Responsibility #4: Identify and Prioritize Product Requirements

By Michael Colemere and Candianne Haacke

Prioritizing Product Requirements
Product managers are responsible to prioritize user needs, business requirements, and technology constraints. They research to thoroughly understand the user. They communicate with stakeholders regularly to understand business requirements. Then, they represent user needs and design requirements to the development team (designers, engineers, producers, quality assurance, and so on) as clearly and consistently as possible.

Some describe this three-pronged approach to product development through the lenses of desirability, feasibility, and viability. Unique or innovative product ideas are identified where the three lenses overlap.

· Desirability: Will this fill the need?
· Feasibility: Is technology available?
· Viability: Does it align with business goals?

Case Study in Prioritization
When beginning the fourth revision of MormonNewsroom.org, product managers Lyman Kirkland and Todd Goulding needed to prioritize a seemingly endless list of user needs and business requirements. It was planned that the fourth revision of the site would include a back-end publishing solution so that news could be published around the world.

Rather than jumping into design mode, they first identified the strategy. That strategy included establishing three key priorities. Time has shown that setting these three priorities at the beginning has paid significant dividends. If a feature didn’t meet one of the main priorities, it didn’t get developed.

Mormon Newsroom’s three priorities included:
· So easy, publishers could quickly be trained
· So flexible, multiple content formats could be used
· So reliable and fast, news could be published at a moment’s notice from anywhere in the world

It wasn’t always easy making development decisions, but Lyman and Todd found that if they came back to the three main priorities a viable resolution could be reached. The 76 teams around the world using Mormon Newsroom’s common publishing platform now realize the fruits of the prioritization efforts.

Practical Tools for Setting Priorities
 
When the list of user needs seems endless, business requirements change daily, and engineering says it can’t be done; there are some practical tools that can help with prioritization. These drama-reducing tools include:

· Returning to the original strategy and realigning to key priorities, says Mormon Newsroom
· Identifying where user, business, and technology requirements overlap, says IDEO
· Realizing that there are more opportunities than there are resources, says Michael Porter
· Categorizing requirements by MoSCoW: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Would like but won’t get, says Agile Sherpa
· Inserting a line in the requirements list, putting what will get done above the line and what will not get done below the line, says Quora