Deciding on features

There are many features that you can choose from to build or test for your product. How do you choose which features to tackle first?

Do you look for answers in crystal balls?

One way to tackle this problem is to use a decision matrix. I had 30 features to prioritise. I asked everyone in the team to fill out a value from 1–5 for each of the categories. The categories were the key metrics that we determined to be important to be the success of the product.

After we got all of the numbers in the matrix we calculated the weighted total for the category of User Value and Business Value. Ranking of two categories in a matrix is not impossible but it is hard to visualise. I plotted them along a chart. Features in the top right hand corner are ones that we should tackle because it has high user value and high business value.

This was a long process and confusing to many people in the team. Why? We were trying our best with limited data to rank values on a granular scale.

I found an easier way to approach this decision matrix by using a 2x2 triage as described by Joanna Beltowska

Put features on sticky notes and place in the relevant quadrant

The axis for a 2x2 could be but not limited to one of the pairings below

  • Urgent vs Importance
  • User Value vs Complexity
  • User Value vs Business Value

With everyone one on the team in one room and with the features on sticky notes the team can place the features in the relevant quadrant. Here you can make decisions on the spot. At the end we can rank the features in each quadrant to determine priority. Choose the top 5 in the “Do it now!” quadrant — that’s your new product backlog. This process does not take long from hours to a few days.

The process for making a decision on what to work next should not take weeks. Low fidelity processes can help give you quick direction and it can empower your team to make product decisions.