Deciding on novel product features is often a daunting task. Seasoned innovation managers know that one of the best strategies is looking to feature requests obtained from customers for direction. Customers know best what improvements they would benefit from the most.
Whenever you’re dealing with an influx of product feature ideas, requests, or similar data, you’re going to need ways to manage them.
Think of feature request management as a way of transforming all those feature requests into a source of innovation for your team.
Here’s how you can do that.
Collect More Outside Ideas for the Innovation Team
For starters, effective feature request management is critical for bringing outside ideas to your team of innovators.
When users are enthusiastic about your product, they can tell you what they think it lacks, so you can make those improvements; that way, they actively contribute to your innovation process.
Like it or not, your team of product designers or innovators may have a blind spot when it comes to product features.
In other words, they won’t always see what’s missing to make your product truly well-rounded. After developing the product for months (or years), it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture.
That’s why a good feature request management system will help your innovators keep in mind what the customers truly want from the product, thus eliminating all those blind spots.
It’s worth mentioning that not all features users request will be viable or possible to pull off in practice. However, that doesn’t mean you should disregard them.
Feature requests can still nudge your innovator team in the right direction, towards developing an alternative to the requested feature. That is, as long as they have feature request management to collect ideas from your users.
For example, Microsoft is one of the industry leaders in feature request management. Their software products have a Suggest a Feature button on the home tab, enabling users to submit request features and describe them in detail.
Now that you understand the importance of outside ideas for your innovation process, let’s talk about ways to organize them.
Organize New Feature Requests to Drive Innovation
Of course, there’s more to innovation than getting as many feature requests from your users. You also need to organize those requests efficiently so that your team can make sense of them.
As you know, feature requests can come from multiple sources, like email, Slack, in-software tabs, or customer chats. Feature request management enables you to organize all those requests into a centralized database.
Having your requests clustered in a single source allows your team to access and detect possible areas of innovation, without having to go through every request individually, thus streamlining their innovation process.
It would be almost impossible to stay on top of all the feature requests otherwise.
So how can you improve the way you organize your incoming feature requests to boost innovation?
For instance, you can use a tool like Trello.
Whenever your employees collect a feature request, they’ll label it and place it in a category with similar requests. Then, your product designers can gather the insights they need from a particular category and implement them in the next iteration of your product.
Alternatively, you can use specialized feature request management software to track your feature requests and collect feedback from your users.
Specialized software allows you to segment your feature requests from different customers. It can also offer a variety of other useful supporting features, such as a voting board for customers to show which features they want the most, customizable feedback forms, or even changelogs that allow reviewers to track which of their desired improvements are being implemented.
If you’re receiving loads of requests, it’s a smarter bet to invest in feature request management software than improvise with several different tools.
Prioritize Innovation Requests With Feature Request Management
Product designers are frequently flooded with hundreds of requests. You likely won’t have time to work on every solid feature request, even with a large staff.
When you’re innovating a product, it’s easy to get sidetracked with all the different feature ideas. A lot of those ideas won’t be viable. Nevertheless, some can be inspiring, and a handful of them will genuinely help you improve the quality of your product.
But how can you tell which requests to work on first?
Good feature request management practices enable your team to prioritize feature requests with the highest potential.
But what does feature request prioritization look like in practice?
To begin with, you can assess a feature request in terms of two main criteria: effort and value.
When the development of a specific feature demands a lot of effort for low returns, it’s generally not worth developing. On the other hand, you should prioritize low-effort and high-value features because they’re easy to pull off and have great value potential.
Low-effort and low-value requests, as well as high-effort and high-value feature requests, are a gambit, and you should assess them thoroughly before committing to implementing them.
Create a Customer-Centric Product
If you want to innovate a truly customer-centric product, you need to handle their requests effectively.
As noted before, feature request management is the bridge between you and your customer’s most practical innovation ideas. Feature requests are valuable data points because they show you how the customer perceives your product.
And you need to understand their perspective if you want to innovate a product in a way that suits their needs.
Failing to do so has a negative impact on customer retention: customers take their business elsewhere and purchase from the competitors. The churn rate increases as more customers step back from the product that lacks their desired features.
Understanding your customer’s needs is a fundamental requirement for a good innovation process.
According to a 2020 industry report by Salesforce, 76% of customers expect companies to understand their particular needs. In addition, 66% of surveyed customers feel like they’re treated as little more than a statistic.
The best way to show your customers you understand them is to design a feature or a product that is completely aligned with their needs.
As promised, now you understand how decision-makers across many industries use feature request management to drive innovation.
If you want to create user-centered products, turning a blind eye to their input is not an option. And unless you’re okay with manually picking through hundreds of feature requests they submit, you’re going to need a management system in place.
How confident are you in your feature request management practices after reading this article?
Reflect on what you’ve learned today and implement the practices we’ve recommended in your company.
Ashley Wilson is a content creator, writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.
This article was originally published on the IdeaScale blog here