6 Prioritization Techniques to Make You Stop Working on the Wrong Stuff

Knowing how to prioritize ideas and features efficiently is one of the biggest challenges in modern product management.

Even the most experienced product managers when planning their roadmaps may be worried about how to decide what to work on first. As an essential part of product strategy, prioritization is worth to be permanently studied and improved. In my recent post, I just shared some insights on how to manage product strategy, so now it’s time to elaborate on prioritization that helps to solve a lot of issues.

Why is prioritization a challenge for product managers? Here’re some reasons:

  • We often focus on smart features, instead of the features, which directly impact our goals.
  • We often desperately dive into new features, instead of product features that we’re already confident about.
  • We sometimes not consider the additional effort that one feature will require over another.
  • It’s more pleasure to work on ideas we’d use by ourselves, instead of features with broad reach, and so on.

Prioritization skill means getting more out of limited time. How to choose the best way to prioritize among the various approaches, methodologies, and frameworks?

Here I combine some of the best approaches on how to prioritize product features into one basic list.

6 Prioritization Techniques That Will Rock You in 2019

1. Lean Prioritization (2×2 matrix)

A simple and easy way to understand the Value and Effort concept is to visualize it on 2×2 matrix.

2×2 matrix of Lean prioritization helps in decision making and identifying what is important or risky and where to direct the efforts. This matrix is usually associated with the classic Eisenhower matrix.

The 2×2 matrix is widely used for feature prioritization in product management as it helps to sort out all the items and put things in order.

All you need is to draw a large “plus” sign on a whiteboard and mark “Value” and “Effort” along the vertical and horizontal axes or use any powerful product management tool with a built-in framework based on the matrix.

Comparing the Value and Effort combination helps to prioritize tasks better and choose the most important for development. Value demonstrates which business value the feature can bring to your product; Effort measures the resources needed to complete the task.

You must revisit the matrix regularly and re-balance it when necessary — the items deemed to be low value some months ago may now be higher value relatively compared to other features on the backlog.

The matrix can be used as the basement for the other popular prioritization approaches, such as Value vs Risk, Value vs Cost, Value vs Complexity.

Dive into the details of the Lean Prioritization method.

2. MoSCoW Prioritization Technique

MoSCoW is one of the easiest methods for requirement prioritization. Its name has nothing in common with the capital of Russia. The acronym MSCW (must, should, could, would) was first announced in 1994 by Dai Clegg. Then people added double “o” to make the acronym pronounceable.

The prioritization method allows you to categorize your list of requirements, ideas or features into the following sets:

  • M (must have). In the final solution, these features must be satisfied and non-negotiable. Your product will fail without them.
  • S (should have). These features have high-priority but not critical to launch. They occupy 2nd place in your priority list.
  • C (could have). Product features that are desirable but not necessary.
  • W (won’t have). Typically, these features will not be implemented in a current release. However, they may be included in a future stage of development.

If it looks difficult, to try to get it with the easy to understand example:

Let’s dive into a cheesy case not strongly related to product management. Imagine you are worried about how to make your product team’s daily meetings more productive and efficient.

You are planning to rent a new meeting room for your team with extra seats, conferences opportunities, and high-tech communication devices to hold daily stand-ups more efficiently.

The room that you already have is too cramped, not so comfortable as it might be and not adapted for holding high-quality remote conferences with colleagues and partners from other countries.

So, defining priorities according to the MoSCoW method, you’ll get:

  • M: a new spacious room, comfortable seats, a large round table, and full-fledged universal communication system.
  • S: extra seats, unlimited mobility, a high-quality ventilation system, comfortable whiteboards and flipcharts, sufficient lighting.
  • C: an ultramodern coffee machine for coffee breaks, stickers, and floaters, extra notebooks.
  • W: soft tones wallpapers, extra outlets, a large red sofa for relaxing.

What are the benefits of this technique?

The MoSCoW method helps to rank and classify your product items to get a successful result. The method is based on the expert opinion of your team. It is easy and quick to complete and defines priorities of features that are in progress.

Learn more about the MoSCoW technique.

3. Kano Model

If you care about prioritizing customer satisfaction and delight, the Kano model is one of the most excellent options.

Product managers may admit that very often, their feature backlog seems endless, but they sincerely want to create a product roadmap with the right features. Despite this, there are still many questions: How to measure satisfaction? How to choose what to build to provide it? How to go beyond satisfaction into the full delight? The Kano Model is a powerful prioritization tool to guide through these questions.

Noriaki Kano developed the Kano theory of product development and customer satisfaction in the 1980s.There are three premises, according to the model:

  • The satisfaction that reflects client enjoyment product features depends on the level of provided functionality.
  • Customer reaction. Features can be categorized, depending on how customers react to the level of functionality provided.
  • Customer feelings — it’s about how customers feel about a feature through questionnaires.

The author identifies three main components of the quality profile:

1) Basic. That corresponds to the fundamental characteristics of the product.

2) Expected. That should correspond to the “quantitative” attributes of the product.

3) Attractive. That corresponds to the admirable characteristics of the product.

They help to understand customers’ perspectives on product features by assessing their satisfaction and sentiment.

Discover more details of the popular Kano Model.

4. RICE Scoring

RICE scoring system looks like one of the most claimed models for the product manager’s needs nowadays. If you first meet this acronym, here’s its brief explanation:

RICE includes the following components: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.

You need to combine these factors to get your RICE score.

  • Reach is about measuring a number of people/events per period. Reach-factor is aimed to estimate how many people each feature or project will affect within a specific period and how many clients will see the changes.
  • Impact shows what contribution does the feature give to the product. Value is differently understood in every particular product. For a B2B SaaS product, for example, features get high Value if they: improve the trial-to-paid conversion, help to attract new users, assist in keeping current users, etc.
  • Confidence can be measured with a percentage scale. If you think a project could have a huge impact but don’t have data to back it up, certainty lets you control that.
  • Efforts estimate the total amount of time a feature will require from all team members to move quickly and have an impact with the least amount of effort. The effort-factor is estimated as a number of “person-months,” weeks or hours, depending on needs. It is the work that one team member can do in a specific month.

Dive into the details of the RICE scoring system.

5. ICE Score Model

ICE score model allows you to get things done and prioritize your product features without extra requirements. You have to calculate the score per each idea, according to the following formula:

  • Impact shows you how much your hypothesis affects the key metric you’re trying to improve.
  • Confidence is about how you are sure about all your estimates — both about impact and effort.
  • Ease demonstrates the easiness of implementation. It is an estimation of how much effort and resources are required to implement this idea.

The values are rated on a relative scale of 1–10 so as not to over-weigh any of them. Choose what 1–10 means, as long the rating stays consistent.

The crucial goal of ICE scoring is to prevent you from being bogged down in trying to fine-tune the score too much. This prioritization approach is good enough to get the job done.

Learn more about the ICE score technique.

6. Weighted Scoring by Own Criteria

This advanced approach for prioritization assists to decide objectively what features and product ideas perform next.

A scoring system is a convenient and low-cost way to determine the relative value of any number of things. Turn this scoring to the advanced level!

With the help of the Weighted Scoring, you rank your product features or ideas with a benefit-versus-cost framework on a number of criteria and apply the scores you’ve come up with to define which initiatives to cut.

According to your product goals and the global strategy, you may choose particular criteria.

It can be, for example (in terms of potential benefits):

  • Acquiring new clients
  • Increasing income
  • Retaining current clients
  • Adding value, etc.

In terms of costs, you may score time and cost of development, time and cost of implementation, operational costs and so on.

The main idea of this prioritization method is to quantify each competing initiative on your list to help you prioritize the product roadmap.

Companies apply the Weighted scoring to evaluate what they think is the relative impact on strategic objectives for new features.

If you want to know more about the Weighted scoring, feel free to learn the detailed tutorial.

Wanna more?

Each of these techniques seems useful and effective for different product management needs. Having tried all of them, you will definitely find the best option. However, even if this not happens, you have a chance to try other prioritization approaches. Try to apply such techniques as Quality Function Deployment, Story Mapping, KJ methodology, “Feature buckets” and others.

Do you want to know more about them? Well, I guess it’s time for me to plan the next post about it 😉

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