How to prioritize product features using prioritization frameworks?


How to prioritize product features when you have a large list of features in pipeline? With the wide array of product features available to choose from, it can be extremely challenging to prioritize features and road mapping decisions without market research. Product managers and entrepreneurs are often stuck on deciding which prioritization frameworks to use and when. In this article, we’ll see how to effectively prioritize product features using different prioritization frameworks. 

Top Prioritization Frameworks

The most commonly used prioritization frameworks to prioritize the features in a product include: 

  • Value versus Complexity Quadrant
  • Weighted Scoring
  • Kano Model
  • Buy a Feature
  • Opportunity Scoring
  • Affinity Grouping
  • Story Mapping
  • RICE
  • The MoSCoW method
  • Cost of delay

1.Value versus Complexity Quadrant

Using this model, developers assess each opportunity according to the value it can provide to a business and the ease of implementation. According to this concept, each feature that is being considered will have an innate level of business value that it brings to the product and an associated level of implementation complexity that it presents in delivering it. The final priority of any feature is the composite score of both.

The business value of a feature consists of two components. The first one is the expected benefit derived from the target market and the second is the expected benefit derived by the company.  

The implementation complexity of a feature measures how difficult it will be to implement. This is usually expressed in effort (man-hours) or schedule time (weeks or months) for the development effort.  

Pros:

  • Very flexible.
  • Good tool for alignment. 
  • Drives focus to high priority features.
  • It’s easy to use. 

Cons:

  • Involves a lot of estimation and guessing. 
  • Potential disagreements on value/effort scores.
  • Not ideal for large teams with multiple product lines and components.

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2. Weighted scoring

This model utilizes numerical scoring to rank strategic initiatives against benefit and cost categories. It can be beneficial for product teams who require objective prioritization techniques that consider multiple layers of data.

This approach helps derive an objective, quantitative business value for each competing item on the list of features. The acquired values can further be used to decide which items should be prioritized on the roadmap. 

Pros: 

  • This model can help product teams view the entire landscape of possible items for the roadmap.
  • Results tend to be more accurate.

Cons: 

  • Can be very time consuming.

3. Kano Model

In contrast to the weighted scoring approach, which involves assigning quantitative values to each initiative to help make prioritization decisions more objective, the Kano model takes on a much more subjective approach. 

This model involves the categorization of potential features into three categories- threshold, performance and excitement. These categories are further weighed according to its necessity versus its ability to delight. 

  • The threshold (basic) features refer to the features that must be in your product. They are necessary features that will be expected by customers. 
  • The performance features make existing products run faster and more smoothly. By investing time and resources into performance features, there will be an increase in customer delight.
  • The excitement features are viscerally exciting elements of your product. They are often features that the customers won’t ask for, but they act as bonus features that contribute greatly to a customer’s delight. 

Pros:

  • Emphasizes on the potential strengths and weaknesses of a product.
  • The ability to rank product features from the customer’s perspective.

Cons:

  • Zero details on the resources required.
  • More time-consuming than the other methods.
  • Customers don’t have any technical expertise, so the results may be flawed.

4. Buy a feature

This is a product prioritization technique that is used to determine the value of a feature or an idea. The product team has to work directly with customers and key stakeholders to acquire feedback and prioritize the features which the participants want or value most. The team will list all the potential features and put a particular price on it. The price is determined according to the estimated cost of development. The customers will be asked to figuratively ‘buy’ the features that appeal to them the most. Some customers will spend all of their money on one feature and others will spend it on multiple features. By analyzing the purchasing behaviour of the customers, a prioritized list of features can be developed. 

Pros:

  • It helps to overcome struggles with a complicated wish list and limited development resources.
  • It’s quick and simple.

Cons:

  • Limited to features that are already defined in a product roadmap.
  • Organizing a group of people who are willing to participate may be a challenge.

5. Opportunity scoring

Opportunity scoring is a type of Gap Analysis that comes from Outcome-Driven Innovation. Without getting too detailed, the idea is to measure and rank opportunities based on their importance versus customer satisfaction. To conduct opportunity scoring you ask customers to score the importance of each feature and then also score how satisfied they are currently with that feature. Your opportunities are those features that are highly important yet customers gave a low satisfaction score.

This approach is based on the concept that customers buy products and services to get certain jobs done. It focuses on the importance of customer feedback for product development. This feedback is used to reach the required outcomes for a product or feature.

Opportunity scoring involves the use of a satisfaction and importance graph to measure and rank opportunities. After deciding on a list of ideal outcomes, a survey is conducted for the customers to understand which features are most important to the customers, but have low satisfaction scores within your product. 

Pros:

  • Simple framework for rapid identification of the most important solutions to a common problem.
  • Easy to visualize and categorize on a graph.

Cons:

  • The answers to the survey may be inaccurate or biased.

6. Affinity grouping

This works like an activity that can be carried out among the members of the product team. It involves brainstorming ideas for improving the product. They will write down these ideas and then group the similar items together. These groups will be named and finally ranked according to popularity. This will result in a list of prioritized items that can be implemented. 

Pros:

  • Allows contribution across various departments.
  • Easy to see the big picture.

Cons:

  • A manual search is needed to find a particular note on the affinity diagram.

7. Story Mapping

Through this approach, product teams can map out the workflow of the product from beginning to end. A story map is developed by having a horizontal axis for the user journey and a vertical axis for priority. On completion of the process, various features will be sorted according to the usage sequence and importance.

Pros:

  • Helps in quick identification of the MVP .
  • Centered around the user’s experiences.
  • Collaborative.

Cons:

  • This method doesn’t consider external product prioritization factors like business value and complexity.

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8. RICE

RICE is an acronym for the four factors we use to evaluate each project idea: reach, impact, confidence and effort. Each feature is scored against all the factors and these individual numbers get turned into one overall score using the following formula: 

Reach*impact*confidence/effort= RICE score

The score is used to understand the priority level of each feature. 

Pros:

  • Enables prioritization based on the needs of different stakeholders. 
  • Allows for more objectivity
  • Lend credibility to the product strategy. 

Cons:

  • Scoring may not be aligned with some product strategies.
  • Can lead to fragmented products, which are not aligned to their unique value proposition.

9. The MoSCoW method

This approach helps teams determine what matters the most to their customers by classifying features into four priority buckets. MoSCoW stands for Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, and Won’t-Have features.

  • Must-Have: Must be present for the product to be functional. They’re non-negotiable and essential. 
  • Should-Have: These features are important, but not time sensitive.
  • Could-Have: Neither essential nor important to deliver within a timeframe. They’re bonuses that would greatly improve customer satisfaction.
  • Won’t-Have: These are the least critical features that can be considered for future releases.

Pros:

  • Involves stakeholders without a technical background in the product prioritization process.
  • Quick, easy and intuitive way of communicating priorities to the team and the customers.

Cons:

  • Possible overestimation of the number of Must-Have features.
  • More focused on formulating release criteria than prioritization. 

10. Cost of Delay

This is an approach that helps teams quantify the economic value of completing a project sooner instead of later. Product teams use this approach to calculate and compare the ongoing monetary costs that would result from delaying the completion of each initiative on the team’s backlog.

Pros:

  • Enables quantification of product backlog in terms of money.
  • Allows for better decision making. 
  • It changes the team’s mindset around features from cost and efficiency metrics, to speed and value.

Cons:

  • Potential disagreements regarding the economic value of features.

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Strategies for Prioritizing Product Features

  • Include the entire team while determining  prioritization of product features: This allows for the incorporation of a variety of perspectives into the process.
  • Keep the number of features for prioritization to a minimum: Looking at the bigger picture can help teams choose product features that can have the biggest impact. 
  • Categorize and group initiatives together into strategic themes.
  • Try to understand the customer value for each feature, before the prioritization process. 
  • Make sure that you estimate costs before looking into the prioritization of product features.

Prioritizing the features for your product is a confusing task. Different people will have varying perspectives on the importance of the listed product features. By applying prioritization frameworks and strategies, it will become much easier to find a cohesive way to solve this problem.

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