Product Prioritization - Top Frameworks for PMs

Effective prioritization empowers product managers to save time and effort -
Effective prioritization empowers product managers to save time and effort -

Prioritization is a critical aspect of product management, as it enables teams to focus on the most important features, functions, and initiatives that drive business value. So effective prioritization has become more crucial than ever.

We product managers wear many hats, from gathering feedback from customers to analyzing market trends, from communicating with stakeholders to making data-driven decisions. But without a clear prioritization framework, it's easy to get bogged down in endless discussions or spend too much time on low-priority tasks. This can lead to missed deadlines, delayed launches, and ultimately, lost opportunities.

Importance of Prioritization

Limited Resources: In every organization, resources are limited. Time, budget, and personnel are finite, which means that teams must prioritize their work to ensure that they're focusing on the most important tasks.

Competing Demands: Product managers often have multiple stakeholders with competing demands. For example, the sales team may want to prioritize a new feature for existing customers, while customer support requests attention from a different set of features.

Scalability: As products grow in complexity and scope, prioritization becomes even more crucial. Without a clear framework for prioritizing work, teams can become overwhelmed by competing priorities and struggle to make progress.

Customer Expectations: Customers have high expectations for product quality, reliability, and innovation. By prioritizing the most important features and functions, product managers can ensure that they're delivering value to customers.

When prioritization is poor or non-existent, it can lead to a range of negative consequences, including

Missed Deadlines: Without clear priorities, teams may struggle to meet deadlines, leading to delays in launches, releases, and updates.

Wasted Resources: When resources are misallocated, teams may spend too much time on low-priority tasks, leading to wasted effort and lost opportunities.

Poor Customer Satisfaction: By neglecting customer needs or prioritizing the wrong features, product managers can alienate customers, damage brand reputation, and ultimately harm business outcomes.

By implementing effective prioritization frameworks, product managers can ensure that their teams are focused on delivering value to customers while meeting business objectives.

Prioritization Frameworks

There are several popular prioritization techniques that product managers can employ to evaluate and rank ideas, features, or initiatives based on specific criteria. Here are some common techniques along with their strengths and limitations:

MoSCoW Method

The MoSCoW method is a prioritization technique used in product management, product development, and requirements gathering. It helps categorize and prioritize tasks, features, or requirements based on their level of importance or criticality. The acronym MoSCoW stands for the following categories

Must Have

These are the critical requirements or features that are essential for the product to be considered a success. They are non-negotiable and must be included in the current release or iteration. Failure to meet these requirements would render the product unusable or inadequate.

Should Have

These are important requirements or features that should be included if possible, but the product can still function without them. They add significant value and are considered high-priority items, but they are not critical for the minimum viable product (MVP) or the current release.

Could Have

These are desirable requirements or features that are not essential but could add extra value or convenience to the product. They are typically lower-priority items and may be included if time and resources permit, but they are not essential for the current release.

Won't Have (this time)

These are requirements or features that have been identified but will not be included in the current product release. They may be considered for future iterations or releases, but they are not a priority for the current cycle due to various reasons, such as time constraints, resource limitations, or lack of criticality.

By categorizing requirements into these four categories, the MoSCoW method helps teams focus their efforts on delivering the most valuable and essential features first, while still acknowledging and potentially addressing lower-priority items in future releases or iterations.

Kano Model

The Kano Model categorizes customer requirements into Basic (must-haves), Performance (linear satisfaction), and Delighter (unexpected features) requirements.

Basic requirements should be the highest priority, as not meeting them will lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Performance requirements that directly impact satisfaction should be the next priority, ranked based on their potential impact.

Delighter requirements that exceed expectations can be a lower priority unless they provide a significant competitive advantage.

Indifferent and Reverse requirements (that decrease satisfaction) should generally be low or no priority.

By understanding which features fall into each Kano category, product managers can prioritize their roadmap to focus on the most critical requirements for meeting and exceeding customer expectations while balancing resources and effort.

RICE Scoring

RICE is a prioritization framework that stands for

Reach - The number of users or customers a feature will impact.

Impact - The overall benefit the feature will deliver.

Confidence - How confident the team is in achieving the estimated impact.

Effort - The amount of work required to build and deliver the feature.

To prioritize, each feature is scored for the RICE components (e.g. 1-5 scale). The scores are then combined into a RICE score using a weighted formula:

RICE Score = (Reach * Impact * Confidence) / Effort

Features with higher RICE scores are prioritized over those with lower scores. This quantitative model allows objective comparison of very different potential initiatives based on their expected return on investment of time and resources.

Pitfalls to Avoid While Prioritizing

Lack of clear objectives and metrics: Without well-defined goals and metrics, it becomes challenging to evaluate the potential impact and value of different priorities.

Relying solely on opinions and gut feelings: Prioritization should be data-driven and based on customer insights, market research, and quantitative analysis, rather than just personal opinions or assumptions.

Prioritizing too many initiatives: Attempting to tackle too many priorities simultaneously can dilute resources and lead to suboptimal execution and delivery.

Failing to communicate priorities: Lack of clear and transparent communication about priorities can lead to misalignment, confusion, and resistance within the organization.

If Nothing Else, Remember This😉

  • Align priorities with business objectives and measurable metrics.
  • Base decisions on data, customer insights, and market research.
  • Implement a structured, collaborative prioritization process involving stakeholders.
  • Balance short-term needs with long-term strategic goals.
  • Continuously re-evaluate and adapt priorities as conditions change.
  • Manage stakeholder expectations and find compromises when necessary.

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