Prioritizing Scope

Our team is now prioritizing the roadmap items for our next product release. We have senior sales team giving us customer feedback based on what they have heard from the customers during demos and meet ups.

This is what we did. We listed down everything we heard from the customers in an excel and created separate columns one for each of the member in the sales team. Each of marked each row interms of urgency or highest customer need.

Now that we have this what do we do next. The logical decision was to look at estimate of each of these and then prioritize based on the combination of urgency matrix done above and estimates. The items  that are deemed most urgent and those that take least effort will be the ones to take up first.

Now this sounds reasonable right? So what is wrong?

What is wrong is not the approach but the application. This approach works when we use this to priortize requirements or user stories but not when we are deciding the themes and broader directions for the quarter.

So wha we did do instead was, we grouped requirements in to broader themes. Then we ordered the themes based on our marketing message and customer perception of our product. Then we calculated the budget we want to invest to further strengthen this message.

Then within every theme we ordered customer needs and then applied urgency versus effort calculation to prioritize requirements.

  1. Prioritize themes, not projects – Create a list of themes for your product or business. Examples might be customer acquisition, activation, retention, avg revenue per user, avg visits per user, etc. Pick ~3 that are the most important for your product given its stage. If your churn rate is extremely low then you don’t have much to gain by focusing on retention, so you should probably focus elsewhere. If you get gobs of traffic but few stick then you shouldn’t focus on driving more traffic, you should focus on activation.
  2. Sequence and resource your themes – Of the three themes you’re going to focus on (for now), prioritize them and try to come up with anidea of approximately how many of your resources you’re going to allocate to each.
  3. Generate project ideas – Focus your energy on coming up with great project ideas related to your 3 themes. Start with what you have already, but work to come up with more, bigger ideas. Try to break larger projects into chunks, and focus on the first 20% of the project that’s likely to generate 80% of the project’s impact (cherry-pick).
  4. Estimate each project’s potential impact – Assess how much leverage each project has on the relevant theme. An extra click upstream (e.g. on a search result) is worth 10-100 clicks downstream. Based on this, do a quick forecast of the impact of the project. Simply try to get within an order of magnitude.
  5. Estimate each project’s cost – Get the right people in the room to roll each project idea around and SWAG a cost in resources, $, and other scarce resources.
  6. Prioritize projects within each theme – Look for the projects with the greatest projected impact with the least cost, and do these ones first, quickly. Then move on to the next projects, or the next phases of the early projects that had a greater than expected impact.

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