Best Practices for Better Product Feature Prioritization 

Best Practices for Better Product Feature Prioritization 

Prioritization in product management is the process of evaluating the relative importance of work, ideas, and requests. There are many different ways to do this, but at the end of the day, the goal is to eliminate wasteful practices and deliver customer value in the quickest possible way, given a variety of constraints.

Why is product feature prioritization necessary? Because the reality of building products is that you simply can’t do everything — organizational objectives shift, resources are reallocated, and funding is scarce. Tools for product backlogs help with effective product prioritization for backlogs that have grown unwieldy, guiding teams to concentrate on essential tasks crucial for achieving the product’s ultimate objectives.

In this blog, we explore best practices for product feature prioritization, as well as how to choose the right prioritization frameworks to ensure that product development efforts contribute to business objectives and meet customer needs effectively.

Best Practices for Getting Started With Product Feature Prioritization

Ask Essential Questions 

Before you get started with product feature prioritization, start by doing some self-reflection on how you’re approaching prioritization today and how you want to improve in the future. 

Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself:

  • Looking back at features shipped in the past 6 months, are you confident you’ve been prioritizing the right things? (Based on qualitative feedback from customers and colleagues, quantitative product analytics data, etc.)
  • Looking forward, do you feel the features that you’re prioritizing now are driving you toward your 18-month vision? 
  • Reflect deeply (and honestly!) on the biggest factors that influence what gets built today. Are they the right factors? How might they lead you astray?
  • If you prioritize continuously, or “just in time” (staying just ahead of the developers), what would it take to move to prioritize for 6-8 week cycles?

Establish Clear Goals and Objectives

Establishing a crystal-clear understanding of your objectives and goals sets the stage for every subsequent prioritization decision. You must have a deep, nuanced comprehension of what the product aims to achieve in the market, the problems it seeks to solve for its users, and how it aligns with the company’s broader business strategy. 

This level of understanding acts as a guide to distinguish between what is essential and what can be deferred, ensuring that resources are allocated to projects with the highest potential impact. Moreover, this strategic alignment fosters better collaboration across different departments, ensuring that every team member is working towards the same objectives.

Learn more about establishing a clear product vision and strategy in our Product Strategy Playbook.

Focus on Prioritizing Outcomes, Not Outputs (Features)

Product teams must carefully plan and execute their work so outputs (what they produce) effectively lead to desired outcomes (the impact or value those outputs generate). While outputs are, of course, necessary, they are essentially a means to an end. The ultimate goal is to achieve positive outcomes that contribute to the success of the users and the overall business.

Failing to prioritize products and features that achieve these outcomes risks turning your business into a “feature factory” — producing features that don’t align with your business’s strategic objectives.

Practice Customer-Centric Product Management

A customer-centric approach ensures that every product and feature is designed to address specific customer needs and problems, increasing the likelihood of product adoption, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

To become customer-centric, foster deep empathy and genuine curiosity around customer pain points, goals, and motivations. Learn how to organize customer feedback and distill your learnings into actionable insights that can inform prioritization. Formulate a product strategy that focuses on solving the right problems for your customers. And invest customers in your product by prioritizing their needs.

3 key practices of customer centricity

Learn more about how to practice customer-centric product management.

Build Alignment & Trust With Cross-Functional Stakeholders

Product doesn’t operate in a vacuum. It’s crucial to integrate insights from across the organization, including developers, execs, and GTM teams—and don’t forget user experience insights coming directly from your customers. This broad spectrum of perspectives can reveal new opportunities and improve decision-making.

Communication is key throughout the product management process. Clearly articulating the rationale behind prioritization decisions to all stakeholders fosters trust and ensures alignment. Given that product managers often need to influence without direct authority, such transparency aids in earning buy-in, even from stakeholders with distinct needs and viewpoints. Consequently, if a stakeholder receives a “no” from the product team, they understand the reasoning behind it and recognize that the decision was not made arbitrarily.

Embrace an Iterative and Adaptive Approach

To navigate the ever-evolving landscape of market dynamics, user needs, and business priorities, it’s essential to incorporate agility and flexibility into the product feature prioritization process. This means being proactive and prepared to pivot in response to new information, emerging trends, and the valuable feedback received from users and stakeholders. By adopting such a dynamic approach, you ensure that your product efforts are always aligned with the most current demands and opportunities, thereby maximizing the impact and relevance of your product in the market.

Frameworks for Product Feature Prioritization 

After you’ve done all the big-picture thinking, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and decide on a product feature prioritization framework. The right framework should help you answer questions such as:

  • Are we working on the highest business value item?
  • Are we delivering the necessary value to customers?
  • Does our work contribute to the broader business objectives?
  • Can we get this product to the market?

Here are some common frameworks to consider:

Value vs. Complexity

The Value vs. Complexity framework is a graph that charts your feature ideas based on how much value they deliver vs. how complex they will be to build. Make sure to think about the value both to overall users and the business, as feature ideas can have a higher value when supporting your product strategy. 

For example, a feature idea may have a high value to SMBs, but if your product strategy focuses on enterprise customers, you should prioritize relevant feature ideas for them. The idea is that you’ll pump out the highest value, easiest-to-build features that align with your product strategy first, then work your way around the chart. 

value vs complexity axis

The RICE Method

The RICE method helps you turn subjective decisions into objective, data-driven ones by assigning a score to each feature idea. You’ll evaluate each idea based on four factors: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort:

  1. Reach: How many people will be affected by that feature in a given time? For example, “users per month” or “conversions per quarter”
  2. Impact: The impact of a specific feature on an individual person level
  3. Confidence: A percentage value based on confidence in your research data
  4. Effort: The total amount of time a feature will require from all team members

Each factor gets assigned a score, which is then weighted to give you an overall prioritization score for that feature idea.

(Reach x Impact x Confidence) ÷ Effort = RICE score

The Kano Model

The Kano Model ranks features based on how they impact customers. You’ll rank each feature idea on a scale that determines how much it will satisfy customer needs vs. the investment needed to b

uild it. The Kano Model requires that you categorize all feature ideas into four categories:

  1. Performance: Features that improve the performance of your product 
  2. Must-be: Basic features that your product needs to be competitive
  3. Attractive: Features that are unexpected but your customers will love
  4. Indifferent: A feature that won’t positively impact your customers

All the features that fall into the Performance, Must-be, and Attractive categories should be built. Features that fall into the Indifferent category should be scrapped.

kano model

Better Prioritize with Productboard

Productboard’s product management platform can help you make better product feature prioritization decisions. Here’s how: 

Build products and features that will make the most impact

Productboard’s user impact score is an auto-calculated score that surfaces your top-requested feature ideas. When you arrange your feature ideas as a list and sort them by the user impact score, you’ll quickly see your most-requested features rise to the top.

Build the right products for your target customers

Productboard’s dynamic customer segmentation gives you a quick and seamless way to strategically segment using data from Salesforce and other CRMs. Once you define clear segments, Productboard lets you surface the top features needed by each one based on the actual feedback those users have provided. It’s also easy to segment around important attributes such as market segment, ARR, company size, geography, or industry.

Make data-driven prioritization decisions

In Productboard, you can define formulas based on popular prioritization frameworks such as RICE, WSJF, and ROI. To meet your exact needs, custom formulas offer a systematic approach to prioritizing features that will have the greatest impact on your customers and your business. 

Prioritize based on ROI potential 

Product managers can now quantify the potential revenue of every feature idea with Productboard. By importing customer data from your CRM, like contract values and licenses purchased, Productboard automatically calculates the potential ROI of developing each feature based on requests from specific companies.

Prioritize around clear objectives

Use objectives as criteria to prioritize feature ideas and organize them on your roadmap. Score features based on how valuable they are for advancing your objectives, along with how much effort they’ll take. You can also zero in on the features within a given objective and visualize each feature’s value/effort tradeoff using Productboard’s prioritization matrix. This lets you easily identify high-value, low-effort features — and identify the true must-haves.

To learn more about how Productboard can help you better prioritize,start a 15-day day trial or request a demo.

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