Product Management

Product Prioritization Frameworks Explained

The better you understand your user, the better you will be able to anticipate their needs. This is what product prioritization is about. Let’s learn more
Mahima Arora
12 min to read

Product management is crucial in determining whether a product will succeed or fail. The product manager’s job is not simple – it entails creating the product roadmap, deciding on product features, and determining the major USPs of their product.

Similarly, deciding what to build next is an important part of the job. Everything narrows down to providing real value to customers.

Product managers must stack the features of their products in a valuable order to find true value for their customers. The better you understand your customers, the better you will be able to anticipate their needs. This is what product prioritization is about. Let’s learn more.

What is product prioritization?

Product prioritization is the evaluation of work, ideas, and requests that add up to deliver value to customers as quickly as possible.

Product prioritization involves not only stacking features in an order that provides value to customers. But also collecting feedback from customers and stakeholders.

Aside from that, product managers must carefully consider how many team members, stakeholders, and customers they should involve in order to determine which features and updates to work on next.

Why do product prioritization frameworks matter so much?

PMs are not the only ones who decide what features to build next or what feature to prioritize in version 1 of the product. It involves the opinions of various voices like the sales and engineering team and the company leaders. Most importantly, the customer feedback and their input.

However, it doesn’t always go smoothly. There are going to be some opinions that would be louder with personal biases. You could end up wasting a lot of time and resources in selecting features based on these opinions. Not to mention that it would be hard to come to an agreement with stakeholders. This is why frameworks are crucial.

Effective product prioritization not only solves the above problem, but helps you to stay on the product strategy. It helps to maintain transparency for the team and builds confidence in the planning process. Which everybody wants because choosing the right feature will help customers and businesses.

Types of product prioritization frameworks

Before we list out the best frameworks, it is important to remember that these frameworks will not help you with conducting in-depth evaluations, but only help you in better decision-making. It still depends on you and your team to make the final decision on building the next important thing. With that, here goes the list.  

Value vs Complexity

The value vs complexity quadrant is one of the most significant frameworks. It is a 2×2 matrix that helps PMs to prioritize the bugs fixes and features in the product roadmap.

Value is what you are going to offer to your customers to benefit them. Complexity or Effort is what it takes you to achieve this feature. The framework can also be represented in a graphical form where the Value vs Effort graph is plotted, and the most important tasks are prioritized.

Their numerical formula looks like this: Value/Complexity= Priority

The more the value is and less the effort product managers should focus on prioritizing those features. One of the major perks of this framework is that it can help you quickly find the low-hanging fruits and the features that may be hard to get results.

KANO Method

The KANO model was developed by the Japanese professor Noriako Kano in 1984 that focuses on prioritizing the features that are going to delight their customers.

The product team prioritizes features based on how much they will please customers, as well as the cost of implementation.

KANO framework has a graphical representation where the Y-axis represents the Customer Satisfaction on the scale of completely satisfied to completely dissatisfied whereas the X-axis represents the functionality or how well the feature has been executed. To get a more clear and wide idea about the product performance, the product team must do a survey among its customers that asks their satisfaction or dissatisfaction about its features.

The RICE Framework

The RICE framework was developed by the product team at the Intercom. The internal team at intercoms uses this framework to work towards and goal by analyzing the four factors:

  • Reach
  • Impact
  • Confidence
  • Effort

Reach: How many people are going to be impacted by this feature. For example, 500 people open the page and 20% of them choose this feature. The total reach comes out to be 100 people.

Impact: How has the product impacted an individual? For this, Intercom has set a scale from 0.5 to 3. Here, 3 refers to the maximum impact whereas 0.5 refers to the lowest impact.

Confidence: How confident the team is that the product feature will work? How much data do they have about the customers? This metric plays a significant part in deciding the feature’s success. This metric is crucial in determining the success of the feature. The higher the percentage of confidence the team has, the more likely it is that customers will like the features.

Effort: This tells us about the effort or the amount of time invested by each team member like the designing, development, and planning that will together complete a product. It is represented in the form of persons per month. In a nutshell, how much work one team member can do in a month for this product.

After using these individual scores, the total score is combined into one single score. You can use this final score to rank the product features.

MoSCow Method

MoSCow method has no connection with the city. Rather, it is an abbreviated form of:

  1. Must Have
  2. Should Have
  3. Could have
  4. Won’t have.

This framework is helpful for the stakeholders in analyzing the initiatives of the product in a specific release.

Each of the above features is useful in prioritizing the features of the products and deciding which one is an urgent need for the customers.

  • Here, “must have” is a non-negotiable feature. These have to be present at all. If any of the must-have features are missing from the bucket, the product launch cannot occur with great success.  Example: Users must log in or register to get started.
  • “Should have” feature is not bound by any specific time frame. They are crucial for the product but not enough to delay product launch.
  • “Could-have” features are neither crucial nor time-bound. These may or may not work as a bonus for the customers. You can implement them if you have a budget or timeframe but only at a later stage.
  • “Won’t have” features are the least desirable and usually kept out of the box. They are not going to provide any ROIs or value to the customers.

Story Mapping

This framework is an important one because it focuses on user interactions rather than the opinion of the leaders or the stakeholders.  

Further, story mapping is used by various product managers because it is easy to execute and gives transparent customer feedback. After analyzing, the team creates a map that is useful in highlighting the significant benefits of the products. The story mapping diagram consists of the horizontal line where you set up the sequence or process of how the customers are going to navigate your product.

This includes the signup, profile set up, and payments. The vertical line in each column represents the order of importance of the functionalities from top to bottom. Story mapping is not only useful for PMs, but it is equally useful for UX designers also.

Product Tree

The product tree or prune product tree is developed by Bruce Hollman. The main motive of the product tree is to shape the product in a way that matches the customer’s needs.

This tree helps in dividing the product roadmap in the form of a tree:

  • Trunk: Functionalities we already have.
  • Branches: Primary functionalities
  • Leaves: New product ideas
  • Roots: Technical system requirements.

Further, the product tree helps the product team to keep a check on the backlog items so that the innovative ideas aren’t left behind. Product tree is most helpful for companies with a large portfolio of features.

Cost of Delay

The cost of delay helps us to identify the impact of time we will have on the product outcomes. This framework answers three important questions for us:

  • How much worth this feature would be if the product had it now?
  • How worth this feature will be if it gets made earlier?
  • How much worth this feature will be if it is planned later?

Depending on the worth of the feature and how much it will cost if it gets delayed, the product managers can prioritize them.

For example, a feature would cost $15,000 per week if it gets delayed and takes 2 months to build. Whereas, another feature costs $10,000 per week if it gets delayed but takes the same amount of time to complete. According to this framework, it is better to prioritize the feature that costs more due to delay, i.e. the first one.

Which product prioritization framework should you choose?

There are many other frameworks available, but that could be overwhelming for the companies which do not have a large portfolio of products.

All that matters when deciding on a prioritization framework is the size of the company, the maturity of the product, and the role of leaders and stakeholders in making a decision.

Further, it is important to list your product goals in an order of the benefits and value for the customers and narrow them down to get the priority framework. Lastly, remember that this is teamwork and not just the product manager’s job.

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