Friday, February 1, 2019

Why you shouldn't be pro-choice when it comes to product feature prioritization

I spent a decade as a product manager back in the day (way back - it was waterfall time), and I've interacted with product managers ever since. I think I can safely say that every single product manager has to deal with feature prioritization - namely, that there are more features that need to be added to the product than developer hours available to implement them all.

Once you get past the bad methods of prioritizing features (for example, prioritizing feature X because the development engineer thinks it's really cool and reminds her of The Matrix), you realize that you need to engage in some type of market analysis. Now I've worked with very small markets, where the total number of customers for my products can be counted in the hundreds. The snack chip makers who will be advertising in this Sunday's Super Bowl (there, I said it) deal with a somewhat larger number of customers.

But how do you get meaningful data from customers? After all, customers are focused upon their own needs, which in some respects resemble a 1960s protest rally.

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1106-405 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Link

What features do we want?
When do we want them?

In a universe with unlimited choices, people will choose all the things.

There are other issues with such surveys, as Jared Boyer of Price Intelligently notes:

Asking respondents to “check all the features that are important to you” can generate bias since respondents can easily be swayed by the concept that “more is better.”

But what if people are REALLY forced to choose? Here's how Boyer recommends that this be done:

[F]orcing respondents to simply choose a favorite feature and least favorite feature gives you a better opportunity to hone in on the aspects of your offering that are most attractive to customers.

Yes, Boyer advocates that you choose a SINGLE favorite feature and a SINGLE least favorite feature. In the first case, choose the ONE feature that you're not willing to give up, bearing in mind that you'll give up everything else. In the second case, choose the feature that you may NEVER EVER get.

Now THAT will make you think.

Even if you're not a product manager, or don't associate with those types of people, you can play this game for yourself. Choose your favorite application - Microsoft Word, Facebook, Angry Birds, whatever. Think about your favorite and least favorite features. Really think. Now imagine that 41 million 18-24 year olds in the United States are doing the same thing.

You can get a lot of data from that.
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