Prioritisation in Product Management

How?, Now, Wow! and other stories

Your runway is limited, the burn rate accelerating as you’ve hired some rockstars into the organisation and you need to make important strategic decisions on what lands to market in the next quarter.

Sounds familiar? Product proritisation is a pertinent challenge that can make or break startups. However, ensuring what prioritised projects or epics are put into development can also present unique challenges to established larger corporations.

Prioritisation is at the heart of effective product management. It ultimately involves deciding which features or projects to work on and in what order. No one framework or cadence can be applied to solve these types of problems. Instead, keep great communication channels open between your different departments. Over time you’ll establish what works. I’ve outlined some frameworks below that can help organisations at various stages of their growth or product lifecycle prioritise roadmap items.

Prioritisation Methods

a. Value vs. Effort (ICE)

The ICE framework is a simple and effective way to prioritise product features or initiatives. It involves assigning a score to each item based on three factors: Impact, Confidence, and Ease.

Impact: How much value will this item bring to the users or the business?
Confidence: How sure are you about the estimated impact?
Ease: How difficult or easy is it to implement?

Example: Consider a software company developing a new mobile app. They might find that adding a user-friendly onboarding process has a high impact on user engagement (score 8), they are confident in this assessment (score 9), and it’s relatively easy to implement (score 6). The ICE score would be 8 * 9 * 6 = 432.

Build out various projects and score them with the team. Try to involve various departments so that expectations are understood across product, engineering and product marketing. You may also face other issues such as legal or regulatory where you’ll be wise to involve these actors too.

b. Kano Model

The Kano model categorises features or requirements into five categories: **Must-Have, One-Dimensional, Attractive, Indifferent, and Reverse.** This model helps teams understand how different features impact customer satisfaction.

Example: A startup creating an e-commerce platform might discover that fast shipping is a “Must-Have” for their customers, while a loyalty rewards program is “Attractive.” They would prioritise the “Must-Have” features over the “Attractive” ones to ensure a strong user experience.

Reverse would mean that a particular feature or addition to the product would actually conflict with a good user experience and negatively affect the business.

c. RICE Score

RICE stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. This framework helps product managers prioritise by considering how many users will be affected by a feature, the potential impact, confidence in predictions, and the effort required.

Example: A social media company wants to add a new feature allowing users to schedule posts. They estimate that 70% of their users will use this feature (Reach), it will significantly improve user engagement (Impact), they are confident in their estimate (Confidence), and it will take moderate development effort (Effort).

The How-Now-Wow Framework

The How-Now-Wow framework is a unique approach to prioritisation that categorises items into three groups:

– How: These are foundational items that need to be addressed to maintain the product’s stability and usability.
– Now: These are essential items that have a high impact and should be addressed immediately.
– Wow: These are the “delighters” or innovative features that can differentiate your product and create a “wow” factor.

Example: A SaaS company maintaining a project management tool might categorise bug fixes and security updates as “How,” integration with popular productivity apps as “Now,” and an AI-powered project analysis feature as “Wow.”

I love using the HNW framework when working at a higher level for visiontyping and inspiring teams. This allows a free reign of sorts at the ‘Wow’ end of the spectrum but can also help build a roadmap by working through the How / Now areas. Your ‘Wow’ ideas can help cement the product vision and be presented to your organisation as a north star.

Choosing the Right Prioritisation Method for Your Company

– Early-Stage Startups: In the early stages, focus on the Kano model to identify and deliver “Must-Have” features that will attract users and validate your product-market fit.
– Growing Companies: As your user base expands, consider the ICE framework to balance user impact with development effort and allocate resources efficiently.
– Mature Companies: For mature companies with established products, the How-Now-Wow framework can help maintain product quality while continuously innovating.

Prioritisation is a fundamental aspect of successful product management. Choosing the right method for your company’s stage of development is crucial for delivering value to users and achieving business objectives. Whether you opt for ICE, the Kano model, RICE, or the How-Now-Wow framework, remember that prioritisation is an ongoing process that should evolve as your company grows and your product matures. By consistently evaluating and adjusting your priorities, you can ensure your product remains competitive and customer-focused.