Nailed it!! - How to nail Product Prioritization?
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
One of the most challenging assignments that I worked on as part of my Product Management program at Duke (in collaboration with UpGrad), was the assignment on 'Product Feature Prioritization'.
Being one of the most important jobs of a product manager, though the intention was to get this right from the start, the assignment took multiple iterations as it got me thinking over and over again, about the prioritization choices I was making. It was no mean task, and even though it was a one-person assignment, every time I looked at the priorities, I had assigned to the product/sprint backlog, I could argue against my own logic, and get a different perspective.
The problem statement for the assignment required me to think like the 'Product Manager at a ride hailing company X ' trying to prioritize some real-life issues like app bugs, city related rides, maps, referrals feature not working, and many others. So many questions were coming to my mind:
How do I identify the value of what I am working on? Should I worry about ‘maps not populating’ or should give attention to 'referrals not happening’?
The end user is crucial to deliver the experience. How do I identify the end user?
How do I assign a value to a feature? How do I decide which feature goes best together?
How do I decide which bug should be fixed first? Rather should I focus on building new features? What about the sequencing of the product releases?
The product road-map already has the stakeholder buy-in. Should I revise and work on stakeholder management and getting buy-in all over again?
Am I on the right track? Can I do any better?
Answers to these self-reflecting questions were not easy, and I now get a feel of why this is the most challenging part of a product managers role, and why this is a top concern.
The need to prioritize comes from a simple fact: lack of resources – we cannot work on everything, hence we need to define what things should be done first and what will deliver most value at each point in time, given the constraints of resources.
Therefore, we need a process to determine the sets (and sequence) of things that should be done on the product, to deliver the most value at each point in time, given our constraints.
What is product prioritization?
Prioritization is the ongoing process of deciding:
· What features need to be built and when,
· What will bring most value to the user, and,
· What is feasible.
Product prioritization is one of the toughest parts of product management. At any given time, Product Managers deal with multiple conflicting requests, from teams across the company. Which features and experiences should be built next? Which should be cut? That’s why having the right features in your priority list is imperative and so is the rationale for prioritizing or deprioritizing them. Some points you can keep in your mind:
Feasibility: How technically possible is the feature given the resources and tools you currently have?
Desirability: Do your customers actually want it? Use every available tool to understand whether this is something your user’s desire.
Viability: How does this feature relate to or support your overall strategy and the requirements of the market?
While these criteria come from individuals’ opinions, cross-examining them through multiple lenses helps keep everything objective. And of course, bringing in any supporting or complementary data, can keep you extra honest, as you go through this exercise.
So how do you nail product prioritization?
Good prioritization requires balancing quick fixes that you expect will have an immediate impact on your customers, versus product evolutions, which will help you lead or disrupt the market. The best way to prioritize features for your product is to evaluate ideas in your product backlog to see which ones are important, pressing or highly valuable using the effort /impact matrix.
Effort/ Impact Matrix
With the help of a simple product priority chart, you can start to visualize your ideas in relationship to each other, which helps you identify:
1. Quick Wins: Items up here are low effort (easy to do) and high impact (great positive impact for your company). Do these first!
2. Time Sinks: Items down here are high effort (lots of work to do) and low impact (not really much value for your company). Proceed with caution. Prioritization is always a balancing trick between finding high impact quick wins and product evolutions to create/maintain your competitive lead.
Apart from this, there are many different frameworks like Kano, Opportunity scoring, MoScow, Story mapping, RICE, etc, that act as great tools to help Product Managers get closer to their prioritization goal. However, they in themselves do not provide an ultimate solution. You need to mix and match techniques and approaches depending on your company’s culture, place in the adoption curve, maturity of your process, personal style, etc.
Last but always, make time to regularly re-prioritize, Business needs change. Markets change. Leadership changes. And despite all the work you put into prioritizing features, those priorities will change as well. Set aside time to go through your list and make sure everything is still aligned with the bigger picture.
Some good blogs to read:
Note: Inspite of many iterations, I still did not score a cent percent in my assignment!
Many thanks to my assignment evaluators at Duke CE & UpGrad, for showing me a new perspective and providing valuable feedback points, some of which I have shared with my audience.