When you’re an innovative team with lots of ideas, it can be difficult to sift through the noise and narrow in on what you really should progress and move forward.
Luckily, it doesn’t all have to be guesswork.
Here are five techniques to help you decide which features and ideas should go into development, from evaluating and prioritizing ideas based on potential customer satisfaction to likelihood to maximise ROI.
1. Stack Ranking
Stack ranking involves sorting each idea by order of importance, placing the most important ideas at the top of your list and the least important at the bottom.
To do this, you’ll likely need to use a mixture of analysis and your own personal judgment, factoring in things like customer demand, business value and effort required for each idea.
Start your list by ranking two ideas against each other and placing them in order of importance. Then take a third, determine where it ranks against your existing list and add it to the list.
Repeat this until you’ve sorted through your entire idea list. To speed things up, you could also create a 1-10 scale to help you quickly assign values and rank ideas.
The simplicity and effectiveness of this technique are what make it so popular with product managers. What’s great about it is that it can help you guarantee you’re only progressing your very best ideas. The drawback, however, is that it can be difficult to remain totally objective during the ranking process.
2. The MoSCoW Method
The MoSCoW method (no association with the city whatsoever) classifies features and ideas into four distinct categories:
- Must have - Any idea or feature that’s absolutely essential to the success of your product and would cause your project to fail if you didn’t move them forward.
- Should have - Features that are high priority and can add a lot of value to your product if resources permit, but aren’t “make or break” for your success
- Could have - Features that are “nice to haves” if you have enough time and resources but that aren’t a priority.
- Won’t have - Low-priority features that you won’t deliver right now and can delay to a later stage.
To make sure you’re scoring ideas consistently, it’s worth coming up with an objective and repeatable methodology for how you decide which features to place in which categories. For example, you could analyze business impact, user needs and technical feasibility as key factors.
It’s also a good idea to include all stakeholders involved so you can get a well-rounded view of the project’s key goals and objectives.
The MoSCoW method is particularly common with agile product development teams because it’s a fast and easy way to prioritize your ideas list. But the main drawback is that it doesn’t help you prioritize items within the categories themselves.
3. The Kano Model
What differentiates the Kano model from many other idea prioritization techniques is that it helps you prioritize features based on which are most likely to increase customer satisfaction.
There are various versions of this model, but we’re focusing on the original, which involves listing out all potential new product features and placing each into one of five categories:
- Must be - Basic features that are required for your product to function and that your customers expect to have.
- One-dimensional - Desirable features that customers want to have and will cause disappointment if they’re not included.
- Attractive - Exciting features that will delight or surprise customers and set you apart from your competition.
- Indifferent - Features that aren’t important to your customers and contribute minimal value to how they use the product.
- Reverse - Features that have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.
According to the Kano Model, product teams should prioritize must-have, one-dimensional and attractive features and avoid indifferent or reverse features unless absolutely necessary (for example, where implementing two-factor authentication would increase account security but dissatisfy users by adding friction to login).
The benefits of using this model are that you can prioritize which features progress based on which tasks meet customer needs and improve satisfaction, helping you to build a better product in the long run. The drawback is that it doesn’t take into account costs, effort or business value.
4. Cost of Delay
The cost of delay method is particularly well suited to product managers looking to maximize opportunities and minimize losses.
This technique involves quantifying how much it would cost to delay implementing each feature or idea and prioritizing those with the highest potential costs first. Costs can include lost revenue, missed opportunities, reputational damage and increased risk.
As an example, let’s say a software company is developing an e-commerce platform and one of its ideas is a feature that lets users save their shopping carts for later. The cost of delay for this idea might include lost revenue from users abandoning their carts or increased costs from having to handle support requests.
To find out whether they need to prioritize implementing this feature, the team should calculate the cost of delay in quantifiable terms to evaluate whether the idea urgently needs to be progressed.
Cost of delay is a great technique for keeping potential losses to a minimum. It also helps you predict and pre-emptively react to small problems that could become major issues over time. However, a key drawback is the time and complexity involved in calculating the cost of delay for each and every idea.
5. Opportunity Scoring
Opportunity scoring involves prioritizing ideas and features based on which are likely to bring in the most ROI. This involves identifying and progressing features that customers find the most important but are currently unsatisfied with.
To use this technique, you must base your research on an existing product. This can either be your own product or another product on the market that’s similar to what you’re developing.
Start by selecting a range of features or potential outcomes associated with your selected product and asking a sample of customers:
- On a scale of 1–5, how important is this feature or outcome to you?
- On a scale of 1–5, how satisfied are you with this feature/your ability to achieve this outcome?
Features that score low on satisfaction but high on importance are your opportunities. These are where you’re likely to get the most ROI if you move them into development. But before plowing ahead, consider development time, costs and resources required and whether these justify your investment.
The main benefits of using opportunity scoring are that you can identify what users want and what they find frustrating, which features will bring in maximum ROI and avoid adding features that aren’t important to customers. A drawback is that failing to analyze the costs and resources required can negatively impact ROI.