How Do I Prioritize the Next Feature for My Product

by Sean Boyce
new product feature

Features make products unique.  Unique products are what we use to attract new customers.  So how do we prioritize what features go into the design of our product?  Better yet, how do we select an individual feature over all other feature options?  While I’ve heard lots of companies share many variables that they would like to consider during this new product feature decision making process there are really only three that matter: demand, capacity, and potential.  Through the NxtStep Discovery process we work with companies to score all possible options according to this system to ultimately pick a winner.  Let’s talk in more details about the individual steps of prioritizing the next feature of your product.

Demand: What do the customers want?

If you’re lucky enough to have existing customers then you should be smart enough to realize they can be a goldmine for you during the process of choosing a new product feature.  At least some users will be vocal about what they want from your product.  Often this leads to feedback about what they would like to see next.  It’s your job to listen and document their feedback about possible new features.  Categorize the feedback your users give you related to new product features.  It may not feel important to track this feedback now, but I promise you it will pay off in the future.

After you’ve narrowed your focus for the next direction of your product, take this data and survey your users with it.  Most will be excited to participate in this process.  If they are already using your product, or even better are currently paying for access, then they obviously are seeing value.  It will always be natural for users to want more value out of their favorite products.  Give them a voice.  They want to be heard and chances are they are paying the bills.  Your team is limited in size and interacts with your product on a daily basis.  Your users are out in the world and using your product when they need it.  This time away from your product gives them fresh perspective when they come back to it after having potentially learned new things or used other products.  Give them a channel to bring this feedback to you.  Demand for new features will ultimately determine whether your efforts are successful or not.

Capacity: How many resources can you dedicate to developing the new feature?

Don’t stretch yourself too thin.  Nothing has the ability to detract from focus quite like success.  Manage your resources effectively.  You have existing users and bugs that need fixing.  Make sure you have the resources to cover the existing operation before you assign everyone on your team to the cool new project.

Be realistic with expectations.  We all have a tendency to inflate our capabilities or at least forget to plan for the unexpected.  Development work takes time.  Especially if you are developing something completely new to your product.  Don’t be afraid to meticulously plan a budget around how long developing the new feature will take and then double it.  I don’t know exactly why, but that system has always been very effective for me.  When prioritizing a new feature for your product it is critical to ensure you have the capacity to afford dedicating resources to the project before you begin the work.

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Potential: Will this new feature give me the best ability to grow users and revenue?

We add new features because it will make our product more popular and improve the bottom line.  That is typically the primary goal.  Which makes this aspect of the process critically important when deciding between new features to develop.  Whether the new feature gives you the ability to augment an existing revenue stream or create a new one you should have some projections around potential to compare.  To keep yourself honest, now would be a good time to go back and look at previous revenue projections for features you have already built and see how accurate your predictions were for those features.  

Try not to get too excited when comparing user or revenue growth potential for new features.  This is because potential is often correlated strongly with resources needed to develop these new product features.  Your new product feature doesn’t need to be a grand slam.  If you are running lean focus instead on a base hit.  Keep progress rolling in the right direction, but don’t shut down operations to do it.  This is why when prioritizing new product features it is important to consider not just growth potential, but how popular you expect them to be (demand) and what kind of resources will be required to build them.  The focus on resource capacity and user demand is intended to keep you honest when deciding between new product features.

If you’d like to learn more about product management or talk more about the services I offer as a product management consultant please feel free to reach out to me at sean@nxtstep.io.  Keep disrupting.

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