Feature prioritization is one an essential responsibility of Product Management. All the work you do– customer development, internal horse-trading, market research, etc.–culminates with a list of prioritized features for the development team to build.
And yet, if prioritization is so important, why is it so difficult to do? Why is there so much confusion around it? Look at some of the most popular Product Management forums in LinkedIn or Quora. You’ll see that creating a roadmap and prioritizing features continues to be a big issue for Product Managers.
In many cases, the struggle to prioritize features is just a symptom of something bigger. The real problem is usually a lack of strategic vision or direction. In other words, feature prioritization without a product strategy is like mapping a route without a destination.
Before Jumping Into Feature Prioritization, Ask Yourself:
- Are you prioritizing features without a solid strategy and prioritization criteria?
- Are you only listening to the loudest stakeholder, biggest customer, or squeaky wheel?
- Are you just chasing after the features of the competition (feature parity)?
- Are you trying to chase the latest trend in your industry?
If you answer yes to any of the above questions, then your prioritization will not only be difficult, but it’ll be highly ineffective. Here is the simple rule: Your feature prioritization should flow from your overall product strategy.
Your company’s strategy will inform your high-level roadmap, which tells you what type of functionality you need to build in the short- and mid-term to satisfy your customer’s needs as well as other internal company needs.
There’s no point in prioritizing features unless you have a clear strategy and an agreement on the customer business problem you plan to solve. So before jumping into reorganizing individual features within your Product Management tool, take a minute to revisit your overall strategy and long-term roadmap. If you are short on customer insights or strategic alignment, then your time is better spent there.
Recommended podcast episode: You Can’t Outsource strategy
That’s not to say your strategy needs to be set in stone for all of eternity. Depending on the maturity of your company, it’s not rare for strategies to adjust or “pivot” (to use the Lean jargon) based on new customer insights or market changes. But you do need to have an agreed-upon strategy at all times, which remains consistent for at least six months.
The Bottom Line
By the way, getting here is a lot of work, and that’s where a big part of the value of Product Managers lies. If you’d like some great resources on developing and executing a customer-driven strategy, I highly recommend these other articles I’ve written on this topic.
- How to Use a Scorecard to Prioritize Features
- How to Build an IoT Roadmap
- How to Use Design Thinking to Build Better IoT Products
Photo by Peter Reed