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6 Prioritization Techniques for Product Management Worth Your Attention in 2021

pavelku profile image pavel-ku ・5 min read

Product managers will agree that sometimes it is rather difficult to pick the right tasks or features for development, filter the most important, and skip the less urgent ones.

Prioritization is a talent and skill that comes with experience. It depends on the number of tasks and features, internal or external conditions of products, and the entire business.

What is a prioritization framework? A proper prioritization framework provides quantitative rankings, charts, and matrices with values that are directly tied to your customer feedback and product strategy.

If you experience problems with prioritization skills and strive to get more, this quick post will assist to discover some of the best prioritization techniques that are expected to be popular in the upcoming 2021.

Best Prioritization Techniques

MoSCoW prioritization method

The popular MoSCoW approach is widely used in product management, software development and business analysis. At first sight, it may seem cheesy and simple; however, this method would be definitely demanded and popular in 2021 as it easily helps to reach a common understanding with stakeholders.

The MoSCoW technique will help you to pick which issues, tasks or objectives are Must have, Should have, Could have and Won’t have. The MSCW consonants define a specific priority:

  • M is must. This is about tasks or features that look critical and must be applied as a matter of priority.
  • S is should. Here you put important but not critical and not sensitive tasks.
  • C is could. These tasks are desirable but not mandatory for your release.
  • W is would. Here you place not critical tasks that may not correspond to the product strategy at all.

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This approach provides a quick solution for prioritization. Therefore, the method is better suited for internal projects but not for products with a large number of clients.

Feature Buckets technique

This MVP development method is a common way of validating features and specifying the required minimum.

The method was created by Adam Nash, the Vice President at Dropbox. He says that the Feature Buckets approach works best for prioritizing functionality in consumer online solution delivery.
All you should do is divide the list of features into 3-5 buckets (three is for the classic version):

Metric movers - the features that will positively affect the main KPIs. The KPIs will judge your project's success or failure, so this bucket is important in terms of reaching business goals.

Delights -the features that will accelerate customer satisfaction. For example, entertaining elements, animations, leaderboard, and so on.

Customer requests - the features that users would like to see in the app. They will not totally solve the problem, but clients want to have them.

Feature Buckets allow visualizing and concentrating more on product development directions and help the team clearly understand the goals behind developing a certain feature.

Story Mapping

This prioritization approach became known at the beginning of the century from the article written by Jeff Patton.

Story Mapping means that a product backlog is not enough to prioritize your work. The author thought that you need a more detailed structure, that's why he suggested the following mechanics:

There are two axes.

  • The horizontal axis is the sequence of use. All tasks there are placed in the sequence in which they are performed by the user.
  • The vertical one represents criticality. The tasks are placed vertically, relative to how important they are from top to bottom.

Equally important tasks can be defined at the same height.
Related stories groups are combined as activities.

The Story Mapping prioritization method is a simple visual presentation that allows teams, partners, and clients to share a common understanding of what is happening. It clearly defines how to gradually release product iterations.

RICE Scoring method

The RICE Method helps to identify Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Efforts. This approach assists product and project managers in determining priorities and getting better business outcomes.
Using this prioritization technique, you may ask your team the following questions:

  • How many people will the project impact in a specific period? How many users will feel the changes? (Reach).
  • How will the product impact users? (Impact).
  • Do you have valuable data that backs up your estimation? (Confidence).
  • What teamwork does the project require? (Efforts).

After estimating these factors, you should combine them into a single score. Then you’ll be able to compare projects at a glance. The result will measure the total impact per time worked.

This approach helps immensely when deciding between hard-to-compare ideas. The RICE framework will help you make better decisions about what to work on first.

There are some smart project management tools that contain build-in prioritization techniques. For example, you may find an advanced RICE Scoring model in Hygger:

To get a RICE score you need to combine these factors.

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ICE technique

To apply the ICE score prioritization method, you will have to calculate the score per idea, according to the formula: ICE = Impact* Confidence* Ease, where:

  • Impact demonstrates how much an idea positively affects the core metric you’re trying to improve.
  • Confidence is about how sure you are about the Impact. It also reflects the ease of implementation in some way.
  • Ease means the easiness of implementation.

You should rate the values on a relative scale of 1–10 so as not to over-weigh any of them. Choose what 1–10 means, as long the rating stays consistent.

The method provides a convenient matrix format and it looks useful for sorting out the tasks that need to be realized but compete for the same resources. ICE scoring will definitely be popular in 2021.

Value vs Cost model

Value vs Cost is a handy technique with the vivid advantage of also being very simple and easy-implemented.

You can score features and tasks on their Value and Cost of implementation. This is the key idea of the method. The features with the best ratios will have higher priority.

This method is quite intuitive and is also embedded within other prioritization methodologies. It provides a chance to maximize value delivery over time. For a given release timeframe, you work on the most valuable items you can fit in the period.

You may visualize it with the help of the Value vs Cost chart. Draw all considered features with regards to their score in each dimension. Prioritization rankings will be visible as the slopes of the lines, where the higher the slope, the higher the priority.

Why do we all need to master prioritization?

How can I improve my prioritization skills? This question is quite logical here. You may say that the detailed prioritization approach is needed mainly for complex technical projects. However, the ability to prioritize professionally can be crucial for everyone in 2021: from students to top managers with their global purposes.

Prioritization may enhance your professional life if you are a software developer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, marketer, designer, event manager, constructor, university professor, HR specialist, and so on and so forth.
Whatever method or technique you choose, it is important to implement it with all seriousness.

Try a simple approach first, and then move on to more complex prioritization frameworks. All of them look like a reliable success factor in business management worth paying attention to in 2021.

How do you prioritize features?

Discussion (1)

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Dean Peters

MSCW at a team level feels to me like we're estimating using time rather than story complexity as the benchmark.

I've also seen RICE and Value v. Cost go down a feature factory path more than once, especially in situations where SAFe® was 'installed.'