People In Product
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People In Product

Prioritising Bugs As A Product Manager — David Ijaola

The People In Product(PIP) questions channel is one of my favourite channels in the community. If you ever get stuck, you can get insights from people working in the ecosystem and people that have a wider range of experience than you do.

On the 10th of December, I got stuck and needed advice regarding prioritizing bugs. One of the most astounding things about bugs management or product defect management is that it seems like a very simple process but doing it is usually harder than you expect and it’s usually because:

We know there will be bugs but don’t plan for them or at least I didn’t.

As a junior PM, it’s easy to get distracted with shipping and launching features but one thing that we never keep in mind is the chance that something might go wrong and in reality, something usually goes wrong.

Bugs are a concept in digital products(software) that depicts a flaw or fault in your product. Dismissing bugs or not giving them enough attention can actually impact your product negatively by causing churn and putting the product’s brand in a bad light. Users see your product as useless and a waste of time, and they’ll probably tell other users the same thing.

As stated before, bugs are important and you should squash them as fast as possible.

How To Approach Bugs

  1. Be Aware: One problem I faced and I think a number of PMs also face is that we are quite oblivious when it comes to bugs, we do not plan for bugs early enough. We have a backlog of features and we need to meet sprint targets. It’s important to realize early on that when you ship the product, things might go wrong.
  2. Plan For Bugs: Be intentional about including bugs in your sprint planning and plan for the discovery, documentation, reproduction and fix of these bugs. Please involve the product team in this process especially the engineers unless you will be writing the code to fix the bug 😉.
  3. Work With A Framework: Product teams usually have frameworks that they use to prioritize the way they work, it can be MOSCOW, RICE, Kano, etc. It would be convenient if your bugs were prioritized in the same way you prioritize your features, doing that enables you to tie the impact of a bug directly to a feature and the usability issues that arise from not fixing the bug.
  4. Document and Reproduce: There is a reason why a lot of product management software makes tickets for bugs have similar structures with stories and features, it is because bugs might not be as straightforward as the user makes it out to be, at least fixing them may not.
    To avoid any form of complexity, it is important to use product syntax like gherkins, stories and scenarios to describe what the user is going through and it is also important to use the product and face the problem yourself, you can add a recording of your experience to the ticket.

How To Prioritise Bugs:

Remember the question at the top of the page, I got very interesting feedback from 2 very experienced PMs in the PIP community.

I applied some of it and broke down all they said into 3 key areas:

  1. Involve The Team:

“This should differ team by team” — Roger Norton (Head of Product, Founders Factory)

That was Roger’s opening statement to my question and it basically meant factoring in the team that you are in, the culture, team size and their overall ability. It is also important to note that the team is not limited to the product team but it also encompasses the entire company.

2. Understand The Impact On The User’s Experience:

“In an ideal world, you are prioritising your backlog by customer impact regardless if its a bug or a feature” — Roger Norton (Head of Product, Founders Factory)

The point here is that you have to ensure that in all you do, the customer or the user’s experience is taken into consideration. In my opinion, that’s the most important factor.

As stated before, we prioritise features with different frameworks and if based on your framework a feature that has a bug is critical or a must-have, then it might be helpful to prioritise the bug as critical or a must-have.

3. Factor In The Effort:

Fixing bugs takes time and if you have a tight backlog, it might creep into tight deadlines. It is important to consider the time it takes to fix a bug, if it is something that can wait, then you should wait unless your team is able to handle it.

Conclusion:

“The higher the impact (the more people it affects) + the statistical signifcance of the bug to your jobs to be done (value proposition) and how long it will take to be done” should help you prioritise better — Lamide Akomolafe (Product Manger, Landbot)

The quote above is a framework on its own if you ask me. With that, you can put in place a clear and simple prioritisation strategy and ensure your product remains useful and useable for your users and/or customers.

Meanwhile, if you are a product manager or even thinking of becoming a product manager, you should be a part of the People In Product(PIP) community, you won’t regret it.

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