product

Product Prioritization: a roadmap for effective product development

What is product management?

Okay, so first things first, let’s talk about project management. Fundamentally, it’s the process of planning, developing, and launching products. Product managers are responsible for ensuring that a product meets the needs of customers and achieves the company's desired results. This involves business justification, marketing, research, design, and everything in between, it incorporates pretty much all the stages of a product’s lifecycle.

The Product Management process includes four key activities:

  • Product Planning. Product managers work with stakeholders to determine what features the product should have and how it should be positioned in the market.
  • Product development. Product managers oversee the development of the product, ensuring that it meets the specifications outlined in the product plan.
  • Product Launch. Product managers coordinate the launch of the product, working with marketing, sales, and customer support to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Product Management. Product managers are responsible for the ongoing management of the product, including monitoring customer feedback and making changes to the product as necessary.

Why is product prioritization so important?

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Stephen Covey

Prioritization is important because it helps you focus on the things that matter most, it ensures that resources are used efficiently, and allows you to meet deadlines.

There are many factors to consider when prioritizing products. Here are some of the more important ones we think you should take into account:

  • Customer needs - what features do customers want? What are their pain points?
  • The competitive landscape - what are your competitors offering? Where do they succeed? Where do they fall short?
  • Your company’s goals - what does your company hope to achieve with this product? How will it help you reach your overall goals?
  • The wants of your team - what features does your team want to build? What are their skills and interests?
  • The feasibility of the product - can this product be built with the resources you have available? Is it technically possible to build this product?
  • The limitations of your technology - what technology do you currently use? What are its limitations?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start prioritizing your product’s features.

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How to effectively prioritize product development?

The first step in effective product prioritization is creating a product roadmap. This will help you map out the features of your product and the order in which they should be developed.

The reason why prioritization is so important with roadmaps revolves around the fact that they have a fairly broad outlook. Project roadmaps don’t have to end here and now. Ideally, they should outline every single step of your product up to its market domination.

Since these aspirations can be very global, it’s essential to understand what the best path towards achieving this goal is. As you start prioritizing, you’ll slowly see a series of milestones appear, and along with them an increased sense of clarity.

As you arrive to a list of essential features, you can start ranking them by their importance both right now and in the grand scheme of things:

For each feature, ask yourself:

How important is this feature to our company's success?
How important is this feature to our customers?
What is the cost of developing this feature?

What features should you prioritize for product development?

A progress bar with two people leaving comments to it

Narrowing down which features to include in a product can be a very challenging task for any product manager. Unfortunately, there are usually more features that can be incorporated in the product than there is time to do so. This is why prioritizing is such a critical part of the job.

When it comes to ranking features by their importance, you should always assess which ones are most important to your company and especially your customer base. Fortunately, there’s a variety of tried and trusted prioritization techniques that can help you with that.

Oh, and before we start exploring various ways of prioritizing features, it’s essential to underline that you can always choose the technique or a combination thereof that works best for your product and organization. There’s no single “right” way to do that.

Number of requests

This one's pretty straightforward. You look at how many feature requests are made for each potential feature and prioritize the ones that are requested the most.

This method is good because it's customer-driven in the most fundamental of ways. However, it can be susceptible to what's known as the tyranny of the majority. This is when a small group of people who are very vocal about a particular feature can sway your decision, even if the majority of your customers don't actually want or need that feature.

Request/defect ratio

Another customer-led approach is looking at the number of requests for a feature versus the number of defects associated with that feature.
This is a good way to prioritize because it gives you a sense of which features are most important to your customers and which ones are causing the most problems.

Value/complexity matrix

This is a technique that analyzes both the business value of a feature and how complex it is to implement.

You can use this matrix to prioritize features by plotting them on a graph with business value on the x-axis and complexity on the y-axis.

The features that fall into the upper-right quadrant are the ones you should prioritize because they have high business value and aren't too complicated to build.

Impact/effort matrix

This is similar to the value/complexity matrix, but it looks at the impact of a feature on your customers and how much effort it will take to implement.
You can use this matrix to prioritize features by plotting them on a graph with customer impact on the x-axis and implementation effort on the y-axis.

The features that fall into the upper-right quadrant are the ones you should prioritize because they have high customer impact and aren't too complex to execute.

Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort (RICE)

RICE is a prioritization framework used by Product Managers at Slack.
It stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.

  • Reach is the number of people who will use a feature.
  • Impact is how much value the feature will create for those users.
  • Confidence is how confident you are that the feature will actually create that value.
  • Effort is a measure of how complex it will be to build the feature.

You can use this framework to score features on each of these dimensions and then prioritize the ones with the highest scores.

RICE is a great way to prioritize features because it takes into account both the impact on customers and the effort required to build the feature.

There are a few other factors you should consider when prioritizing features for product development, such as:

  • How long it will take to develop each feature
  • Whether or not a feature is dependent on another feature being built first
  • The resources (time, money, people) you have available to work on the product

You should also keep in mind that your priorities may change over time as your product evolves and as you learn more about your customers' needs. Product prioritization is an ongoing process, not a one-time decision.

What's most important is that you have a system for making decisions about what to build next so that you can move forward confidently and efficiently.

If you're not sure where to start, the Product Prioritization Matrix is a great tool to help you prioritize features for your product development roadmap.

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For each feature, ask yourself:

How important is this feature to our company's success?
How important is this feature to our customers?
What is the cost of developing this feature?

What is the product prioritization matrix?

Product managers use a variety of tools and techniques to prioritize products, features, and initiatives. One of the most popular methods is the product prioritization matrix, also known as the product prioritization framework.

This system is similar to MoSCoW prioritization (must have, should have, could have, and won't have), but it's specifically designed for product management.

The product prioritization matrix is a framework that helps you prioritize features and initiatives by looking at their impact on the user, feasibility, and business value.

Here's how it works:

  • First, you need to identify all of the potential features and initiatives that you could work on.
  • Then, you'll rate each one based on its impact on the user, feasibility, and business value.
  • Finally, you'll use those ratings to determine which features are must-haves, which are nice-to-haves, and which can be put on the backburner.

The four prioritization quadrants

That final step usually consists of four quadrants:

  • Must have - These are features that are essential to the product. They must be included in the product or it will not be successful.
  • Should have - These are features that would be nice to have but are not essential. They can be included in the product if time and resources permit.
  • Nice to have - These are features that would be nice to have but are not essential. They can be included in the product if time and resources permit.
  • Won't have - These are features that are not essential and can be excluded from the product. Product development should not be delayed in order to include these features.

The three critical prioritization factors

Now that we understand the quadrants, Let's take a closer look at each of the three factors in the product prioritization matrix.

  1. User Impact: How important is this feature to the user? Does it make their life easier or solve a pain point? The more impactful a feature is, the higher priority it should be.
  2. Feasibility: Can we actually build this feature? Is it technically possible? If not, then it might not be worth pursuing.
  3. Business Value: How much value will this feature bring to the business? Will it help us reach our goals and objectives? If not, then it might not be worth pursuing.

Putting it into action

Now that we've gone over the basics of the product prioritization matrix, let's put it into action.

To prioritize your product backlog, start by looking at the user impact and feasibility of each item. Then, rank them in order of importance. The most important items should be at the top of your list.

From there, you can start to assess the business value of each item. If an item has a high user impact and is feasible to build, but doesn't have much business value, it might not be worth pursuing.

However, if an item has a high user impact and is feasible to build, AND it has a high business value, then it should be given priority.

Remember, when prioritizing your product backlog, always keep the user in mind. What features will make their life easier? What pain points are we trying to solve?

By focusing on the user, you'll be able to build a product that is not only successful but also loved.

Once you have identified the quadrant that each feature falls into, you can then prioritize the features by quadrant. Once you have this in place, you can start to build out your product roadmap and development timeline.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Michael Porterer

How to build a product prioritization roadmap

Your product prioritization Roadmap is your product's North Star.

When building your roadmap, you should always start with your product vision and then work backward. This will ensure that every item on your roadmap is in alignment with your overall product goals.

Once you have your product vision in place, you can start to map out the features that need to be built in order to achieve that vision.

Remember to keep the user top of mind when adding features to your roadmap and prioritize accordingly.

Having an effective and actionable roadmap in place is critical for any product manager. By having a roadmap, you can ensure that your team is always aware of the features that need to be developed and prioritized.

When building your roadmap, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Set realistic expectations. Don't try to accomplish too much in too little time. This will only lead to frustration and disappointed stakeholders.
  • Align your roadmap with the company's strategy. Make sure that the features you're prioritizing will help achieve the company's goals.
  • Get input from all stakeholders. Product development is a team effort and everyone should have a say in what gets built and when.
  • Be flexible. Things change and so should your roadmap. Be prepared to adjust as needed.

Bringing it all together with Reveall

Effective product management is essential to the success of any product and the basis of effective product prioritization is customer data.

Reveall is the leading customer intelligence platform that helps product managers prioritize the right features to build next by uncovering hidden customer trends and behaviors.

If you're looking for the data you need to prioritize your product development roadmap, Reveall is the answer.

Our platform makes it easy to collaborate across teams, get clarity on findings, and turn your data into clear actionable decisions.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you build the best products for your customers, or sign up for our free trial!

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