Why your prioritisation framework doesn’t deliver the right outcome
Trusting on a prioritisation framework to define your next features doesn't always lead to the desired outcome. In this article, you'll discover why you need a strong product strategy and how you can implement one in your way of working.
Do you rely on prioritisation frameworks to define the next features of your product? Many organisations do, and use these methods to cover up the lack of a decent product strategy. They fail to make the hard choices and have to resort back to prioritisation frameworks to make the choices for them.
More than once, this results in output that is not aligned with the overall corporate strategy or even missed outcomes. The fix? Zoom out and define your strategic focus. Your next actions will become clear automatically.
Build the right things in the right way
Focusing on delivering features instead of delivering customer value is a common pitfall. Countless organisations optimise their processes to build things in the right way, instead of building the right things.
Building wrong solutions simply wastes resources. Just think of the cost of development, deployment, maintenance and don’t forget the opportunity costs. Time to shift your attention towards a more mature product management.
Countless organisations optimise their processes to build things in the right way, instead of building the right things.
Prioritisation frameworks are no Silver Bullet
RICE, WSJF, KANO, MoSCoW… Prioritisation frameworks look a lot like letter soup. Numerous companies use these methods to add objectivity to their decisions. They are tempted to make product decisions based on gut feeling, expert’s bias, HiPPO’s (Highest Paid Person’s Opinions) or whatever the competition is doing. But they don’t look further.
To be fair, prioritisation frameworks prove their use to order a feature backlog, to create alignment between stakeholders or to defend decisions. But in many cases, these frameworks prevent organisations from making tough decisions.
The root cause for overly relying on prioritisation frameworks lies in the absence of a clear and strong product strategy. A product strategy defines how you will achieve your product vision and goals. It will guide your actions. This strategic void becomes clear if you throw all feature cards on the ground and ask your stakeholders to extract a strategy, as John Cutler proposes.
How to build a strong product strategy
As mentioned by Marty Cagan in both Inspired and Empowered and by Melissa Perri in Escaping the Build Trap: a product strategy binds all your product initiatives together. It aligns and directs them towards reaching your desired product vision.
Cagan defines 3 steps. They look simple at first sight. But answering these questions is hard as they touch the core of your company.
1) Start with defining your product vision.
What do you aspire to with your product? Where do you ultimately want to go?
2) Define a strategy to realise that vision.
Which problems need solving and which don’t? Make tough choices to create a strategic focus. Pick 1 or 2 big challenges and focus all your brain power on solving these.
3) Let your strategy define your next actions.
Empower teams to hypothesise and try out different ways to solve problems defined by your strategy. Based on feedback loops and data insights, learn if you are actually solving the problems. If not, experiment with different solutions.
The more teams, the more important it is to have a compelling, ambitious and clear vision and strategy. It is crucial to align all product initiatives and to make sure that teams make the right decisions.
Strategic focus does not exclude prioritisation frameworks
It’s not black and white. Prioritisation frameworks are not a bad practice. They are useful in some situations. But they also become a pitfall when your corporate or product strategy is not strong enough. Combining a clear product strategy with a light-weighted prioritisation framework works as an ideal combination to decide on your next actions. All aligned with your product strategy.