How to decide which feature should make it to your next release

How to decide which feature should make it to your next release


Frequent product upgrades and updates are the norm today. Most companies follow the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) model to launch a product to the market. While an MVP is a great way to bring a basic product into the market, for continued adoption and product success, organizations have to scale up fast and release a more robust, solid and comprehensive product that meet the evolving needs of the user. In one of our previous blogs, we spoke of the importance of building the correct Version 2 of a product and why building a second version often is harder. In this blog, we take the story forward and try to understand the parameters that help product teams define which features to build next.

What does the market say?

According to the Mind the Product survey, 49% of product managers state that conducting market research to validate what the market really needs is a big challenge for them. This number jumps to 62% for enterprise software Product Managers.

In the absence of such clear direction, product teams often spend sleepless nights wondering which features to build next, what should they eliminate, and what should they put off. Along with this is the ‘customer quandary’ -every customer wants and expects something different. Having a proper feedback mechanism in place that starts with a thorough product evaluation is a good place to begin the product evolution journey. Establishing a continuous feedback loop, engaging with the customers, and using simple, contextual surveys can help product teams identify which features they should focus on next.

Assessing value versus complexity

To determine which features should make it to the next release Product Managers should evaluate the opportunity on the basis of business value and the relative complexity to build and implement. The initiatives that have the highest business value and need the lowest effort become the low-hanging fruit. Employing a scoring method to rank strategic initiatives and features can help product teams decide the evolution roadmap as well. Doing a Gap Analysis to measure and rank opportunities based on customer satisfaction versus importance helps to gain an understanding of the current status of customer satisfaction. This helps product managers become more outcome-driven in their approach towards features prioritization.

Taking this approach helps product teams prioritize features objectively and in context by taking into consideration the critical aspects of time and money as well.

What’s keeping you awake at night?

When developing an MVP, most product managers know the way they want the product to grow. Issues like performance, stability, scalability, and usability are some of the key touchpoints that keep product managers awake at night. Building the next feature is important but identifying which of these areas needs optimization to make the feature worthy of the time is a more important parameter to consider.

Product managers thus need to map the perceived value of the feature to the key performance areas and accordingly prioritize them.

The ‘wow’ metrics

In today’s hyper-competitive world, product managers need to ensure that they create many ‘wow’ or ‘a-ha’ moments in their product features to remain relevant with a high user adoption. Creating these jackpot features becomes important to drive product success as these create a compelling value. Then come the features that make the product more robust by solidifying the product-market fit.

The next on the list are features which, in isolation don’t appear to be a ‘must-have’, but ultimately contribute to the ‘wow’ quotient. Last on the priority list should be those features that are a ‘good-to-have’; features that are expected by the customer but do not necessarily have a wide-enough impact.

Bug or features – what to focus on?

This can be a tricky question to answer. Fixing existing bugs almost always takes precedence as it can lead to customer churn. If there is no quick fix to these bugs and they have a productivity or workflow impact then the product team needs to make a business case for the bug fix. Here it pays to evaluate if adding new features will reduce the pain points caused by the bug or if the bug will impact the stability of the new features. It’s best to look at bugs and features as separate identities when rolling out a features roadmap.

Developing a feature prioritization matrix that incorporates market data can help drive an optimized product features roadmap. Of course, there will always be exceptions. However, the aim is to minimize these exceptions and build a robust and stable product that the customers will love to use. Do you know which features will make it on to your next release?

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