When and how to prioritise product features?

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There are different frameworks to prioritise product features, but how do you choose the right framework and when do you use it?

One of the key skills of a Product Manager is prioritisation. It often becomes challenging to identify what and when to prioritise. If you’re new to the role, it becomes a daunting task to prioritise features from the backlog, especially when every team member has a different opinion on feature priorities. Fortunately, to make the job easier, product experts have created great prioritisation frameworks which have helped them build mission-critical products.

Let’s discuss three of the most used prioritisation frameworks and understand the best fit situations of each one.

Frameworks to prioritise the Product Backlog:

  1. MoSCoW Matrix
  2. Ranking Method
  3. KANO Model

1.MoSCoW Matrix

MoSCoW prioritisation method is a very commonly used framework in Agile to prioritise things with respect to High, Medium, Low and Very Low. The name MoSCoW is an acronym for the following prioritisation categories: Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, Won’t Have.

Must Have: High priority items that are non-negotiable (e.g., Legal, Regulatory, Core features) or which don’t have any workaround fall into this category. The items in this bucket are very critical and they form the core functionality of the product and help the team to deliver MVP. Slippage of even one task from this bucket would result in failure to deliver an MVP. Approximately 60% of the total effort spent on product development should be for the ‘Must Have’ items.

Should Have: This category holds the items which are important but not crucial to deliver an MVP, (e.g., Often these are the items which have a dependency on another feature from MVP to be functional). The items in this medium priority bucket would be incrementally built onto the product after completing MVP. The Must Have and Should Have items combined take almost 80% of the effort to create a product that solves the business case.

Could Have: This low priority category holds the feature which is desirable but not necessary for the product to be fully functional. This bucket holds non-core functions of the product (e.g., cosmetic features, aesthetics, feel-good features). These items are only prioritised if there is additional time and budget to spend.

Won’t Have: These tasks usually have very low priority because they don’t add any value to the product, or the features are way out of budget.

When to Use MoSCoW Prioritisation Framework: MoSCoW is an ideal tool when the product managers want to present to non-technical stakeholders what they are working on.

2.Ranking Method

The Ranking/Stack ranking method of prioritisation is one of the simplest and most commonly used frameworks by the Product Experts. It enables the product manager to take the list of items that need prioritisation and rank them in order from the most important (top of the stack) to the least important (bottom of the stack).

When to use Stack ranking Prioritisation Framework: This prioritisation method is used when the product manager wants to identify every single feature or task in the backlog with a rank, rather than putting the items in a category. This enables the product manager to ensure that the team is always delivering the highest value items rather than spending effort on the lowest value items.

3.KANO Model

KANO model of prioritisation has 3 brackets: Basic, Performance and Delighters. This is a customer-centric model, and the features or items are categorised based on how customers value the features. The customer insights are collected using a KANO questionnaire where the customers are asked how they feel with or without a particular product feature or item.

Basic features (Threshold attributes):  These are the features that are the bare minimum that is expected by the customers to use. Without these features, the product wouldn’t be usable to the customers.

Performance features (Satisfiers): These are the features that increase customer satisfaction, these are often high investment features but customers welcome performance features.

Delighters (Excitement attributes): These are features that the customers do not necessarily expect in the product but investing in these will go above and beyond the expectations of the customers. They enable the team to curate a differentiated product from the competitors.

When to use KANO method Prioritisation Framework: This method is useful for delivering products where the stakeholders are interested in customer-satisfaction based metrics. KANO delivers a data-driven method of prioritisation that helps us understand how the development of a specific feature can affect the customer’s level of satisfaction while using the product.

Conclusion

A good prioritisation framework is one which would help product managers make decisions and bring everyone to consensus. The MoSCoW framework is dynamic and has provision for evolving priorities, that is any feature which is currently in the ‘Won’t Have’ bucket could one day be a ‘Must Have’ feature based on the type of product evolving. The KANO model involves the customer in prioritisation which helps product teams curate a product which is more aligned towards the end user’s expectation. The Stack Ranking method is simple, enabling the team to prioritise each feature relative to all other features.

An ideal prioritisation framework is a collaborative process which helps the team to remove the ideas that don’t add value and position their prioritisation rationale of how each feature contributes to the greater goals of the product.

Author

Jaison Thomas
Senior Consultant
Capgemini Invent

Jaison is a Product Manager with 5 years of consulting experience in digital transformation, having worked for a range of clients on both discovery and delivery projects.