Reaching the role of a leader in your company, you start facing extra responsibility and pressure in terms of various aspects. From maintaining a positive reputation to prioritizing tasks and features correctly on a daily basis.
The ability to set priorities may seem like a simple and accessible skill. However, for product managers and project managers with no experience, this can be a real cause of failure.
Luckily, there are powerful prioritization techniques that are aimed to help you deal with the different hierarchies and define urgent, important, necessary and needles items. They will be definitely helpful if you need to determine priorities for your project tasks, objectives, requirements and product features.
What is Prioritization?
Prioritization in any business typically means doing first things first. As the management process, prioritization is about evaluating a range of items, ranking them in the order of urgency and importance. Prioritization usually defines the difference between success and failure in any organizational project. However, many companies pay not enough attention to it.
Prioritizing your tasks, business objectives, product features or requirements, you increase the success rates of projects. This process accelerates an execution mindset and company’s culture.
Prioritization in Product/Project Management
One of the core artifacts that are used in Agile software development is a product backlog. Product teams compile it as a source of story points or tasks that must be completed in the next sprint. Before joining the backlog, each task (or any item) must be prioritized to define what looks most reasonable or delivers the most value.
Besides, the skill of managing priorities definitely assists when you deal with Scope Creep, trying to optimize and save your projects.
Top-5 Prioritization Techniques For Any Purpose: From the Simplest to the Most Complex
Relying on a gut feeling often puts a project at risk. That’s why product and project managers who are typically responsible for prioritizing tasks in a backlog should constantly empower their professional skills and knowledge with the power of popular prioritization techniques and frameworks.
Here’s the list of the most common prioritization techniques and methods, that will be definitely helpful in the 2020 year.
After the short description of each method, we will give our subjective assessment of how simple or complex the method is, ranging them in stars
One of the most popular in the project management environment and the simplest approaches for prioritizing products composes an acronym that combinies four priority categories: Must, Should, Could, and Would (or Won’t).
Using the method, you can easily evaluate the relative importance of every task. MoSCoW is equally popular among both companies that adopt Agile software development practices and Waterfall-focused teams.
The technique offers to break down all story points into the following categories:
- “Must” is about mandatory items. When you abandon them, the current sprint most likely fails.
- “Should” represents the items great to have, but with not the highest priority. They do not have much impact on delivery, however, they must be implemented.
- “Could” items represent the essential small-scale improvements. They do not require considerable resources and their absence will not significantly affect the release.
- “Would” is about the items with the lowest importance. You can easily omit or rescheduled them for future releases.
- Operational friendliness and simplicity.
- The method doesn’t require deep understanding or complicated calculations.
- It promotes mutual understanding between the team and stakeholders.
- Fast and transparent scheduling.
- Lack of big-picture focus.
- Weak consistency of implementation.
- The method does not introduce sequencing of tasks and lacks planning.
Value vs Complexity matrix
This lightweight methodology is widely used by product and project managers to evaluate features on a product roadmap. Value vs Complexity requires a balanced approach to business and tech aspects of development.
The framework is based on the Eisenhower matrix, where the features are allocated across four quadrants with two dimensions: value and complexity. According to the technique, the most value and least complexity tasks are performed first.
The Eisenhower matrix
The product team estimates the features’ Value and the criteria are defined by the team arbitrarily. They may represent customer engagement, retention, customer acquisition potential, market demand, expected revenue and so on.
The team estimates the total cost of the feature and represents it as a proxy for Complexity necessary to realize it.
Value vs Complexity advantages:
- No detailed calculations need.
- Advanced flexibility.
Value vs Complexity disadvantages:
- Subjective nature.
- The method looks quite time-consuming for big product teams with extensive product features.
- Requires high-cost coordination expenses.
The technique is based on different levels of users’ satisfaction with a product’s features and behavior. The author of the method is the Japanese researcher Noriaki Kano who described its model in the 1980s.
There are different ways to implement the Kano model. One of the versions offers dividing user backlog items by the following criteria: Must-be, Attractive, One-Dimensional, Indifferent, and Reverse.
The technique that is based on user satisfaction, requires conducting surveys and user interviews before prioritizing.
- Must-be features – a customer considers the product functional only if these features are included.
- One-dimensional features are not “must-have” for work, but they seem extremely desirable to customers.
- Attractive features are aimed to add extra satisfaction. They are typically unexpected but nice-to-have.
- Indifferent features have the least possible impact on customers’ satisfaction and actually have no value.
- Reverse features are the most annoying. They usually have a negative effect on customer satisfaction.
Kano model’s advantages:
- Highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a product.
- Ranking product features by their value.
- Ability to specify the product fit early in development.
- Constant user feedback.
Kano model’s disadvantages:
- No details about the required resources.
- The model does not account for time and costs.
- Time-consuming practice.
- The restriction by customers’ opinions.
- The need to discuss all tech concepts separately.
ICE = Impact* Confidence* Ease
- Impact shows how much a particular idea positively affects the key metric you’re trying to improve.
- Confidence demonstrates how sure you are about the Impact. It also reflects the ease of implementation in some way.
- Ease shows the easiness of implementation.
According to the method, you rate the values on a relative scale of 1–10 so as not to over-weigh any of them. You can choose what 1–10 means, as long the rating stays consistent.
- A convenient matrix format
- The method is useful for sorting out the tasks that need to be realized but compete for the same resources.
- The method allows the best ideas to rise to the top, wherever they came from.
- Redundant subjectiveness.
- The same feature can be scored differently by the same person at a different time.
- When people score a feature to test, they will all score it differently.
The RICE technique seems quite a time-consuming but balanced prioritization approach for mature products. This rate-scoring method involves calculations that’s why it can not be considered as a simple one. Besides, it is not applicable in every prioritization case.
RICE allows effective teams to take a detailed look at the product from different sides.
The acronym involves: Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort – the factors to estimate every feature separately.
- Reach demonstrates the number of people able to use it in a particular time period. This parameter is assessed with Daily or Monthly Active Users metrics.
- Impact reflects the feature contribution to the overall product promotion.
- Confidence comes to the rescue when If you think a project could have a huge impact but do not have data to back it up. It helps you to estimate how sure you are about the given feature benefit.
- Effort demonstrates the time taken by the product and engineering teams. Depending on needs, it is estimated as a number of “person-months”, weeks or hours.
You need to take the proposed features, rank each of them using a Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort criteria, and use the scores to decide which features will be cut. The formula looks like:
The bigger the rate is, the higher the priority.
- Providing a comprehensive picture.
- Relevant metrics and numbers.
- Considering user experience as very important.
- The model is time-consuming.
- A lot of calculations.
- It depends on the data that you may not have.
- It isn’t always clear who is in charge of that.
By applying some of these prioritization methodologies, companies learn that setting and changing priorities is an essential fact of organizational life.
If implemented effectively, prioritization frameworks fundamentally change companies, but only if top management deals with tough choices.
Which prioritization techniques have you applied? Was your experience successful?