Product backlog prioritization technique: Kano Model

No, it's not about Kano from Mortal Kombat ;) It's about making your product a "must have product" among users by doing killer features (without Fatality ;))!

The Product Backlog list should be a place where everything is important. Not a bulk list of "things". There's a lot of practices and techniques being discussed nowadays focused on how to deliver the right thing to the right client in the right time. To get there, you should know in earlier stages which needs should be satisfied in order to build a killer product. This post presents a technique called Kano model.

An educator, lecturer, writer and consultant in the field of quality management called Noriaki Kano studied and classified the customer's expectations into 3 categories:

An interesting point in this model is that it predicts that all "Delighters" features will migrate to "Basic expectations". Since the customer already expect that desired characteristic — either because you had it for a while or all your competitors already have it — this becomes a "must-have" feature, which means in the absence of it the customer satisfaction will drop significantly. Now you must find new "Delighters" features.

But now comes the question: How do I know if that characteristic is "Delightful", "Desired" or "Mandatory"? One way is to build a questionary for a group of people who are interested in the product to answer 2 kinds of question for each feature to be implemented: a functional and dysfunctional one.


How would you feel if there was a free bottle of water in your hotel room?

[X] I would like

[ ] I expect to be always like this

[ ] Neutral

[ ] I can live with that

[ ] I dislike


How would you feel if there WASN'T a free bottle of water in your hotel room?

[ ] I would like

[X] I expect to be always like this

[ ] Neutral

[ ] I can live with that

[ ] I dislike

And then you can use the following table to categorize the answers (functional and dysfunctional):

The analysis table tells you where a user would place a feature in the Kano Model based on how the functional and dysfunctional responses compare

On the "free bottle of water" example, this feature would be "Delightful" category. Now you should do the same thing for all the answers and group them into a table like the following:

Example of grouped answers and features to be implemented

Based on that, we can see that "feature A" is a basic feature that customers hope to see. But it is important to remember that, since this functionality has been developed, we should not add effort to this feature as this will not increase customer satisfaction. We should only maintain it. The "feature B" seems to be basic for some people and "the more the better" to another. The "feature C" was classified like a delightful feature. Therefore, the prioritization would be A > B > C.

Lastly, in order to keep the Product Backlog prioritized by this model, it is necessary that all mandatory features be in the RoadMap (without exceeding the amount of effort required to reach the expected baseline), make the most of desired functionalities/characteristics and always try to leave a space for delightful features because they can increase the degree of customer satisfaction quickly in your favor.


Eriksson, Martin. WebSite: Mind the Product, 2013.

Cohn, Mike. Site InfoQ, 2008 — Agile Conference 2008



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