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Feature Prioritization: The Key to Building Successful Products

Ruben Buijs

Founder & Digital Consultant

Written on May 19, 2024

3 minutes


As a product manager with years of experience in IT consulting, I've seen firsthand how critical feature prioritization is to the success of any product. With limited time and resources, it's essential to focus on building the right features that will deliver the most value to customers and the business.

Table of contents

  1. Why Feature Prioritization Matters
  2. A Real-World Example
  3. Prioritization Frameworks and Techniques
  4. The Kano Model
  5. RICE Scoring
  6. Opportunity Scoring
  7. Weighted Scoring
  8. Choosing the Right Approach
  9. The Art and Science of Prioritization

Why Feature Prioritization Matters

Effective feature prioritization involves a combination of understanding customer needs, aligning with business goals, and making data-driven decisions. It requires ruthlessly saying no to "nice-to-have" features and honing in on the "must-haves" that will make a real impact.

Without proper prioritization, product teams risk wasting time and resources on low-value features while neglecting the core functionality that users need. This can lead to a bloated, unfocused product that fails to gain traction in the market.

A Real-World Example

One example that comes to mind is when I was working with AirFrance/KLM to launch their MVP for their cargo business. We had a long wishlist of features for reporting from various stakeholders, but a tight timeline and budget. By conducting user research and analyzing competitor offerings, we narrowed it down to the core set of features that would allow us to deliver a compelling product to our target users. We used the MoSCoW prioritization method to categorize each feature:

  • Must-haves: Essential for launch, non-negotiable

  • Should-haves: Important but not vital, can be added post-launch

  • Could-haves: Nice to have, will be considered for future iterations

  • Won't-haves: Out of scope, not aligned with product vision

This helped us ruthlessly trim the fat and stay laser-focused on the essentials needed for a successful MVP launch. We delivered on time and on budget, with a streamlined product that resonated with users.

Prioritization Frameworks and Techniques

There are many frameworks and techniques that can guide prioritization decisions:

The Kano Model

The Kano model looks at features through the lens of customer satisfaction, categorizing them as Basic, Performance, or Excitement features. Basic features are must-haves - their absence causes frustration but their presence is expected. Performance features are ones where more is better, driving higher satisfaction as they improve. Excitement features are unspoken needs that delight users when present.

RICE Scoring

RICE scoring takes into account Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort to arrive at a prioritized list. Reach is how many users will be affected. Impact is how much the feature improves the user experience. Confidence is how sure you are about Reach and Impact. Effort is how much work the feature will take to implement. Dividing (Reach x Impact x Confidence) by Effort gives you a RICE score to rank features.

Opportunity Scoring

The Opportunity Scoring approach plots features on a matrix of importance vs satisfaction to identify opportunities. Features that are high importance but low satisfaction are prime opportunities to invest in. Those that are low importance and high satisfaction may indicate areas to pull back investment.

Weighted Scoring

Weighted Scoring assigns different weights to key criteria like business value, user value, strategic alignment etc. Each feature is scored on the criteria and its scores are multiplied by the weights to arrive at an overall score. This allows customization based on your product's specific context and goals.

Choosing the Right Approach

The key is to pick a prioritization framework that works for your product and team. It should be lightweight enough to be used consistently, but robust enough to surface the right priorities. Don't be afraid to tweak and adapt frameworks to your needs.

Personally, I'm a fan of tools like ProductLift that are purpose-built for feature prioritization. ProductLift provides a centralized place to gather and manage customer feedback and requests. But beyond that, it offers built-in prioritization frameworks and makes it easy to score and rank features to inform the roadmap. Having everything in one system avoids the dreaded prioritization spreadsheet and keeps priorities front-and-center.

The Art and Science of Prioritization

At the end of the day, feature prioritization is both an art and a science. It requires a deep understanding of your users and business, combined with hard data and proven frameworks. Mastering this skill is well worth the effort - it's the key to building products that delight customers and drive business growth.

By focusing your limited resources on the right priorities, you can deliver greater value faster. Prioritization enables product teams to be nimble, responsive, and relentlessly customer-centric. It's a core competency that separates successful products from the rest of the pack.

Article by

Ruben Buijs

Ruben is the founder of ProductLift. I employ a decade of consulting experience from Ernst & Young to maximize clients' ROI on new Tech developments. I now help companies build better products

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