WHEN FEATURE PRIORITIZATION IS BIASED

Deyan Nikolov, Software Services Consultant, sheds light on the 5th of six major red flags of a doomed MVP

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A common and significant error in product development is basing decisions on too many unverified assumptions about user preferences. Start-ups often spring from founders’ personal need for a solution, which can obscure objective decision-making. The business landscape is filled with cases where such biases have led to severe setbacks for new companies.

To counteract this, it is essential to establish objective criteria for deciding which features to develop. A prioritized feature backlog, influenced by stakeholder input, is crucial for efficient and correct software construction. This approach facilitates a structured plan, allowing for strategic rather than random feature development. It provides clear direction and control, which is preferable to navigating based on fluctuating whims and unconfirmed user needs.

Using a decision matrix can be an effective method to prioritize your feature backlog. This tool is a table where one axis represents weight factors, and the other lists each feature. Scoring features across these factors helps in ranking them according to importance. Below, a sample matrix offers a basic illustration of this concept.

You should also consider the following questions:

  • Have you determined the essential features for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
  • How do you decide which tasks or features to include in your backlog?
  • What strategies do you employ to assess priorities?
  • Is your feature backlog regularly re-evaluated and updated?
  • Does your product backlog reflect real user desires, or is it based on assumptions about what your customers need?

Navigating Feature Selection in Product Development

Deciding which features to develop next is one of the most daunting challenges you might face in a product company. Typically, a successful business will transform feedback from users into a dynamic list of potential new features. The critical question is: Which feature should you prioritize?

When you’re just starting out, it can be especially tough to narrow down the list. Imagine you have ten promising features, but you must select the top three that will deliver the most value. Making these choices often involves significant compromises. For instance, you might decide to launch your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with just one payment method instead of three to streamline development and focus on core functionalities.

Towards Data-Driven Feature Prioritization

Many founders are eager to push their ideas into the market quickly, yet I recommend a more measured approach:

  • Define Clear Criteria: Have your management team establish three key criteria that the product must fulfill. This framework not only guides your development efforts but also helps curb the urge to add features that might not be necessary at the early stages.
  • Engage with Your Users: Conduct surveys to gauge how end-users would prefer your product to function. This direct engagement is crucial as it helps validate your ideas before you even start coding.

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