Product Managing & Feature Prioritzation

The 1 Line Description

Knowing how to improve your product most productively for your consumers.

When to use it

When designing your products.

Key Ideas

* This article summarizes the key takeaways from the second half of a workshop run with the MEST Express 2021 Cohort. [Summarized by Ighlaas Carlie]

* A big thanks to MEST for allowing us to share key concepts from their content.

Product Managing & Feature Prioritization

A company's priority should always be customer satisfaction. And this is directly applicable when designing its products. The products are going to be consumed by the customer, and therefore its features should be largely decided by the customer.

Product/Market Fit (PMF) tackles this idea. PMF is achieved when you have found the right product solution for a problem that is shared amongst a significant percentage of customers. When testing PMF, survey a focus group of customers on how they would feel if they could no longer use the product. If more than 40% answer 'very disappointed', that product has achieved PMF.

However, when designing a product that has not yet been made, customer considerations cannot be exclusively relied on. As Henry Ford reportedly said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It takes inspiration & innovation to design products, which is why the founder is necessary. Customers cannot be expected to fulfill this role.

However, there are question that the R&D team can consider when designing products or adding features that customers could potentially be interested in:

  • User Relevance: Is it relevant to many users? 
  • Usage Frequency: How often will it be used?
  • Communication: Can it be communicated effectively? The product or updated features should be able to be understood by the customers when shared by the company.
  • Positioning: Does it give the company an edge over its competition?
  • Value: Will it drastically improve the user experience?
  • Low Complexity: Is it complicated to use?
  • Substitutable: Are there alternative options that produce the same result? You want to ensure that you have found the best method to create the product/feature.
  • Low Implementation Effort: How difficult is it to implement? You should ensure that your team has the capacity and ability to create the product/feature, and that it won't be too much of a drain on the company's resources.

Scoping Features

When creating a new feature on a product, it is important to make a distinction between goal and feature.

The goal is the increased utility of the item. For example, when designing Uber, one of their goals was to create a frictionless payment method without cash.

Features are the means of achieving the goal. Uber designed the feature of storing user credit card details in the app that would allow them to charge automatically when a customer's ride was complete. This allowed them to achieve their goal of a frictionless payment method.

When designing a feature, be aware of scope creep. This is when adding additional features on the original feature that achieved its goal before testing the original in the market. Adding many new features in one update can result in a strain of resources as well as confusing customers. In the Uber example, it would be adding a 'split fare' feature on the credit card storage feature before the latter had a history of usage by the customer.

Translate User Needs

The easiest way to add features on to a product, is by simply listening to the customer's needs. When there is consistent feedback of something the customer would want the product to have, translate that need into a feature. "I need a way to create a new email" - create the compose email button.

Get Out of the Product Mindset

When adding a feature on a product, don't think of it as a product. Think of your product as being employed by your customers to do a job for them. This way of thinking will inspire your team to prioritize features that would fulfill customer needs more satisfactorily.

Dig Deep

The deeper the insight into a customer's needs, the more powerful the product will be. Every product that a customer buys, is fulfilling needs much deeper than its apparent purpose. For example, one of the needs Social Media fulfils is its consumers desire for community. Designing product features around that need results in a much more powerful product.

Research Methods to Gain Customer Insight

There are a variety of ways to collect customer data, and they are dependent on the level of engagement your product needs at the time. Interviews, surveys, ethnography, and focus groups are some of the ways to get an overview of how your customers feel about your products. Surveys are useful in collecting non-personalized data, and are cheap and easy to set up online. Interviews and focus groups are more helpful in understanding the perspective of the consumer in greater detail. Ethnography is a good way of gauging what the overall utility of a product is in the lives of its consumers.

Task analysis is the process of observing consumers actually using the product, to determine how it helps them achieve their goals.

The most effective ways of collecting data are by increased engagement from customers. Opt for more powerful ways of questioning that draw out more intimate responses from consumers. Knowing a customer's 'why' is much more valuable than asking them specific 'Yes/No' questions about a product's utility.

Create a hospitable environment for your customers, where they feel comfortable to provide you with intimate insights. The more the interviewee trusts you, the more likely they are to give you deeper insights. If you prefer not to outsource the data collection, distance yourself from the product - the customer is more likely to give you honest answers if they think you are not with the company that produces the product.

Data analysis can then be performed once sufficient data has been collected, and helpful conclusions can then hopefully be drawn. The goal is to understand customers and their needs better, and get a general idea of what products or features can help them satisfy those needs.