Value Versus Effort Prioritization Framework | Definition & Use Cases

What Is Value vs. Effort/Complexity?

Value vs. Effort/Complexity is a prioritization method that allows for a product manager to evaluate various features and initiatives based on the benefit they provide (value) against the difficulty that it will take to implement them (effort/complexity). 

Often the corresponding rating is plotted against other features to determine a relative rating and then prioritized accordingly.

One of the largest benefits of the Value vs. Effort/Complexity framework is the flexibility of value and effort can mean various different things to different companies and organizations.  What is most important is ensuring that those definitions are standardized across all features when they are evaluated. 

This allows for a more objective way to evaluate various features and initiatives.

Implementing a Value vs. Effort/Complexity framework is fairly straightforward. 

The product manager just has to create a grid with one axis corresponding to a value and another corresponding to the effort.  The grid is, therefore, broken down into 4 different sub-components: high value, high complexity; low value, low complexity; and low value, high complexity. 

The product manager can then go ahead and plot all the features in the various parts of the grid that they think it belongs to.

How to Go About Rating Value vs. Effort/Complexity?

The product manager should try to go and create a list of all the various different features/initiatives that they wish to evaluate.  Then the product manager can separately determine: how much value a feature will bring when it is implemented, and how much effort a feature will take to implement.

The highest value and lowest effort features should be prioritized and considered first and those that are low-value high effort should be kept for a future release.  

What Evaluating Value Looks Like?

As stated earlier, the beauty of the Value vs. Effort/Complexity framework is that what value depends entirely on the company/organization that is using the framework. 

To some, that may mean trying to expand one’s target market and user reach, while to others, it may mean how implementing a specific feature impacts the bottom line by converting new users and existing users into paying customers.

Therefore, when determining the value of a feature, consider all the different factors that correspond to a specific goal that your company/organization is trying to achieve in the given timeframe.  This can include things like how many of your customers you reach and how impactful it is to the customers that are being directly affected by the feature. 

Common categories are:

  • Acquisition (will the feature help gain new customers?)
  • Activation (when will customers understand the value of the feature?)
  • Reach (how many customers does the feature impact?)
  • Revenue (how does the feature help make money?)
  • Retention (how can the feature keep customers long term?)
  • Virality (how does the feature influence the product virality?)

Once the feature is evaluated on the various factors that you are considering for your goal, you can sum them together and that will be your value score. 

You can also choose to weigh certain categories as more impactful than others if you deem a certain goal more important than another.  However, make sure that this value formula is applied the same to all different features.

What evaluation Effort/Complexity looks like?

Effort/complexity often refers to the amount of overall time and costs to a business for implementing a specific feature.  Similar to evaluating value, the score for effort can also be comprised of various different subcomponents and weighted according to how one sees fit.

Common subcategories include:

  • Developer hours
  • Time on the schedule (days, weeks, months)
  • Customer training, migration effort, and handling potential questions or complaints
  • Risk (including the potential for your new initiative to be supplanted soon by newer technology or processes)
  • In-house development skills (i.e. if only one or two developers have the knowledge to implement an initiative, this would mean pulling those developers off of other projects, and also that progress on the initiative could be delayed if those individuals get sick, leave for vacation, etc.)

The grid helps the product manager figure out how various features should be prioritized.  Here is what each block represents:

Top left is Big Bets.
– Features that can bring a lot of value but are also complex and hard to implement.

Top Right is Quick Wins.
-These features are valuable and can be implemented quickly and easily.

Bottom left is Time Sinks.
– Let’s say, these features take too much time when compared to the benefit they bring.

Bottom Right is Maybes.
-Features that do not bring a lot of value, but can be implemented easily. They can be fulfilled later.

Why Use Value vs. Effort?

Value vs. Effort/Complexity is useful in that it provides a convenient way for a product manager to keep all stakeholders and team members involved in the planning process by removing the barrier to entry by getting rid of jargon that is often associated with planning out long roadmaps.

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