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prioritize featuresLaunching

Launching a new product can be an exciting yet stressful time, especially when resources are limited and deadlines are tight. As a product manager, one of your most important responsibilities is deciding which features to prioritize when time and budget won’t allow for everything on your wishlist.

Prioritizing the right features can mean the difference between launching a successful MVP or releasing something that falls flat. Follow these tips to make strategic prioritization decisions when resources and timelines are constrained:

Identify your constraints

Before you start prioritizing features, you need to understand your constraints. Constraints are the factors that limit your options and influence your trade-offs. Some common constraints are time, budget, team size, technical feasibility, and market demand. You should identify and communicate your constraints clearly to your stakeholders, team members, and customers. This will help you set realistic expectations and avoid scope creep.

Assess the resources available for your project. This includes the budget, the number of team members, their skills, and the tools or technology at your disposal. These resources will directly impact what you can achieve within your constraints. Consult with key stakeholders, including project sponsors, product owners, and end-users, to gather their input on constraints and priorities. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights.

Define your criteria

Next, you need to define your criteria for prioritizing features. Criteria are the standards that you use to evaluate and compare features. They should reflect your product vision, customer needs, and business goals. Some common criteria are value, urgency, impact, effort, risk, and alignment. You should define and weight your criteria according to your product strategy and context. This will help you prioritize features objectively and consistently.

Use a prioritization framework

Then, you need to use a prioritization framework to rank your features. A prioritization framework is a tool that helps you apply your criteria and constraints to your features. There are many prioritization frameworks that you can choose from, such as MoSCoW, RICE, Kano, Value vs Effort, and others. You should select and adapt a framework that suits your product situation and preferences. This will help you prioritize features systematically and transparently.

The MoSCoW method categorizes features as Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have for this release. This forces you to bucket features based on true necessity.

The RICE method scores features on Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort. Each factor is weighted. This accounts for ROI-related factors.

The Kano Model highlights if features are dissatisfiers, satisfiers or delighters. This identifies which features have nonlinear emotional impacts.

A Value vs Effort 2×2 matrix plots features on their ability to generate value and required effort. High value and low effort features get priority.

Validate your assumptions

After you have prioritized your features, you need to validate your assumptions. Assumptions are the beliefs that you have about your features, customers, and market. They can be based on data, research, feedback, or intuition. You should validate your assumptions by testing your features with real users, measuring their outcomes, and gathering feedback. This will help you prioritize features accurately and iteratively.

  • Be ready to pivot priorities if user data disproves assumptions. Don’t cling to false beliefs or sunken costs.
  • Identify your riskiest assumptions and validate those first. It could completely change your priorities.
  • Leverage tools like landing pages, social media ads, and micro-surveys for swift assumption testing.
  • Test key assumptions early through low-fidelity prototypes and mockups. Get lightweight user feedback on core functionality fast.
  • Leverage customer interviews, surveys, beta tests, and usability studies to validate or invalidate assumptions. Seek hard data.

Communicate your priorities

Finally, you need to communicate your priorities to your stakeholders, team members, and customers. Communication is the key to aligning everyone on your product vision, goals, and roadmap. You should communicate your priorities by explaining your criteria, constraints, assumptions, and trade-offs. You should also communicate your priorities by using visual tools, such as charts, tables, diagrams, and mockups. This will help you prioritize features effectively and collaboratively.