Top Strategies to Prioritize Features for Innovation Teams
Innovation management is a tough job. Innovation team members have to deal with the needs of users, finances, and marketing all at once. And now they have to figure out which features should be prioritized for their innovation roadmap, too?
It’s no wonder that many experienced innovation workers struggle to find an effective way to prioritize features. But there are frameworks you can use to make the decision process smoother.
In this blog, we will recommend strategies for choosing the best features for your innovation roadmap along with the do’s and don’ts of feature prioritization.
The Highly Recommended Models for Choosing the Best Features for Your Innovation Roadmap
- Kano Model
- Customer Pain Points
- Customer Journey
- Feature Folders
- Affinity Mapping
- Spaghetti Map
Additional Tips to Help Your Team Prioritize Innovation Roadmap Features.
- The Do’s of Feature Prioritization
- The Don’ts of Feature Prioritization
The Highly Recommended Models for Choosing the Best Features for Your Product
- Kano Model
The Kano model is based on the theory that customer satisfaction occurs when a product meets or exceeds the user’s expectations. This model helps you understand what features users expect from your product and those that will delight them.
The Kano model is really simple to use. Just list down the features you have in your product and ask users how they feel about each one of them. The responses can be either “Must Have,” “Attractive,” or something else that represents a level of satisfaction with that feature.
The idea is to look at how your customers feel about the features you have in place and rank them accordingly, from most important to least needed by users or vice versa.
- Customer Pain Points
In this strategy, feature prioritization is done by understanding which problems are not being solved at present. The aim here is to solve the user’s pain points and to make sure that those features are prioritized which will help you eliminate these problems.
In addition, it is also important to note here that solutions should be developed as a response to users’ needs. This is because it would lead them towards customer satisfaction along with retention and building customer loyalty.
In some cases, it may be necessary to conduct user research and study user personas in depth so the issues that customers are facing can be addressed.
- Customer Journey
In this strategy, feature prioritization is based on customer journey mapping which will help you understand where customers tend to lose interest or get stuck. This will lead to the identification of features that need to be built in order to improve customer satisfaction along with retention.
This strategy is very helpful for prioritizing product features because it helps us understand at which stages customers tend to leave. Such comprehension not only helps retain customers, but it also attracts a larger audience. It provides insights into how they navigate through different touch points within a product.
This will help improve your innovation roadmap by adding features that are most relevant to them during this journey and ensure customer satisfaction.
In this strategy, feature prioritization is done through a joker card system where you can include any number of important use cases that are missing from the current version of the product. This would help you prioritize the most important features that should be included in a product. The purpose of this strategy is to identify the most crucial gaps in your product.
This is a great strategy to use when you are not able to prioritize features based on user research or market data because it helps by incorporating customer insights into the mix as well. This would also help you avoid wasting time working on less important pieces of functionality that might be implemented at a later stage, which can prove to be quite costly.
This is another way of prioritizing features when it comes to deciding what should be built into the MVP. It helps you understand what will be the biggest value drivers for your customers and ensures that they are delighted by using your product. This strategy will help you prioritize features by making sure that all use cases are included.
- Feature Folders
In this strategy, feature prioritization is done through a folder system where each feature falls into one of the following folders — must have, nice to have, and love/want now. The purpose of feature folders is to ensure that you have a product with only the most important features. It can be especially beneficial for hardware products where the cost of each feature has to be managed.
While employing the feature folders strategy, make sure that the features that fall under the love/want folder are implemented first and then move on to ones that are nice to have. Feature folders help prioritize innovation development by making sure all your key functionality is there while leaving room for other enhancements once you see how customers respond. Thus, using this framework helps prioritize product features based on user needs.
This strategy also helps determine which of the upcoming functionalities will be most beneficial for your product. You can create a spreadsheet with all the features you are planning to implement in order of priority, and then score each feature based on its value for your business goals. Your team might have different scores at first but once they come down to zero-sum decisions it will be easier for them to pick what is most important.
- Affinity Mapping
This strategy is based on the concept of affinity mapping where ideas are clustered together, depending upon their similarities and differences in terms of value to users. Your team will need this strategy when you have a large pool of ideas and you need to filter out the top ones.
As a product manager, it is important for you to understand what your users want from your products in order to achieve business goals. You can use affinity mapping techniques by clustering features that will be most beneficial for your product into three different groups: must-have, nice-to-have, and not needed.
Affinity mapping helps innovation team members prioritize features by grouping them according to what matters most for customers.
- Spaghetti Map
In this framework, feature prioritization is done based on the amount of effort that is required to implement them. It also helps in understanding how much time it will take for engineering teams to develop certain features and then accordingly prioritize feature set development.
This strategy enables your team to identify which features would require the most effort and is thus crucial in deciding what to prioritize. It helps you understand the complexity involved in creating certain features. The major objective, in this case, is to cut down on unnecessary features so that resources are not wasted.
When it comes to innovation teams, there is no dearth of opinions about how they should prioritize feature sets. It becomes an even bigger challenge when you have multiple stakeholders involved in the prioritization process and everyone wants their share of attention.
While this blog post cannot provide a solution to this problem, it does look into certain additional strategies that can be used to prioritize feature sets and compensate for this issue.
Additional Tips to Help Your Team Prioritize Innovation Roadmap Features
The Do’s of Feature Prioritization
- Identify and value the business drivers behind the prioritization of innovation roadmap features. It is important to find out what motivates your stakeholders to prioritize certain features over others. The influence of each stakeholder could be different based on their interest in a particular feature, so it makes sense for you as a product manager to understand this information at hand before you proceed.
- Consider the user experience and needs. It is important to figure out what your customer wants from your product and identify which of their requests should be addressed first. Prioritization helps you as an innovation worker to understand where you need to direct your attention since users are likely going to find value in features that you prioritize.
- Identify patterns in usage. Another great strategy to prioritize features is by identifying the pain points and problems that your users typically face. This kind of analysis helps you identify what issues are causing them the most discomfort, which then allows you to address these concerns through a well-thought-out feature set. The best way to do this would be to conduct a thorough analysis of the user logs.
- Leverage the power of crowdsourcing. Another effective strategy for prioritizing product features is to tap into your community and ask them about their preferences. You can do this through a survey or simply posting on social media — both options work well if you know how to conduct user interviews effectively.
- Prioritize based on your existing roadmap. If you have already started to create a detailed roadmap for your product, then it would be smart to look at what features were set out in this plan and prioritize accordingly. This means that any changes that need to be made can easily be incorporated into the plan, without too much disruption.
- Prioritize based on market feedback. Another approach is by getting in touch with the industry and seeing what changes they might be interested in. This helps avoid building something irrelevant and ensures that your product stays up to date and relevant in the long run. If you are still unsure about what features to prioritize, it is best to go with small changes that can improve the user experience.
- Embrace the new. It is important to introduce some new features as well. This might include adding something that has never been done before or moving towards technology that is not very common yet but may become quite popular soon. In such cases, companies are faced with the choice of either entering into new territory or staying behind in the stiff competition.
- Connect with users. Another effective way to find out what your users want is by talking directly to them. Schedule interviews or focus groups where they’re asked about their product experience, needs, and preferences in terms of features. Monitor what users are saying about your product on social media or online forums: this is a great way to understand the general sentiment of people regarding their experience with your products, where they see potential improvements, and how you can cater to them accordingly.
- Use the “vote with feet” strategy. Here, users can share their feedback about a specific product feature with you by either opting in or out of it when given a choice. This way, companies would be able to understand which direction is more preferred and what needs to improve upon in order for them to stay engaged and satisfied.
The Don’ts of Feature Prioritization
- Don’t choose features that don’t support business goals. If you are doing so and employing features that don’t complement the business goals of your product, it would be difficult to measure their performance against milestones achieved. This is because there is no correlation between them and the objectives defined for your product.
- Don’t prioritize features based on your competitor’s performance. This is not really a good idea since you would be giving away your competitive advantage. Instead, you could consider what you would do to beat your competitor in the future and focus on the present growth of your product at its own pace.
- Don’t include unnecessary or insignificant features in your roadmap. This could make a negative impact on your product because you will be diverting the limited resources of your team towards this feature. They do not make sense or add value to the customer experience. This could alienate customers who would end up choosing a better alternative in terms of quality and performance. Hence, it is crucial to understand what kind of features would make your product better and what kind of features should be left out.
- Don’t prioritize future value. This means that you need to figure out the next most important feature which could bring some quick wins, instead of spending time on getting feedback from customers about a long-term project. It is always good to get a short win overtaking too many long-term projects so that team morale remains high.
- Don’t prioritize features that are not tested. It is always better to test out a few options before deciding on what needs to be done first. When you pick up something without testing it out, there may be chances that it might lead to more work. It is always better to test out a few options before deciding on what needs to be done first.
- Don’t prioritize features without considering their impact on resources. Not every feature will require equal amounts of time and effort by all the resources. While some features may need a lot of time and effort from the developers, other tasks might not require much developer involvement at all.
- Don’t prioritize based on customer requests alone. This would be a mistake as it doesn’t take into account what you know about your customers or how their needs might change over time. You should consider other inputs such as market intelligence before proceeding with prioritizing features.
- Don’t prioritize features that are too complex or confusing. Comprehension for your product users to understand the kind of features you are installing is crucial. You need to make sure that you don’t end up with a feature that the users aren’t able to operate easily and ultimately decreases their satisfaction levels, which results in bad reviews on marketplaces like Amazon. If you do have to prioritize features that are complex, try providing the users with a tutorial or an instruction manual.
- Don’t prioritize features if their implementation would require huge resources. Sometimes, it is possible that a certain feature goes way beyond your budget for a particular product release. In such a case, you might have to cut down on certain aspects of your product so that you can focus more on getting basic elements right and successful. Once that is sorted, your team could discuss about developing
If you have a product with several features, it is important to streamline the usage process by making each feature as intuitive and user-friendly as possible. If your users can use your product without even reading any instructions or tutorials that would be ideal! Therefore, ensure they remain engaged throughout their entire experience of using the app/product so that they can make the best use of it.
As an innovation worker, it is critical to choose the top features that will boost your products’ revenue and cut down on customer churn.
If you want to achieve this objective without compromising user experience, make sure you follow these strategies before prioritizing any feature for your innovation roadmap.
This article was originally published on the IdeaScale blog here.