Feature Prioritization *New*


Back in 2011, I made this blog post on prioritization of product features, and the prioritization template looked like this.

Over the years, I have been updating the format and refining it to ensure it articulates the objective prioritization and shepherds the product towards product-market fit — the latest is here.

In general, features will have to be categorized into three backlogs. The backlogs have been named by lifting NBA terminology for self explanation.

  • Offensive Play — features that aid revenue generation and acquire new customers
  • Defensive Play — features that aid in delighting and retaining existing customers
  • Time out — features that aid cost cutting such as those that reduce product returns, reduce customer service costs, improve operational efficiency, tech deprioritizationbt, etc.

Product Managers will have to ensure appropriate ‘plays’ are adopted depending on business needs, including a mix of features from more than one backlog in a release, for creating customer value, generating competitive advantage, and delivering profitability.

Few takeaways:

  • Strike the right balance between offensive and defensive plays
  • Features that can be implemented in a shorter time are *not* always the ‘right thing’ to do
  • Always look at relative priority and the objective impact a feature will have on customer value, ROI, and overall purpose

Would love to hear what’s on your mind!

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When does software development end for a product?


Many a times we notice development teams getting annoyed and frustrated by feedback requests to improve certain features/experiences. annoy

Is their attitude acceptable?…

 

Let’s look at it objectively.

Software product development, particularly in the consumer industry (B2C space), is highly driven by user experience. There’s no way the Product Manager and UX designers could get it right unless it gets used by folks fitting the target persona attributes. Feedback from users is very important.

As Alan Cooper, author of ‘The Inmates are Running the Asylum’, put it:

The primary purpose of a persona is so that you won’t design for yourself, or for your boss, or that loud, annoying client.

Software development does not end with the ‘last development sprint’ of the release, but it continues until the product is deemed to be acceptable by the target users. Some developers get it but most don’t.personaacceptance

Most often than not it’s only after the last development sprint that product & user-experience acceptance phases begin with Dog Food and Beta tests. Any feedback that’s provided by these users will be evaluated by product management and queued up for incremental implementation.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts on how we (i.e. product management) could make software development think about the product from an end user’s perspective and take them on-board in the journey of building innovative-yet-user-centric products.

Differences between B2B and B2C Product Management


Here’s an article through which I wanted to share my thoughts on the differences between B2B and B2C businesses and products which I hope will be useful for product managers transitioning from one type of business to another. Please do share your feedback.

Target market size

  • The target market size for B2B products is very niche and may be broad in some cases depending on the product, but the market size for B2C products is normally large.

Business survival

  • B2B businesses can survive with a handful of customers, but millions of consumers are required for successful B2C businesses.

RFPs

  • Product Managers often provide inputs to RFPs in a B2B environment, but there is no concept of consumer-initiated RFPs in the B2C world.

Problem solving

  • Solving business problems is a key consideration in B2B, but all B2C products do not solve consumer problems. Some solve, but some are just out there doing other stuff, improving people’s lifestyle, for example. A B2C product may not solve an existing consumer problem, but may introduce a problem and then solve it.

Usability

  • As solving business problems is important in a B2B product, usability takes a back seat, but not completely ruled out though. On the other hand, usability is the lifeline in B2C products. As Steve Jobs put it “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards for the technology”.

Product demonstrations

  • Constant product demonstrations to specific customers is a norm in the B2B world, but demonstrations in B2C are normally to a general audience.

Professional services

  • Some B2B solutions, especially in the enterprise market, require custom implementation work which gets fulfilled with professional services. But there is no such concept in B2C.

Impact of social networking

  • B2B products use less of social networking for their business, but B2C products depend heavily on social networking for marketing and advertising campaigns.

Sales cycle

  • B2B products have a longer sales cycle when compared to B2C products wherein the buying process is usually a single step.

Brand identity

  • Brand identity of B2B products is driven by size of the company and customer relationships, but in the B2C space brand identity gets created through repetition and imagery.

Impulse purchase

  • Otherwise called as emotional buying, is rare in B2B businesses but very common in B2C.

Getting bored as a Product Manager? Try these tips…


Getting bored with your job as a product manager? Well, any job if its routine will get boring overtime, unless we add some spice to it. Product managers also perform certain routine tasks, and it is very natural for us to get bored (a little at least!) as well.

Listed below are a few things that I’ve practiced to overcome boredom at work; all these are entirely based on my experience. Please feel free to share tips on what you will do when boredom overcomes at work.

Tips to overcome boredom

1. Get back to product management basics. Think through how strategic your role is. Think about the value you bring to the organization.

2. Read interesting articles and blogs related to product management.

3. Relive successful project experiences from the past. Get inspiration from successful past projects.

4. Hangout with fellow product managers.

5. Write articles about your product management work; this will rekindle the thought process and increases your interest in work.

6. Do some unusual things; like working from your apartment balcony, reading product manager job descriptions:-)

Hope this list is useful; please do share your experience on this boring yet important topic.

Prioritization of Product Features


I have been thinking of doing a post on the topic of prioritizing product features for quite sometime as most product managers do this activity regularly. Product Managers in many companies do the prioritization exercise differently, but I’ve attempted an approach which I believe is comprehensive.

Here’s an approach I’ve followed in my experience — I call it the “Business Value Model”. The prioritization activity involves assigning “weights” (in the form of unit-less points) for each feature in the backlog against a variety of parameters such as the following:

  1. Value: the value of the feature will be a function of Benefits and the associated Effort Estimate.
    • Value = f (benefit, effort estimate)
    • Benefits: assign a number (from 1-10) for each of the benefits the feature provides. The benefits must be from customer requests.
    • Effort Estimate: assign a number (from 1-10) depending on the effort estimate from a look-up table. Something like 1 for 3 days, 2 for a week’s effort, 3 for 2 weeks effort, and so on.
  2. Benefiting Customer Size: a number (from 1-10) depending on what percentage of existing customers would benefit from the feature.
  3. Benefiting Market Size: a number (from 1-10) depending on what percentage of prospects in the open market (i.e. potential customers in the pipeline, general market, etc.) would benefit from the feature.
  4. Competitive Necessity: have just a handful of numbers to choose from depending on what the feature will do to the product with respect to the competition. For example:  2 for closer-to-competition, 5 for competitive-parity, 10 for beats-competition.
  5. Strategic Requirement: assign a number (from 1-10) depending on the alignment of the feature with business strategy, product vision, etc.

The framework is available for download here: PrioritizationTemplate

Remember: Every new feature will need to be looked upon from the angle of tapping new markets. Here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts, related to Win-Loss Analysis: Some customers might have unique needs which we might not even be aware already. In such a case, it is essential to profile the customer and research the need in the market place — may be we will end up discovering completely new market segments which we can go after once we have built the required product capabilities.

Would love to hear your thoughts!!!

Key attributes of a successful Product Manager


One of the most common questions in interviews for Product Managers is the question on key attributes of a successful product manager. It may also be asked in a different way as “what makes a product manager successful?”

Whilst success for product managers is contextual based on the Key Result Areas defined by the organization, some of the attributes common to all types of product managers are the following:

    1. Market Knowledge
    2. Communication and Influencing skills
    3. Product Knowledge

Now, let us look at each one of them:

1. Market Knowledge: There has been a wide acceptance of the authority of product managers — that they do not have any authority over others in the organization. Whilst this may be true from a people-management perspective, product managers could gain authority on product development and projects just by being an expert of the market. Being an expert in market matters such as target market characteristics, market trends, purchasing power of customers, competition, technological landscape, et al. Try it yourself — it works.

2. Communication and Influencing skills: This skill is probably equally important to product managers as that of the first one. Being a market expert with poor or no communication (both verbal and written) and persuasive skills is a disastrous situation for a product manager to be in – it doesn’t put the market knowledge into fruition.

3. Product Knowledge: Finally, knowing one’s own product is very essential. This will give confidence to the product manager while evaluating his product’s gaps and limitations with respect to market needs. This is also essential go gain respect within the organization. It is an awkward situation when a product manager puts together a requirement for a new capability, and later discovers it is already available in the product.

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Which stage of Product Life Cycle is most difficult to handle and why?


I believe the “sustaining” phase (AKA the “maintenance” phase) after product launch is the most challenging. Product development can be done with particular “objectives” , and once the product is launched it is extremely important to ensure the product is sustained the manner it should.

This is the critical phase in PLC that will ensure the product does not derail from where it should be heading.

The “sustaining phase” ensures that the product lives up to the demands of the changing market needs. And knowing when to exactly decommission a product is part of sustaining efforts.

Thoughts welcome!