your customers and make them feel valued.
Cons of Feature Voting:
- It can take a lot of time to review feedback.
- It may lead to lower voter turnout for smaller businesses.
11. Story Mapping
Story mapping is one of the most used product feature prioritization models.
- This is where you will need to outline your product’s “usage” process for users, such as signing up/purchasing, registering, testing, etc.
- After you are done, you will need to write a comprehensive overview of each step a user must follow during these stages.
- Your team might then go over the tasks and order them according to importance.
The best thing about story mapping is its focus on user experience and not internal opinions. Story mapping is a team effort that involves all members of the development team. This promotes collaboration.
The story mapping process doesn’t take into account factors such as business value or complexity. This can be a problem for some. Story mapping allows product managers to shift their priorities from their company to customers through story mapping.
- You will need to outline the stages of a user’s product journey. Content search, signup and product search.
- Write down all steps taken by the user in each stage.
- Finally, once you have the journey planned out, you can label a y-axis with priority and rearrange each step according to perceived priority.
The pros and cons of Story mapping:
- It is more about improving the user experience than internal opinions.
- It is easy to integrate into your product team.
The Cons of Story Mapping:
- Customer requests drive product prioritization initiatives.
- It can be tedious to map out the customer journey.
How do you prioritize the features of a product?
When you talk about building things, there’s always excitement. It’s exciting to see new features. Imagine all the possibilities for your product, what results in it could bring, and what the best case scenario would be. As a product manager, it is your job to speak the truth.
While you are evaluating and prioritizing features for your product roadmap, keep in mind that your overall strategy, as well as your product roadmap, must always be at the forefront. Do not lose sight of the larger picture just because you have an exciting idea. Long-term strategy always trumps short-term results.
Keep it conservative and live by the motto “less is more”. Big features can also be dangerous if you don’t have enough data or user research. Agile development practices should be used whenever possible to launch your products early and often.
Finally, take the time to reprioritize. Businesses need to change. Markets are changing. Leadership is changing. Even if you have spent a lot of time prioritizing features, your priorities may change. Take some time to review your list and ensure that everything is in line with the larger picture.
Prioritization is an ongoing process. It is a continuous cycle in which we ask, “What’s the most important thing we can do right now to solve this issue?”
Prioritizing features can be difficult because there are many moving parts that aim to solve the most important customer problems. An end-to-end customer feedback tool such as Saasfe is a great solution. Using Saasfe, you can:
- Manage and capture customer feedback from one place.
- Validate and analyze customer product feedback
- Promote your feature requests and ideas to your product roadmaps.
- Closing the feedback loop by notifying everyone about feature releases using release notes/changelog.