A Better Method of Feature Prioritization

Sep 19, 2017

Prioritizing products for development in itself is already a challenging process. Prioritizing the features within those products can be just as difficult. When it comes to software or other technology developments, feature prioritization takes on an even more important role, yet it’s often overshadowed by other aspects to the product development lifecycle.

There are many approaches to software development that can incorporate some form of feature prioritization. However, many of them lack the ability to incorporate a customer viewpoint or don’t allow the ability to quickly integrate that viewpoint into the prioritization of features. Finding a method that can is critical to increasing customer satisfaction and the development team’s time and budget.

Feature Prioritization Is Not Just About Innovation

Innovation is an important aspect of product development, particularly within the tech space, but it should not be the sole driver of feature prioritization. Many organizations look to methods like outcome driven innovation, which places focus on the desired outcomes or end results that consumers want, rather than the exact product features. While this is certainly helpful for ideation and innovation, it fails to take things further than that. For example, it can’t account for pre-existing features or the fact that not everyone’s outcomes will be the same. It may also require more time and effort to narrow the outcomes into features— and then you’re still left with the problem of having to prioritize them.

Others may look to another, more up and coming method called the RICE method. This process looks to assign features or tasks a score based on four key attributes:

Reach: how many users the feature could impact
Impact: how large or positive the impact on users could be
Confidence: how confident the team is in estimating the relative reach and impact
Effort: how much time, money, and other resources the feature requires

While the RICE method personalizes the process of prioritization to a particular business, it’s more difficult to apply on a customer level and is likely better for product management, rather than feature prioritization.

The Kano Method

We look to the Kano method of feature prioritization— with an agile approach. This method looks at plotting features on a matrix based on customer satisfaction and investment. It doesn’t require a ton of effort from the consumers besides answering how they feel about a particular feature being included or not included with a product, but those answers can be very impactful data points. The Kano method seeks to assign data points based on consumer’s scoring into one of six segments:

  • Attractive
  • Must Be
  • Indifferent
  • One Dimensional
  • Reverse
  • Questionable

After assigning them to one of the segments above, the features can then be plotted on a matrix based on customer satisfaction and cost for development. Conducting feature prioritization in this way not only takes into account the customer but also the investment required; generating the right features for development based on business and consumer needs. Applying this model with an agile approach to technology has a far greater impact than any other industry. It can seamlessly fit into the more technical agile methodologies of software development, with minimal impact on timing. 

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