One of the hardest things Product Managers need to do is decide what features are worth pursuing. There are constantly ideas being thrown around for what to build next, but how does one decide what to go after and what to ignore?
As simple as it sounds, prioritizing features against one another is almost always the answer. It’s very easy to think that five ideas are each a good idea, but if a team stacks the ideas up against one another it helps quickly weed out the top ideas from the mediocre. In fact, this is one of the best ways to get a team all aligned on a single course of action.
Many times I have overheard PM’s and designers in the following situation:
“I think we should build a new kind of world map entity,” one will say.
“Nah, what we need is to introduce a new unit to the game,” another will quip.
“I really think we need to modify the rewards store right now,” one more will add.
Independently these are all good ideas. A team can spend a great deal of time going around in circles debating the merits of one idea versus another. But if the group is asked to prioritize the three ideas progress begins to be made.
In order to defend their idea, the PM or designer will begin to think of their feature in terms of development time, revenue estimates, and what design space it opens for the future. ROI calculations naturally occur in order to find the best idea, not just a good idea.
This practice is especially important when dealing with executive product suggestions. Very often an exec will get an idea for a new feature and proclaim to the team (in more humbling terms), “my idea for a currency sale is genius, you must add it to the product immediately!”
Frequently their idea is actually a good one. But when the exec states that their suggestion must immediately be added to the product it overlooks the fact that there may be a handful of better ideas that should come before theirs.
It’s the responsibility of the product team to communicate this prioritization back to the executive for several reasons. This makes sure he or she does not feel that their suggestion was ignored, ensures the exec will not continue to demand their suggestion be added ASAP, and educates the executive about the process behind adding features to a product to prevent this from happening in the future.