Not sure which features you should work on first in the product roadmap? These feature prioritization tactics will help you.
•Published: Dec 21, 2021
As a product manager, you’ll have to deal with the dilemma of getting many feature requests from different departments on what needs to be in the roadmap.
But the problem is, you won't be able to act on every request. So, to manage the long list of possible features, you'll need to prioritize which ones to act on first.
Feature prioritization is key to a better roadmap because it helps you identify and choose the features that will have the highest impact on your users. That way, you deliver a product with features that truly impact the user experience while preventing your development team from missing important deadlines.
Here are the six best methods to prioritize your features in the roadmap:
1. RICE Method
The RICE method is a technique (from Intercom) of prioritizing features by calculating the Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort of each feature idea. You then compare the score of each feature to identify which ones are the most important to your product roadmap.
To get started with the RICE method, you first need to determine the reach score of your feature within a specific time window. Your product reach score is how many users you expect will be impacted by the feature. For example, if you expect all of your existing 1,000 users to see this update within the next quarter, then your reach score will be 1,000. You want this estimation to be as accurate as possible, so make sure to dive into your product analytics to determine it.
Next, you need to think about what kind of impact the feature will have on your company goals. The impact must relate back to your current company goals, such as increasing user retention or attracting new customers. You can use a scoring model from .25 to 3 to determine the potential impact:
- Massive Impact: 3
- High Impact: 2
- Medium Impact: 1
- Low Impact: .5
- Minimal Impact: .25
Confidence measures how much your product team feels assured that the feature will succeed, for example, if they have sufficient data on the potential impact. This time, you use a percentage scoring model to determine this:
- 100% = High confidence
- 80% = Medium confidence
- 50% = Low confidence
Lastly, effort consists of identifying all the resources and bandwidth required to turn this feature into reality. To determine this, we use the “person-months” metric, which represents the amount of work one team member can do over one month.
One month counts as 1 point, whereas anything less counts as 0.5. For example, if a feature will take two weeks to build, one month to design, and one month to develop, its effort score will be 2.5.
From there, you take all your scores and calculate the score with the following RICE formula:
Based on the results, features in your backlog with the highest RICE score are the ones you should be prioritizing in your product roadmap.
2. Priority Scoreboard
A priority scoreboard is a method of prioritizing a feature by weighing various factors, such as its development costs and impact on revenue, to rank its importance in the roadmap. Here’s how to get started with the method:
- Align with stakeholders on the scoreboard criteria: Hold a brainstorming session with stakeholders to create a list of factors you’ll be using to score features along with their “weight.” For example, a potential factor could be “impact on revenue” with a weight of 40%.
- Create a list of the most relevant features for the release: Identify which features are going to be the most essential for the theme and strategy of your upcoming release.
- Assign a score of 100 to each feature: Based on the factors and the “weight” you agreed on with stakeholders, give each feature a score of 100 to rank its importance in the roadmap.
Here’s an example of a priority scoreboard from Craft.io:
The scoreboard identifies three features to include in the roadmap: a PayPal integration, user calendar syncing, and Google Maps routing. We can see that Google Maps routing has the highest score on the board with 72, which makes it a top priority in the roadmap.
3. MoSCoW Method
The MoSCoW method is an acronym that stands for Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, Won’t-Have, which are also the names of the categories you divide your features into to determine which you should act on first. The method comes from software development expert Dai Clegg, who first came up with this method of prioritizing tasks in the product roadmap while working at Oracle.
Features in the Must-Have category are non-negotiable components that your product can’t go without. For example, if you’re managing a web conferencing platform, these features include high-quality audio and HD video to optimize communication.
Should-Have features refer to any form of functionality that still allows your product to work correctly even if it’s omitted. That said, these features do have a substantial impact on user satisfaction and the product experience if you decide to integrate them. In the case of our web conferencing platform, that could include a call-recording option.
On the other hand, features in the Could-Have categories don’t prevent the product from functioning if they're not integrated and don’t significantly impact the user. These features will typically be at the bottom of your priority list.
Won’t-Have features are unimportant features you’ll be leaving out of your priority list since they don’t align with your current product goals. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t consider them in the future.
To run the MoSCoW method effectively, invite your stakeholders and different team departments for a session on which category best fits each of your feature ideas. In the product roadmap, start working on the features in the “Must-Have” category and then go all the way down.
4. Opportunity Scoring
Opportunity scoring is a feature prioritization technique that invites customers to drop feedback on features they find essential but are currently dissatisfied with. It was first introduced in Anthony Ulwick’s book “What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services.”
To get started with opportunity scoring, send the customer a survey to rate a list of existing features in your product. For each feature, ask them:
- “Out of a score of 1 to 5, how would you rank this feature in importance?”
- “Out of a score of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you currently with this feature?”
After collecting all of this feedback, you’ll see which features are the most essential for users but have a low satisfaction score. They’re the features you should focus on prioritizing and improving in the product roadmap.
5. Buy a Feature
Buy a feature is an in-person game you give to customers to determine whether or not a feature is genuinely worth building in the product roadmap by inviting them to “shop” for the features they like the most. It’s a fun way of adding gamification to the feature prioritization process.
First, create a list of feature ideas that aren’t confirmed for development yet, and give each idea a monetary value. You can base the monetary value on factors such as how hard it will be to develop the feature and the impact you think it will have on user satisfaction.
Gather customers and provide them with play money to go “shopping” for features they like the most. The “money” can come in the form of Monopoly money or poker chips.
Make sure to give them a limited budget to make them think about the purchases and which features are the most important. We recommend that customers only have enough budget to shop for just half or one-third of your features, so it forces them to think about the features that matter the most to them.
Once the game is over, rank the features based on how much money the customers “spent” on them. During this process, you also want to hear the customers’ feedback on why they purchased certain items and ignored others for more context in your product roadmap.
6. Affinity Grouping
Affinity grouping is a feature prioritization technique that consists of brainstorming feature ideas with your team, organizing them into themes, and ranking them based on importance in the roadmap. It allows various team departments to drop their feedback on what the product should include.
How it works is that you invite different participants across various departments to a brainstorming session. Each department gets to write down their ideas for features they think will satisfy customers.
The next step is to group your different feature ideas into “affinity groups” representing critical product experience themes. Here’s an example below of what that looks like:
With your team, start ranking the different affinity groups based on importance. For example, you can weigh this factor based on how the specific feature will improve the product experience or help you reach your company goals.
What’s great about affinity grouping is that it encourages collaboration between different departments for better alignment. That said, it doesn’t involve the customer’s feedback in the process.
Feature Prioritization Is Vital for Efficient Product Development
Feature prioritization allows you to organize your product roadmap better and deliver value to your customers faster by building the features that matter the most to them. That way, you can boost user retention and keep stakeholders happy.
There are many tools you can use to improve your feature prioritization skills. Aha!, for example, is a cloud-based solution that allows you to manage feature requests and assign them scores to weigh their importance. You also gain access to various roadmaps, such as lists, workflow boards, and user story maps.
While traditionally used as a project management tool, Asana can also effectively prioritize features in the product roadmap. You can assign tasks to different team members, set deadlines, and keep track of your product development progress through its reporting feature.