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 ;))!

Reinaldo Camargo
4 min readApr 10, 2018

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:

  1. Mandatory quality (Basic expectations): Expectations on this category are considered basic that should be present in the product. Their absence will frustrate the customer but their presence will not increase their satisfaction, since the customer expects that feature to be present. As an example we can mention the water heating system in hotels. Hotels spend fortunes to keep water warm but no guest will post on Twitter or TripAdvisor "OMG the water here is so warm!" :P. However, if the water is not hot, or it takes too long to warm up, you can be sure that there will be complaints from all parties. No matter how much effort you spend on this you'll only be able to achieve the client's basic expectations.
  2. Desired quality (Satisfiers): Satisfiers are characteristics that can increase or decrease customer satisfaction. They are usually linked to performance. A good indicator from this quality is "the more the better". For example the battery life of a cell phone. The longer it lasts the greater the customer satisfaction, however, the low duration will lower the satisfaction.
  3. Delightful quality (Delighters): Delighters are characteristics that satisfy the customer when they are present in the product, but if they are not they will not cause dissatisfaction. Most of the time it does not take much effort to deliver it to the customer, but the degree of satisfaction grows exponentially. As an example, a restaurant which serves a free portion of some finger food while you wait for your table.

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