Product prioritisation frameworks in agile software development

Why product prioritisation frameworks can make such a big difference to your live product's success and 7 of the most popular explained

AgileUPDATED ON June 2, 2021

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4 tiles cloud development

One of the key challenges in agile software development is determining how to best prioritize new functionalities and features.

Even the most experienced product owners and project managers can find it difficult to prioritise what to work on first when planning development roadmaps. Prioritisation is an essential part of product strategy and should be studied and improved regularly.

Product prioritisation frameworks are used by product and project managers to help define features and functionalities by order of priority when developing an agile development product roadmap. Here we’ll look at what exactly a product prioritisation framework is and seven of the most popular as of 2021.

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What is a product prioritisation framework?

A product prioritisation framework is a set of standards for determining what to work on next. They help project and product managers make more strategic decisions, reduce bias, and help avoid analysis paralysis.

Without prioritizing a product development roadmap,  an entire day could easily be spent sorting and relegating features, potentially relying too heavily on subjectivity or failing to reach a consensus. As well as helping avoid unproductive ‘time sucking’ activities, effective prioritisation provides transparency to the team and fosters trust in the planning process.

A good product prioritisation framework uses quantitative rankings, charts, and matrices with values directly related to customer feedback and product strategy.

The selection of a framework does not stop further discussion and evaluation. These frameworks merely serve as guideposts for decision-making. Your team must still make decisions about what to prioritize next.

However, there are dozens of prioritisation methodologies available to product managers. Let’s look at 7 popular prioritisation frameworks.

Popular Product Prioritisation Frameworks in 2021

1. The MoSCoW Method

MoSCoW is one of the simplest methods for requirement prioritisation. Its name has nothing to do with Russia’s capital. Dai Clegg coined the acronym MSC in 1994. Then gave the acronym a double “o” to make it more pronounceable.

This acronym stands for:

  • Must have (Mo)
  • Should have (S)
  • Could have (Co)
  • Won’t have (W)

You can use the MoSCoW method to divide your list of requirements, ideas, or features into the following groups:

  • Must-Have requirements must be met in the final solution and are non-negotiable. Without them, your product will fail.
  • Should Have features are a high priority but are not necessary for the launch. They are ranked second on your priority list.
  • Could Have features are desirable but not required as ’Should Have’ features.
  • Won’t Have features are unlikely to be included in a current release. However, they can fit in the later stage of development.

The MoSCoW model is dynamic, which gives room for enhancing cooperation. So, depending on the type of product, a feature that was previously considered a “Won’t-Have” may one day become a “Must-Have.”

2. Kano Model

The Kano model proposes that customer satisfaction is proportional to the level of functionality provided by a feature.

In the 1980s, Noriaki Kano developed the Kano theory of product development and customer satisfaction.

The Kano model plots two sets of parameters along two axes, one horizontal and one vertical. The implementation values are shown on the horizontal axis (to what degree a customer needs mee sot). The level of customer satisfaction represents the vertical axis (the satisfaction values).

Kano model

These values can be divided into three categories:

Basic Features

Without these features, your customers will not consider your product as a solution to their problem.

Performance Features

The more of these features you develop, the more customer satisfaction will increase.

Delightful Features

These are pleasant surprises that customers do not expect, but when they are provided, they respond positively.

So, the core principle of the Kano model is that the more resources (time, money, and effort) allocated to creating, innovating, and improving features, the higher the subsequent level of customer satisfaction.

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3. Value vs. Effort

Visualizing the Value and Effort concept on a 2×2 matrix is a simple and easy way to understand it. The 2×2 matrix is widely used in product management for feature prioritisation because it helps organize and sort all items.

value vs effort matrix

Comparing the Value and Effort combination aids in better task prioritisation and selecting the most important features or functionalities for development. The value of a feature demonstrates the business value it can bring to your product; the effort required to complete the task is measured.

This prioritisation method allows for healthy discussions among stakeholders about what they believe value and effort mean, which helps product managers identify and close strategic alignment gaps.

The matrix can serve as the foundation for other popular prioritisation methods.

4. Weighted Scoring

Weighted scoring is a prioritisation framework that can assist you in determining how to prioritize features and other initiatives on your product roadmap.

With this framework, initiatives are scored on a cost-versus-benefits basis using standard criteria and then ranked based on their final scores.

This framework will assist you in calculating the average score of all the features with the help of the weighted drivers, and then you can prioritize which features to invest in and which to eliminate. To calculate the weighted score, you can use a simple method or a complex management system.

5. RICE Scoring

The RICE scoring model is a prioritisation framework designed to assist product managers in determining which products, features, and other initiatives to prioritize by scoring these items based on four criteria. This acronym stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.

To calculate your RICE score, you must combine these factors.

RICE score equation

Reach

How many people do you expect your initiative to reach in a given time frame?

Example: If you anticipate that your project will result in 150 new customers within the next quarter, your reach score is 150.

Impact

How many new conversions will your project receive when users come across it?

Use a multiple-choice scale.

  • 3 – massive impact
  • 2 – high
  • 1 – medium
  • 5 – low impact

Example: How many people who see this feature are likely to purchase the product?

Confidence

If you believe a project will have a significant impact but lack data to back it up, certainty allows you to control that. It can be quantified using a percentage scale below:

100% – high confidence

80% – medium confidence

50% – low confidence

Example: I have data to back up the reach and effort, but I’m not sure about the impact. This project receives an 80 percent confidence rating.

Effort

Estimate the total number of resources needed to complete the initiative over a specified period, and then you’ll have your score.

Example: If you estimate a project will take three person months, your effort score will be 3.

6. ICE Scoring

ICE Scoring is one of many prioritisation strategies for selecting the best/next features for a product. The ICE Scoring model prioritizes features and ideas by multiplying three numerical values assigned to each project: Impact, Confidence, and Ease.

You can compute the score for each idea using the following formula:

ICE score equation

  • Impact indicates how much your hypothesis affects the key metric you’re attempting to improve.
  • Confidence refers to how certain you are about all of your estimates, both in terms of impact and effort.
  • Ease defines the effort and resources required to put this idea into action.

ICE Scoring is best used for relative prioritisation; if you have a few contenders, it’s an excellent way to choose a winner. Similarly, applying it to the entire queues will help to generate a top tier of options for the goal being targeted at the time.

7.Opportunity Scoring

Opportunity scoring is a method of prioritizing feature development by identifying features that customers consider necessary. A satisfaction and importance graph is used in Opportunity Scoring to measure and rank opportunities.

With this in mind, you can create a list of product features as well as potential outcomes or results from the product, and then survey a sample of customers by asking them to rate each of these features on a 1-to-5 or 1-to-10 scale in response to two questions:

  • What is the significance of this feature or outcome to you?
  • How satisfied are you with the product’s performance today?

The Equation looks like,

Importance + (Importance – Satisfaction) = Opportunity

The features or outcomes that receive the highest aggregate “importance” and lowest aggregate “satisfaction” scores will represent your best opportunities. These are your most promising areas for growth and innovation to improve in the next sprint.

Summing Up

The product prioritisation framework is an excellent way to get everyone on the same page regarding the product’s overall goals during an agile software development process. These prioritisation frameworks are an exercise in assessing decisions around where any given feature or functionality should be positioned in your product development roadmap.

Try the different frameworks covered here and you may well find some are more relevant or effective than others in the context your particular agile development project or to the product itself.

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