Prioritizing product features can be complicated, and it probably should be. It’s usually easy enough to agree on the biggest features, but prioritization can quickly devolve into a spitting match with sales, marketing, and operations on one side – and development and support on the other.
How do you build a roadmap that respects the values and approaches of each invested party?
How do you prioritize necessary and important features against complicated and risky but high-value features? And how do you factor in the influencers of your product – a large client with an idiosyncratic need – against the position of the product in the market?
First – quadrants – imagine four boxes, two on top and two on the bottom.
Value versus Complexity Quadrant.
Value runs up and down – the higher the feature rates regarding value, the higher they are in the box. Complexity runs right to the left, the more complex features go further to the right. Using the entire space of the four boxes look at the opportunity and place it somewhere in the quadrant based on its business value and relative complexity to implement and maintain. This is a common approach among product managers – items with the highest value and the lowest effort will be the low-hanging fruit for your roadmap. Not that every piece of low-hanging fruit is worth picking, however.
Enter weighted scoring.
Weighting can give you a more realistic outcome by adding rank for strategic initiatives and inter-related features. A re-vamp of the interface may not be terribly complex, but the perception of the userbase is that your product is outdated, looks matter it turns out. It is hard to put a value on that opportunity, and some folks are going to call it “make or break” while others may dismiss it out of hand. This disagreement is why you add dimensions.
Add a dimension.
When thinking about products it is important to address how the value of each feature affects different aspects of the product, it’s management and maintenance, and it’s user base. Add rankings for whoever is on the team – products sink and swim based on their fit in the marketplace, how easy they are to support and manage, how they can be maintained and how they are used. You may have more, but these break down into sales value/impact, support and management impact, and user impact. A UI may make the product easier to sell and make it easier to manage on the user-level but have nearly no value to development. An operational change that brings your product to market 200% faster may have zero impact on clients but prove to revolutionize your business model.
Weighting and dimensionalizing your prioritization process will help to inform your roadmap in a way that respects the full lifecycle of your product and go-to-market process. By undertaking this process frequently (as a team) and with strategic objectives firmly in mind you’ll have a better chance of both responding to market demand and avoiding the trap of obsolescence.
What about thrill?
Building a minimum viable product is the first step, but the next step needs to include thrill. The adage should be how to build the minimum fantastic model or the minimum elegant and delightful product. Understanding what will delight isn’t simple and involves a Kano model that presents customer delight against product function. In this sense, delight becomes a dimension that creates value among users based on the improvements to usability.
There has to be a way to accomodate basic, essential features, and still go beyond the minimum into the thrill category. Everyone on your team is going to have a different perspective of what is what. That complexity makes this exercise more exciting, even as it can be daunting.