Hackernoon logo8 Steps of Product Prioritization : Impact & Empathy by@tarun

8 Steps of Product Prioritization : Impact & Empathy

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@tarunTarun

Product Professional in Bengaluru @ Lazada ( Alibaba Group ) | Ola Cabs (Ex) And Author @ Prodbee

Prioritization of features : Meaning & Complexities
Prioritization is a key skill for Product Managers. Moreover it ensures that Product companies invest on most important products features and build a space for innovation. It requires of a detailed impact-effort analysis and intense stakeholder management. Product Managers have to use quantitative tools to lay down objectivity and fairness while managing stakeholders’ opinions and satisfaction. In quantitative frameworks, often even a strong opinion be it from a customer or a business stakeholder is undermined as numbers are emotion agnostic. Therefore, a good Product Manager is the one who display a high degree of both objectivity and empathy.
Let's take some example situations where feature prioritisation may easily fail even though customers sentiments regarding the feature are really high.
  • Number of users of a feature are less in number but it’s emotional value for customers is high
  • Feature’s true impact on customer’s daily lives is not accurately measured
  • Impact of unhappy customers (or to be unhappy) on business is not well understood
Failure to analyse customer’s emotions during prioritizations have caused many Product failures and PR disasters. In the famous “New Coke” disaster of 1980’s, a functional aspect (sweetness preference of new customers) was prioritized over emotions of loyal coke customers who swore by the original bitter taste.
Coca Cola lost millions and finally had to recall “New Coke” after massive public outrage. Also, since Product and Business objectives are tied together, product prioritizations have to be considerate of business stakeholder’s opinions and priorities. Imagine a Product with successful impact metrics on paper but with dissatisfied stakeholders.
The below steps explain the Analytical product prioritization process which also manages empathy & satisfaction among stakeholders (including customers). New impact factors like emotional value and priority of the customers are introduced within the standard framework of Impact vs Effort.
To make it more meaningful to stakeholders, “theme” based grouping of product features is used. PMs first prioritize the “themes” as per stakeholder objectives. Afterwards, the relevant product features are listed and prioritized.
Themes : Feature bundles with common objectives
1. List and prioritise Product themes 
While collaborating with stakeholders, Product leads build consensus on prioritizations and timelines of “product themes”. It is an outcome driven strategy in which multiple themes of one or two objectives are prioritized in the roadmap. PMs build themes from the annual goals and prioritize them across quarters/sprints as part of long term planning.
Product themes are generally groupings of similar set of product features but product vision is more important than the feature details. Theme prioritization helps teams to focus by avoiding conflicts. It also makes prioritization more transparent and predictable for the stakeholders.
  • Theme A - Enhancing customer satisfaction / service (existing features)
  • Theme B - Value added services / new features for increase in repeat rates
  • Theme C - Improving customer experience of checkout flow & increasing booking conversions  
Lets assume that as per stakeholder alignment, the below Themes A and B has greater priority than Theme C in current prioritization cycle
Note: Themes could be spread across multiple quarters or sprints. Working on more one theme at the same time could also be common
2. List the plausible product features for prioritized themes 
Each theme is split into multiple features with the defined objectives. Product Manager’s own experience may not be the only way to define this feature list. This can be done creatively with contributions from different teams. Feature list could be built by adopting the following techniques -
  • Brainstorming sessions with Business, Design, Engg. & Product teams
  • Backlog of feature requests
  • Market/industry trends
  • Competitors
  • Existing product extensions/modifications
For the prioritized Themes,
  • Theme A - Enhancing customer satisfaction / service (existing features)
  • Theme B - Value added services / new features for increase in repeat rates
Features are - 
Note:- Since the features are not detailed or analysed yet, product vision is more important than feature detailing at this stage

Impact Value of features

3. Identify "Business / Opportunity Value" of features 
Business /opportunity could be measured by projecting historical data of business metrics like revenue, profit and efficiency. The opportunity cost e.g. GMV loss per day can also indicate the sense of urgency.
  • Revenue impact - Increase in GMV
  • Customer acquisition - rate of growth of new customers
  • Profit impact - increase in profit margins
  • Operational efficiency - Manhours saved
Note :- For products with Customer satisfaction as primary objectives, emotional value can already be included in NPS/CSAT scores
4. Identify "Customer Satisfaction Value" of features 
Customer Satisfaction Value is often less deterministic as compared to business/opportunity but it can be partly measured using proxy metrics like usage, engagement, CSAT, NPS.
  • User experience - Number of users/usage (Reach), Emotional value for target customers, Priority of target customers - CLV, NPS/CSAT impact
  • Customer Engagement - Number of users (Reach), Emotional value for target customers, Priority of target customers - CLV, NPS/CSAT impact
Kano model is a popular prioritization tool used for prioritization. It is very effective when used for defining Emotional Value / Customer Satisfaction. Customer’s satisfaction from features can be determined by classifying them into attractive needs, performance needs or basic needs and checking the stage of the feature.
  • Attractive Needs: These features trigger feelings of high satisfaction and delight, but users are not dissatisfied if the feature are not present
  • Performance Needs: These features cause delight if they are present and cause dissatisfaction when they are not (or if they are poorly implemented). They’re very one-dimensional in nature and rely on good execution in order to be valued by users
  • Basic Needs: These are must-haves from customer expectations. Not including them is dissatisfying, but the ROI of improving them goes down sharply 
  • Note: Emotional Value can be measured from by:
    1. Asking open questions to sample of customers directly
    2. Survey data on how much customers love that feature
    3. Using usability studies with and without the feature
    4. Finding out number of feedbacks the feature received from customers.
    5. In some situations, you can also look at how many customers complained when the feature was not working properly (downtime) and how strong, quick user feedback was

Cost of features

5. Identify estimated Effort for features
Effort could be measured in terms of manhours required for the product / feature to be built. One must also check if relevant expertise is available for feature development. In other words, Effort must also include probablistic time-effort required to identify and resolve technical complexities and time for testing. e.g. XXL, XL, L, M, S (called T-shirt sizes) assuming a Large (L) effort feature takes 30 days or 2 sprints for development and testing. Based on the effort and resources at hand, we can identify the possible timeline and schedule for each of the feature.
6. Identify Risk / Confidence for features :
The products features should also be weighed against Risk and confidence. E.g. The Business value impact for feature X may be high but confidence on its impact achievement may be low.
Also, there could be predictable or unforeseen operational/technical failures during development and execution. During prioritization, one must carefully assess and quantify those risk for better decision making and risk mitigation.

Prioritized Feature Set

7. Rate features based on each factor 
Points or ranks or categories (High, Medium, Low) are given for each of the factors (business and customer value, effort and Risk) against the feature. Customer and Business value can be aggregated as ‘Impact value’ with appropriate weightage. 
8. Rank the features or set the overall feature priority
Considering Impact Value, Effort and Risk/confidence, PMs should be able to come up with a clear priority of product features in Ranking or Points. It can also be useful to give different weights to different factors before arriving at final priority of features.
It is important to not just logically quantify the priority based on multiple factor but is also important to represent the priority and communicate it to the stakeholders in understandable fashion. The below graphical representation is a useful way to represent the overall priority in the dimensions of value, effort and risk/confidence  
Note: For overall prioritization, Product feature can be classified as:
  1. P0- High priority/Most Urgent
  2. P1- Medium priority/less-urgent
  3. P2-Low priority/least-urgent.
Alternatively Product feature could also be classified as
  1. P0- Sacrifice others for this
  2. P1- Try to keep
  3. P2- Sacrifice these for others
Starting from Themes, we have now finalized a limited number of prioritized features for our upcoming roadmap (or sprint). Having a properly documented and well-rehersed prioritization process helps all team members and stakeholders.
It gives a logical structure to otherwise distributed arguments during prioritization. Also, since a PM is as good as his communications, it communicates the prioritization clearly, effectively and saves more time for more creative discussions within teams :)
Original Story published @ https://prodbee.com/product-prioritization-empathy/
Written by Tarun - Creator & Consultant @ Prodbee.com
Product Professional @ Lazada, Alibaba group | Magicbricks, Times Group (Ex) | Ola Cabs (Ex)
Enthusiast @ Photography | Arts | Web-designing | Boxing

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