Product prioritization is a crucial aspect of product management. It helps teams decide which features or improvements should come first, ensuring efficient resource allocation and meeting customer needs. Think of it as a guiding compass for a product’s success.
As Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan, wisely put it, “The role of leadership is to transform the complex situation into small pieces and prioritize them.” This highlights how vital prioritization is in product management.
However, product prioritization isn’t always straightforward. Gathering customer feedback and staying attuned to market demands can be challenging, as evidenced by a survey where 25% of product managers struggled to set roadmap priorities without concrete data.
Imagine a scenario where developers favor Feature A while stakeholders prefer Feature B. Such disagreements are common, making decision-making more complex.
This article will look at product prioritization in great length and give you four useful frameworks to help you navigate this challenging environment. After reading the article you’ll be ready to make calls with expertise, steer your product toward success, and master product prioritization.
What Is a Prioritization Framework?
A prioritization framework is a set of criteria that helps you determine the importance of the value proposition, offering, and channel elements about each other.
A prioritization framework is a product management tool that prioritizes people, projects, or products according to simple, user-defined criteria.
You typically find them in multi-dimensional grids that allow the comparison of different elements to facilitate decision-making.
Depending on the specific purpose, you can use many different frameworks, ranging from strictly quantitative (project selection frameworks and portfolio selection tools) to qualitative (such as priority surveys and interview techniques).
The basis of the prioritization framework is on the five key product marketing metrics:
- perceived quality
- uniqueness (differentiation)
The framework evaluates all parts of the product’s value proposition, offering, and channel against the criteria. It allows you to prioritize features based on how they fit into your business model and goals.
Companies use prioritization methods to score projects. The basis is the degree of value they deliver, the amount of value captured by the company, and how likely it will occur.
Companies use these frameworks to decide which project gets funding.
A prioritization framework provides a logical way of ordering the system components by their importance as perceived from the user and organization perspectives.
It allows a systematic, explicit, repeatable, and coordinated procedure for assigning priority measures to system requirements with the same scope.
How to Choose the Best Prioritization Framework for the Team?
There are a lot of prioritization frameworks out there, but not all of them will be a good fit for your team.
You need to consider the team’s size, skills, and culture before choosing the best framework.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a prioritization framework for the team.
- The framework should be easy to understand and use. It should help the team to make decisions quickly and effectively.
- It’s also vital that the framework be flexible enough to accommodate changes in priorities.
- It should cater to the team’s specific needs.
Many different prioritization frameworks help teams choose the most critical tasks. The most popular prioritization frameworks are the Eisenhower Matrix, the Moscow Method, and the Priority Pyramid.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a prioritization framework that helps teams distinguish between urgent and important tasks. The matrix has four quadrants: urgent and important, urgent but not important, important but not urgent, and neither urgent nor important.
The Moscow Method is a prioritization framework that helps teams distinguish between essential and non-essential tasks. The method has four categories: must-have should have, could have, won’t have.
The first step is to identify all the tasks that teams need to complete. After that, the team can prioritize them using the MoSCoW Method.
The MoSCoW method is a popular way to prioritize tasks. It stands for:
- Must have: These are the necessary tasks, and teams need to complete them.
- Should have: these are tasks that teams should complete. But you can postpone them if necessary.
- Could have: these are tasks that would be nice to have. But you can skip them if there is not enough time or resources.
- Won’t have: these are tasks that teams do not complete.
Teams use the MoSCoW Method to prioritize tasks by determining which tasks are necessary for the project and which can be postponed or eliminated. The goal is to focus on the most critical tasks and get them done first.
The Priority Pyramid is a prioritization framework that you can use to make decisions with multiple options and limited time. Product manager Patrick Crispen created it.
It’s a great way to make sure you’re always making the most impactful decisions.
The basis of the Priority Pyramid is that there are only three things you can do with your time. They are- urgent and important, important but not urgent, and urgent but not important. You should always be working on tasks that are both urgent and important.
Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling created it. They are the authors of ‘The Four Disciplines of Execution.’ The Priority Pyramid has four levels:
1. Urgent and Important
2. Important but Not Urgent
3. Urgent but Not Important
4. Not Urgent and Not Important
The urgent and important tiers are the tasks you should focus on. They are the tasks that have a deadline or are essential to your business goals.
Why Use Prioritization Frameworks?
Managing a product requires more than just constructing a list of features you need to complete in a particular order. Instead, it involves taking input from various stakeholders and determining the best course of action for the well-being of the product going forward.
Some product managers rely on intuition, but this is risky at best since it allows you to overlook certain crucial pieces of information.
4 Popular Prioritization Frameworks
We recommend using one of the following prioritization methods to take your planning to the next level!
RICE Method: Key Components
The RICE Method tries to quantify the relative importance of a particular feature by focusing on four different vital qualities of a feature: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.
It is the number of people directly affected by implementing a specific feature at a particular time.
Teams can qualify it by internal metrics in the product being built and surveys conducted on your target audience.
The impact when you implement the feature will have on your users.
You can do it by providing some scale to measure the features against.
A standard scale is 3 for “massive impact,” 2 for “high impact,” 1 for “medium impact,” 0.5 for “low impact,” and 0.25 for “minimal.”
This number represents how certain you are about the information you received for reach and impact and the corresponding benefit of implementing the feature.
Like impact, you can provide some scale to measure the confidence level against.
A typical scale is 100% for high confidence, 80% for medium confidence, and 50% for low morale.
It represents how much time it will take the various product, design, and engineering teams to implement a specific feature into the product.
You can measure it by the number of persons per month or “person-months” it will take to complete.
Once all these categories are properly quantified, the formula to calculate the RICE score is
RICE= ([Reach x Impact x Confidence] / Effort)
Pros and Cons of RICE:
Pros of RICE:
- It is comprehensive as RICE forces the product manager to consider the impacts of the feature from every possible angle.
- It drives the decisions by SMART metrics (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based). It helps in future releases. Teams use these measurements to improve the feature and product in the feature.
- It minimizes the effect of bias while deciding about a particular feature. It shifts the discussion from trying to predict the success of a specific feature to how successful we think a feature may be. Speculative scores do it we assign to it with varying confidence levels.
Cons of Rice:
- RICE scores may vary depending on other features making it difficult to use them as an absolute metric of “what to build next.” As a result, it is better to consider these rankings as a helpful exercise more than anything else.
- The evaluations in RICE will never be wholly accurate. It scores various features based on the multiple teams’ confidence levels in their estimations.
2. Moscow Method: Key Components
The MoSCoW Method, otherwise known as the MoSCoW Prioritization Technique or MoSCoW Analysis, is framework companies use in agile product management software.
It helps to effectively communicate what and why you are working on specific features to crucial stakeholders. Companies tend to use it in waterfall-based enterprises.
The MoSCoW Method is an acronym for four categories: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have.
These are vital features that are pivotal to the product and must be present to function.
If you were building a minimum viable product, it should comprise “Must have” features.
These features are the most time-sensitive, and companies cannot launch a product without them.
If implemented, these features would benefit the product but are not the highest priority.
These features are sometimes avoided in later sprints if teams do not implement them earlier.
These features are not essential nor particularly important to the product, but they would be excellent for the customer.
Typically these features are implemented only if the extra time and resources are available. Usually, these are relatively small features as a result.
These features are the lowest priority, and companies do not implement them.
Often these features do not align with the stakeholders’ interests and are not worth the time or effort required to implement them.
Pros and Cons of MoSCoW:
Pros of MoSCoW:
It is straightforward, helping the entire team stay involved without requiring sophisticated jargon or complex calculations. It allows for accessible and transparent communication between all stakeholders and team members.
Cons of MoSCoW:
It is easy to fall into the trap of considering more feature “must-haves,” which is true, resulting in inefficiencies.
3. Value vs. Effort (Complexity Method): Key Components
The Value Vs. The effort prioritization method tries to simplify everything by listing various features and initiatives. Then quantifying them using value and effort scores by plotting them on a matrix to see where the multiple features land.
What constitutes value or effort depends on the individual team/organization, but generally, they can be thought of as follows:
Value: A feature or initiative that increases revenue benefits current customers, attracts new customers or directly helps with larger business or strategic goals.
Effort: It includes the cost to implement a specific feature. The amount of extra developmental, operational, and implementation effort. The risk involved with implementing this feature or initiative; and its complexity.
Pros and Cons of Value vs. Effort:
Pros of using Value vs. Effort:
The framework is inherently very flexible. It lets all the stakeholders determine what the two keywords mean to them, leading to a tailor-made prioritization plan for whatever the organization is trying to achieve.
In short, due to its flexibility, companies can use it almost anywhere to significant effect.
Encouraging teams to quantify various value and effort scores makes it comparatively easier for product managers to determine what features should be focused on now also which features to push back to the future.
Due to the simple nature of the framework, it is relatively straightforward to adopt, which is helpful to resource-constrained organizations. Helping them craft effective plans when utilizing other frameworks.
Cons of using Value vs. Effort:
Since the keywords are very flexible, disagreements about evaluating various features can take longer to resolve.
Like other frameworks, Value vs. Effort alone cannot perfectly predict how a feature will turn out. There is always room for cognitive biases, and the scores are just a well-researched guess.
The Kano Model is a prioritization technique that can help you identify which product features are most important to your customers. In the early 1980s, Professor Noriaki Kano developed the kano model, which product developers have widely used.
The basis of the Kano Model is the idea that there are three product features: essential, performance, and excitement.
Basic features are the critical features that your customers need to use your product, and performance features are the additional features that make your product work better or faster.
The Kano Model is a technique used to prioritize product features. The model categorizes product features into five groups: must-haves, satisfiers, delighters, exciters, and killers.
The first two groups are necessary for the product to succeed, and the last three groups are not essential but can add value to the product. The exciters and killers are the most important because they can make or break the product.
The Kano Model is a valuable product manager tool because it helps them understand which features are the most important to their customers.
Pros and Cons of the Kano Model:
Pros of using the Kano Model:
- The Kano Model is a prioritization technique that can help companies identify which product features are most important to their customers.
- The Kano Model can help companies prioritize product development efforts and determine which features would provide the most value to their customers.
- You can use it to identify which product or service features are most important to customers.
- You can use it to guide product development and prioritize customer feedback.
Cons of using the Kano Model:
- One potential issue with the Kano Model is that it can be challenging to determine which features are in the “attract” category and the “satisfy” category. It can lead to some ambiguity about the priority of different parts.
- Another potential issue with the Kano Model is that it can be difficult to track changes in customer satisfaction over time.
- It can be challenging to determine the impact of a product change on a company’s bottom line. Many factors can influence the success or failure of a product change, and these factors can be challenging to isolate and quantify.
- It cannot be easy to place customers in the correct category. Another is that the model does not take into account changes over time.
How to Choose the Right Product Prioritization Framework for Your Team
Before delving into the various product prioritization frameworks, clarity is essential. To navigate this journey effectively, you must first understand what warrants prioritization.
Choosing a framework without a clear purpose is akin to embarking on a journey with no destination – you’ll be without a starting point.
Let’s get on a guided exploration to find the ideal prioritization framework for your project.
- Define Your Focus: What is on your priority list? Are you prioritizing requirements, features, functions, or raw data, whether quantitative or qualitative? The initial step in selecting a framework is defining your priorities.
- Seek Purpose: Why do you need prioritization? What outcomes are you aiming for through this process? Evaluating the impact of your prioritization efforts within the broader context, including your OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), can provide valuable insights.
- Audience Insights: Consider your audience and the size of your team. Some frameworks can simplify the process based on these factors, making prioritization more efficient and effective.
- Time Matters: Time is crucial. Assess the available time for the project timeline and milestones. This evaluation will guide you toward the framework that best aligns with your project’s needs.
- Product and market fit: Evaluate the compatibility of different frameworks with your specific product and market requirements. Some frameworks may work better for specific industries or types of products.
- Team dynamics: Consider your team’s work style, size, and collaboration dynamics. Choose a framework that aligns with your team’s strengths and promotes effective teamwork.
- Scalability: Ensure that the chosen framework is scalable and can accommodate future growth or changing needs. A flexible framework will allow you to adapt and adjust as your team and projects evolve.
Summary of Key Points
Knowing how and when to use a specific prioritization framework separates a good product manager from a great one. If using a tool, they also need to pick up the right product manager software.
Nevertheless, these frameworks alone cannot fully replace the human element of decision-making. Learn more about product manager hard skills.
Frameworks serve as a vehicle to get people on the same page about a product and the various goals for the foreseeable future.
Picking the correct framework can help expedite this process and reduce the barrier for the rest of the team to contribute to the planning process.
In short, they are just an exercise in trying to quantify and assess the various decisions that surround a feature or idea.
More like this:
- Top 10 Prioritization Skills for Productivity
- How to Choose the Most Accurate Feature for Prioritization Framework
- 9 Best Roadmap Prioritization Tools to Optimize Product Features
- How To Master Prioritization
- What is Prioritization? (Strategies & Tools to Help You Arrange the Tasks)
- How Routine Prioritization Boosts Your Organization’s Growth.