How To Build A Prioritized Product Roadmap?

September 22, 2022
Share

As a product manager, one of the most difficult tasks is to prioritize activities on the roadmap. The development team will come with their own requirements, the marketing team would want your attention on other activities, the executive stakeholders would want a specific feature on a product and of course, there are the customers who would request another set of features. 

Having so many things on the plate at once, it gets only harder to prioritize and choose the right components to focus on. A prioritized product roadmap should answer the vital questions of what, how, and when to build. As a product manager, you may have your own desire and vision for developing the most compelling product. You would want to work on your intuition many times, but that is one thing you should not do.

We have prepared this guide to help you through the process of roadmap prioritization.  Keep on reading to comprehensively understand how to prioritize the product roadmap.

Why do Product Managers Struggle to Prioritize? 

Here is why roadmap prioritization is a difficult process for product managers:

Limited availability of data

Prioritization is not as easy as it seems. Because of the continuous feedback loop and inputs from various stakeholders, it is challenging to decide what to build next. And it becomes even more difficult when there is a lack of feedback from the customers. It is like leading in the dark without data to back your decisions.

A long and complex process

Prioritization may seem like arranging and picking urgent items from a backlog, but it is a lot more work than that. Behind prioritizing the initiatives of a roadmap, there is a long and complex process that involves research, brainstorming, and intense discussion sessions among the team members and other stakeholders.

Time-consuming process

It is true that the skill, experience, and knowledge of a product manager help in the process of roadmap prioritization. But what is more important is having all the information, projections, data, and goals clear. Understanding and sorting all this out can be a time-consuming process. Once you have all these in place, it is just a matter of putting all the information together and pulling out the crucial elements that need attention.

A lot of opinions

At a point in time, you might be overwhelmed with all the information, and tempted to consider immediately what a vital stakeholder is pitching, especially if their inputs are well presented. As much as you would want to say yes to every compelling idea, you should maintain your calm and do your own research. Researching is the most fundamental function of product prioritization which you should not skip under any circumstances, even if the product executives tell you so.

Things to keep in Mind during Product Roadmap Prioritization

Of course, roadmap prioritization is not a cakewalk. But there are some things that help product managers to ease out the difficulty in the process and do strategic prioritization such as-

1. Having a solid understanding of product vision and strategy 

All the themes, initiatives, and features are built around the vision of the product. As a product manager, you have to make sure to have a 360-degree understanding of your vision. Having a complete understanding of the vision and strategies will enable you to understand how your product team is planning to achieve the vision and help you supervise the initiatives.  It is like a relay race, once you have achieved an objective, the next course of initiatives are all set to be achieved. This way the sequence adds up to the final achievement of the product vision.

2. Setting Smart Goals and OKRs for the product

Smart goals stand for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time. When objectives are clearly defined, they are easier to achieve. SMART goals utilize a specific set of criteria to attain goals and objectives within the timeline. It enables the project manager to focus on critical details ensuring that you don’t miss or overlook any vital component of the project.

OKRs stand for objectives and key results. It helps product managers set realistic, challenging, and ambitious goals with measurable results. OKR methodology  offers transparency, improves focus, and retains commitment from all stakeholders by making them accountable.

Both smart goals and OKRs help product managers to eliminate assumptions and guesswork in the roadmap prioritization process.

3. In-Depth customer knowledge and product sense

A proper understanding of customer needs, wants and desires will help you prioritize the roadmap. Customers are the ultimate source of information and inspiration for product development. You can gather customer insights about your product from various feedback channels like social media, product review sites, feedback portals, interviews, surveys, etc. 

Product sense is one of the most important skills of a product manager. It is often hard to learn but once you have mastered it, you can call yourself a superhero. It will empower you to deeply understand product requirements and enhance your product intuition and judgment. Here is an example- the iPhone was built on the judgment that people value both aesthetics and functionality in their products. Thus iPhone was designed around the idea that people need a smartphone that felt personal and not just functional.

4. Good understanding of Prioritisation frameworks

Prioritization frameworks are guidelines to help you determine the urgency or priority of different components of the product. This process ensures that every opinion is considered and suitable decisions are made based on various factors. There are multiple product prioritization techniques, some of which will be discussed later in this article.

Suppose there is a pool of requests lying on the table. Some are asking for more integrations, some for an auto-login feature, and some for automtated email responses. How are you going to decide which request you should focus on? This is where prioritization frameworks help. They help you determine the urgency and feasibility of each request. 

Product roadmap prioritization step-by-step process

Here is a step-by-step simple, effective, and easy-to-understand guide to help you make strategic decisions in the roadmap prioritization process.

1. Gather user feedback and understand the behavior

The first step toward roadmap prioritization is understanding the user’s opinions and behavior toward your product. The users can be both internal and external. They can be anyone who has purchased your product and used it or the internal developers and experts. User feedback is a crucial aspect of research and prioritization.

Users can give feedback to either suggest, complain, request, or praise something about your product. It may not be possible to work on all the requests, but understanding the popular ideas and notions about your product will help you in the roadmap prioritization process. Whenever you are examining feedback requests, it is important to keep these points in mind- 

  • What are the most requested features?
  • Do you have the resources (technical and monetary) to build those features?
  • How many prospects are likely to convert if you build those features?

Knowing the wants and needs of your consumers will give you clarity of purpose and dismiss all kinds of assumptions. This will help you make data-driven decisions taking to closer to the final goal.

2. Separation of bugs and feature requests

You will typically get two types of feedback from the users. Whenever there are any glitches or bugs in your existing product and when users want to request a new feature. With so much feedback flooding in, it can get difficult to keep a track of all the potential requests. So the first thing you want to do after going through your feedback information is to create two separate lists of bug reports and feature requests. This way you can ensure that you don’t miss any potential feature requests in the pile making feedback management easier.

3. Analyze the why behind product feedback

After you have all the information and feedback data about your product, you are off to a good start. Not every feedback will be equally important or feasible. You have to filter down to the few potential ones and start analyzing them with your team. The best way to go about this process is to ask the question “why?”. Why this feature? Why are the users requesting this feature? Here is an example to help you understand better-

Bob, a valuable consumer has a certain request about adding multiple app integrations to your product. As a product manager, it is your duty to understand the real need and thought process behind this request. “Hi Bob, thank you for your feedback, it helps us work better. Can you please tell me why are you asking for integration with these particular apps? Do you mind telling me in what way will it help you?” 

Knowing the answer to this question will give you clarity of purpose and help in better decision-making. You might also discover the hidden potential of your product and explore new dimensions to grow. 

4. Understand the value and complexity of each feedback

Even if you want to build a high-value product for your consumers, sometimes there may be certain restrictions that come in the way of delivering a flawless product.  That is why it is important to evaluate the value of a product in terms of the complexity involved in building it.  

The model of value vs complexity is a popular approach in decision making and roadmap prioritization. It is a simple method that is easy to apply to determine the priority of different components of a product. 

You have to make a list of all the potential features on the basis of user feedback and research. After identifying the high potential features, you have to compare and analyze the expected value and the complexity of making the feature. 

Features with high value and low complexity are green flags that you can consider working on. However, low-value features with high complexity are best discarded and in low priority.

5. Use prioritization techniques to identify the high-value ones.

Now that you have identified high-value features and initiatives, it is time to rank them in order of priority. Not all the high-value features will be feasible for you. There can be many restrictions in terms of monetary and manpower resources. Since you don’t have infinite resources it is important that you identify the initiatives that are most compatible with your organization's capabilities. This is where prioritization techniques help. We will discuss them in detail after a while.

6. Ensure the prioritized initiatives are aligned with your goal

Now that you have a list of prioritized initiatives, it is now time to ensure that they are properly aligned with your goal. As we have previously spoken having a clear understanding of product vision and goals helps you in roadmap prioritization. There it is now time to connect the dots and determine if the prioritized initiatives will really lead to the final goal achievement. 

Suppose your final goal is to increase the number of subscribers to 10 percent by the end of the year. After using some of the prioritization techniques, enhancing UX and simplifying the user sign-up form on the website came up as a priority. Do you think this will contribute to the final goal? We think yes.  

Product Roadmap Prioritisation Techniques

Roadmap prioritization techniques are strategic guidelines to help you in the process of roadmap prioritization. Here are a few of the commonly used ones-

1. Value vs Effort

This method weighs the value of a product or feature in terms of the effort required to build the product. It helps you to identify the importance of a particular feature and the risk behind building that. Having a clear understanding of the situation will help direct your efforts toward building the most productive feature.

2. Weighted scoring

This method assigns numeral ranks to strategic initiatives based on benefits and cost categories to weigh different options. The numerical value depends on the cost advantage or the value in effort for that particular component.  You have to set weight values for each criterion and evaluate them on the basis of urgency and importance.

3. MosCow

MosCow is the acronym for must-have, should-have, could-have, and wont-have. 

  • The must-haves are the non-negotiable primary requirements of a product.
  • Should-haves add significant value and are important initiatives but not vital.
  • Could-haves are nice to have features that could enhance the value of the product but are not necessary, and
  • Won’t-haves are low-priority initiatives that are not used in the specific time frame but could be considered later.

4. RICE

RICE is a popular prioritization framework for reach, impact, confidence, and effort.

  • Reach is to determine how many people your initiative will reach in a given timeframe. The context of reach can be determined by you which can be in terms of user signups, customer transactions, etc.
  • Impact can reflect a quantitative or qualitative goal in terms of increasing customer delight or the product's desirability.
  • Confidence determines how confident you are in the development of a particular component or feature. It will depend on your team’s skill, expertise, and resources.
  • Effort is the amount of effort required to develop a particular feature of product based on various factors.

5. Kano Model

A bucket approach or the Kano model is one of the most popular frameworks for roadmap prioritization. It helps you to find connections between your product and customer satisfaction. With this model, features are prioritized into 3 primary buckets namely-

  • Basic expectations are the primary and fundamental expectations from a product. These features are must-haves without which a product will lose its appeal.
  • Satisfiers are above basic expectations and are targeted to fulfill the wants and needs of consumers.
  • Delighters are like brownie points that go above and beyond the expectations of a user. They offer a high level of satisfaction.

6. Opportunity scoring 

Opportunity scoring helps to identify opportunities to address customer expectations in a better way. This method focuses on two primary components - feature importance and existing satisfaction of the user. 

You have to take the help of your customers for this method. Ask them to score a list of features of your product and rank them based on their satisfaction level.  This will help you to identify a list of opportunities and rank the priority of features based on their inputs.

7. Story mapping

Story mapping is the process of arranging user stories in visual charts to create a holistic overview of how they fit into the overall user experience. The stories are arranged or grouped together into categories that present a logical sequence of user interaction with your product. Story mapping can be done on a wall or a board or with the help of any digital tool.

Takeaways

As much as we have spoken about how difficult roadmap prioritization is, it can be a fairly fun process if you have the correct mindset and the right tool to help you through the process. Zeda.io is a complete product management suite that will help you ease out difficulties in the product prioritization process. You will be able to sort, filter, and prioritize feature requests, build user-specific roadmaps and communicate seamlessly with your team members via third-party app integrations. Doesn’t it sound like a life savior? With no credit card, you can start your one-month free trial today! No credit card needed.

Like the article? Share it with your friends!

Join 5000+ product managers

Subscribe to get our weekly product newsletter and helpful resources right into your inbox.