How I Prioritize

MARCO NESPECA

50% of my day

I spend most of my days trying to figure what the roadmap should look like based on a bunch of “stuff” I am continually collecting.  I call it stuff because there is so much of it and often it can start to look like it doesn’t make any sense.

In the past, my colleagues and I often discussed about a way to make this part of our responsibilities easier and more “concrete” or “scientific” (somehow) but eventually we agreed that this part of our job is more about interpretation and intuition than anything else.

We didn’t give up trying to put some logic into prioritization and finally agreed on the below aspects of this big part of our job which we try our best to apply everyday.

I categorize what influences our choices when planing our quarterly releases in 3 parts:

  • Customer/User
  • Business
  • Dream/Vision

Look at how I define these:

Customer / User

The customer is key right?  🙂  In my experience it depends…  A lot of times the customer isn’t the user but that’s a whole other story.  I always consider my customer as being the end user.

Feedback is what we look for when we look at this influencer and this is why I make a huge effort to get it directly from the user as this is what inspires me to feel that I am understanding their needs.  A great digital product must be customer obsessed and deliver value if we want it to succeed and to do this we have to find a consistent way of receiving and interpreting customer feedback.

Some of the methods I use are:

  • Analyze our own communication channels (Live chat, support emails, social, reviews, phone)
  • Analyze our competitors communication channels (Forums, social, reviews)
  • Email surveys
  • In-App feedback & polls
  • Speaking with customers regularly (Phone, presentations, webinars)
  • Understand our NPS

By doing the above I am trying to get an accurate understanding of our customer feedback in real-time, envision what their difficulties or feature requests are and build a matrix of frequency and occurrence to eventually engage directly with the customer about the collected details.  When I speak to the customer I outline the collected information and provide ideas about possible approaches to address their requests.  The feedback I collect is used when I plan quarterly roadmap releases.

At this point I can categorize and segment so as to attach value to these and I am finally ready to interpret what in the above illustrated effort would be best suited and best serve the customers needs and eventually include as a goal in my roadmap planning.

 

Business

Our job is about finding a way to get business and customer requirements to meet somewhere and bring value all-around. 

In business we ultimately want to drive profits by increasing and decreasing (resources) different factors and as a digital product we are aiming to: (SAAS)

  • Engage
  • Acquire
  • Monetize

We engage users and try to get them to use and re-use our product, by offering different and valuable features where our end goal is to retain the users we are engaging with.

By engaging with the users we are trying to be attractive and useful and pushing them to acquire and become an active user or bring them from being a user to being closer to a customer.

Finally we want to monetize by up-selling our users to our premium offerings, getting them to increase their spend, and preventing them from churning.

We must set our business KPI’s  and base them on business objectives, monitor them, look at how they change over time and use this data to better focus our efforts during quarterly release planning.

  • What is the long-term goal?
  • What seems like the easiest way to achieve this?
  • Where are the biggest business issues?

I make a list of OKR’s (Objectives and Key Results), set initiatives and desired change in specific metrics and try to estimate this realistically.  My initiatives are what I believe will help me reach my “Objectives” and my “Key Results” are my desired change in metrics for each of these initiatives.

Dream

Depending on the product stage we may have different types of “dreams or visions” for our digital product.  The vision we create depends on where we are in the product stage and basically attempts to draw a picture of where we want to go with our product in the long-term.  We plot this dream on our one year roadmap as a set of detailed feature descriptions that we eventually want to build into our product and update the status of each of these during our quarterly roadmap planning, verifying our progress or crediting/discrediting these basing our decisions on any validation work we’ve done since the last quarter meeting.

We work hard to guide our product goal on the understanding we have collected and adjust the roadmap based on these experiences.

In my current role, the Dream / Vision component of prioritization is often inline with the Business component and that is because the I am usually negotiating the quarterly releases with key stakeholders who in my case are c-level’s that are very keen on maximizing profits. (this correlation isn’t always true.)

The customer / user is usually guiding us to make changes to existing features so that they can better use our product to accomplish their goals “today”, which is good because it means they are interested in our digital product and truly believe they need it.

The fact is that all of the above influence the roadmap and prioritizing it isn’t so straightforward…

I often see that there is a convergence between what the customer is asking for and the product dream and when this happens I try to set the roadmap in the direction that will take us towards giving the customer what they want today and the product dream so as to include customer feature requests within our dream feature roll-out and considering that the dreams we have as an organization are mostly business driven this makes my life a little easier but it is crucial to continually monitor our 3 business factors: Engage, Acquire & Monetize. 

By keeping these 3 influencers in mind I can build, negotiate and get buyin on a roadmap that I can monitor over time, adjust if necessary and ultimately get results from.