A Product Owner’s Guide to Prioritization.
As all of you might have faced this in your life, the difficult decision of what to prioritize and more importantly how to prioritize. Here is a framework that has helped me in past and is helping me at present as well.
I am writing this article from B2B SAAS company’s standpoint, as the push and pull forces there at times are just more than users and user value, however, you should be able to mold it to any scenario or Business Model.
Let’s start with what you actually have to prioritize?
Most of the requests you get as a PM, regardless of who creates them, can easily be grouped into 3 buckets -
Although the logic of prioritization remains the same, because of nuances, urgency, and importance, it is best if you have clarity in all three buckets and how to prioritize them.
- Product/Feature Requests
There can be 2 sources of product or feature requests -
a. Self Discovery — You have done the customer pain point discovery, or market gap analysis, and brainstormed to find a list of solutions that are completely new products or features.
b. Customer/User Feedback — Customers or users are another awesome sources of generating new ideas, many companies have democratized this process, which is a topic of another article though. Although, the feedback may not always be strategic, so you do need to do a bit of discovery and strategy analysis on top of it. Assuming you have done that and are now at a stage that you have a list of groomed ideas.
FYI — These 2 sources can be mixed together in one prioritization matrix.
Talking of which, presenting you the Product Prioritization Matrix.
This matrix gives you the objectivity of relative comparison and documents your thoughts in a more formal way.
How to use this? That is a subtle art — I generally prioritize requests based on a formula -
Large or Medium Value + Medium or Small Effort + Small or Medium Risk
This formula ensures sizeable value with the speed of delivery.
The application of formula also depends on the stage of the company or urgency of the product, so you have to take this with a pinch of salt. But the matrix will guide you to juggle with your variables to fit your scenarios.
2. Enhancement Requests
Since the sources of these enhancements remain the same as mentioned in the previous point, I would like to introduce another concept here.
Client prioritization levels — It should be created in isolation to the requests, but can be used to deliver more meaning to your Product Prioritization Matrix.
I am using Clients here as it fits well with the B2B SAAS business model, but in B2C you can use it for your high-value customer segment, or most frequent customer segment.
- P1 — Top 10 paying customers (assuming you have at least 30 and can evenly distribute them)
- P2 — Next 10
- P3 — Last 10
This level can look a bit unfair to other clients sitting below on P level, but as PM it is your duty to scope the solution such that all clients and users gain value out of it, remember user or client requests will always be tactical and you as PM who makes it strategical.
How to Prioritize — This can be a bit tricky as we are adding more variables, but here are the things that I keep in mind whilst prioritizing the request.
- Check if the request falls in the scope of your Product Roadmap, then you already have strategic backing behind it.
- At what stage your client relationship is at, for example, if a P3 client is threatening to leave, and their request does not risk anything else, then absolutely it should be prioritized
- What priority your client sits in the P Levels, as you would definitely want to double down on clients that give you the most value.
Now let’s see how our prioritization framework looks like with P levels.
3. Bug Requests
A lot has been written about bugs and how to prioritize them, so I will only reiterate what I have read and learned on this topic without much faff.
Bugs prioritization framework -
Again, there is a lot of juggling that needs to happen, and things can change with great pace and can induce even more uncertainty. After all being PM is easy, said no one.
The frameworks are not the silver bullet, but they give us structured thinking and method to approach any uncertainties that we, absolutely will face on the battlefield called Product Development.
I hope the 3 frameworks work for you, I am always eager to know your thoughts, so, please comment and let me know your thoughts on it.