Prioritization at a Startup — Value vs. Effort Framework

Burak Kantarci
4 min readJul 3, 2022


This post aims to help Product Managers and Tech leaders who struggle to plan the things that will be developed. At Thundra, Barış and I implemented a prioritization framework called “Value vs. Effort”. In this post, we will explain why and how we implement it.

What is prioritization?

Productplan explains Prioritization as follows:

“Prioritization is the process by which a set of items are ranked in order of importance. In product management, initiatives that live in the backlog must be prioritized as a means of deciding what should be developed next.”

Why do we need to prioritize?

Whether you work in a Scaled business or a small startup, there is no limit to finding new ideas or improving the existing ones. Creating the most effective list among all the other backlog items will help businesses succeed. Even if you have unlimited time and resources, without prioritization, you can get overwhelmed with too many choices (Dangers of Not Prioritizing).

Should we implement a prioritization framework?

My answer is both yes and no. Every organization has its unique challenges. If you can implement a prioritization framework without hassle, you should. If your organization is moving very slow and you are the only mind who believes there should be one, you may consider not fighting to implement.

Implementing that kind of framework may change the culture, and there will always be some questions. As a Product Manager / Leader, you should be prepared for them. You need to give a clear purpose about how the organization will benefit from this framework.

Before using a framework, we discussed verbally and created a list of what to build next with our key stakeholders. Each Sprint, we were gathering around a table, and we were going over the things we could build. However, there were times we couldn’t pick the most effective one. This kind of lousy judgment wastes the team’s effort and can’t create value for the market. In addition, it was a very stressful process. Because while you are trying to choose the best options, you need to take your workforce and time into consideration.

Having all those inputs in our pocket, we looked for the best practices and saw numerous prioritization frameworks.

Why did we choose “Value vs. Effort” over the other options?

When choosing a framework for the team, you always need to decide according to your company’s characteristics. You may see a blog saying that “The RICE framework boosted our productivity by 10000%” and decide to implement RICE. However, RICE may not suit for your

  • Team culture: What is your pace? Do you have enough workforce?
  • Product’s state: Have you reached the product-market fit? Do you have enough market insight?

The closest option to our current process was the Value vs. Effort framework. We saw the opportunity to not change the whole operations but to boost the existing ones. This is why we decided to go with the Value vs. Effort framework.

I won’t go into details about Value vs. Effort; you can read this blog.

How did we implement it?

We use Fibery for our company operations, from HR to Product Management. We added three new fields for our Feature entity: Value, Effort, and Score.

Score calculation is very simple: Value / Effort * 10

We plan to fill the Value field as PMs and ask our Technical team to fill the effort field. After filling those values before our planning sessions, we will have the scored list, and our planning will be much more efficient.

But… There is always a but…

While implementing the framework, Barış and I looked at each other and said: “How are we going to decide the value?”. It is a simple number, but the backlog items may vary from each other. What is 8 and what is 20. We needed to define those ranges. Therefore, we added a Feature Type Matrix. It looks like the below:

It is not defined in the typical Value vs. Effort framework. So we adapted the framework to our needs. Frameworks are there to ease our life, not for the complexity. If one is not perfect, you can continuously adapt it. There is no “Framework-Police” around. You are free to change it.

With this addition to the framework, we categorize and value the idea. Therefore we ensure that we are consistent in our value assessments.


We are benefiting from this improvement; so far, so good. The stress level of deciding what to do has significantly decreased. The processes should live, adapt and evolve. We will check the health of our prioritization constantly by looking at the impact of our decision. Our questions will be on the alignment between the reactions and data from our users and our choices.



Burak Kantarci

I'm a London-based Product Designer with a background in PM with a CS degree. I've worked mainly with startups with different stages and founded (failed) one.