You don’t always have the luxury of resources for everything you’d love to do as a product manager. This means you have to prioritize almost all the time.

Determining what to do and when can be a quite difficult task for PMs. However, there are many product prioritization frameworks to make the work easier. We discuss in this article some of the most popular ones you should know as a PM.

Value vs. Effort

This is a very simple framework for prioritizing your features and initiatives. It involves making a list of what you’d like to do and then assigning them value and effort scores. You will focus first on features and initiatives that have the highest scores.

The Value vs. Effort framework also goes by other names, including Value vs. Cost and “Bang for the buck”.

This technique relies heavily on educated guesses. You determine the value and effort required for a project by trying to answer some questions. Essentially, this method requires answering two main questions:

  • How vital is this feature or update?
  • How tasking is it to implement?

You consider business goals, revenue potential, and benefits to customers when determining value. These considerations influence the value scores you give features – which you rate against effort scores.

The Kano Model

This framework takes its name after Noriaki Kano, the Japanese professor who propounded it in the 1980s. The Kano model has customers’ satisfaction as its focal point. It provides insights into how to determine features that improve satisfaction.

The approach proposes two extremes in terms of satisfaction: total satisfaction (delight) and total dissatisfaction (frustration). A company needs to do more to move customers toward the “delight” end.

Product professionals who advocate this method often classifies features differently. However, there are three categories that you may need to focus more attention to as a PM:

Must-have or Must-be – These are features that your customers expect products to have. Without these features, they view a product as not serving its purpose.

Performance – These are features that ensure greater customer satisfaction as you provide more of them.

Attractive – Customers usually do not expect these features but are delighted when you provide them.

A special questionnaire helps you to assess how customers feel about features.

Opportunity Scoring

The core idea behind this approach is that people only want products that help them get certain things done. It derives from the Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) concept credited to Anthony Ulwick.

Opportunity Scoring emphasizes the importance of customer feedback since their expectations determine what product is right. This is despite the assumption that customers are not very efficient at deciding solutions to their needs. Your product team uses the feedback to try and deliver expected outcomes.

After putting together a list of outcomes, you can then ask your customers how important each one is to them. They should also rate how pleasing they feel the outcomes are on a 1-10 scale.

Opportunities are plotted on a Satisfaction and Importance graph after calculating what Ulwick called an Opportunity Score. This lets you to see clearly what’s worth more attention.

RICE

This is an acronym for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. The RICE method essentially involves deciding the importance of features based on those four factors. Below is a summary of what each of factor entails:

Reach – The number of customers a feature will affect per period of time

Impact – The degree of effect the feature will have on users (calculated using a multiple-choice scale)

Confidence – Your level of confidence about the above two factors (in percentage)

Effort – The amount of resources (time) the feature will require from conception to development (calculated as persons or team members per month)

To derive an overall RICE score, you will multiply Reach, Impact (scale value), and Confidence (percentage) together and divide by Effort.

For clarity, you may think of the Effort part more as the amount of work a team member can perform per month.

The RICE score makes it easier to settle on what features are worth implementing first. Intercom is an example of organizations that use this scoring system.

MoSCoW

This framework has nothing to do with the city. Its name is instead a short, memorable form for product prioritization categories, namely:

Must have – Essential features that a product must have to be considered valuable

Should have – Features that customers would love to have but are not urgent

Could have – Requirements that would have positive effects on satisfaction but are less time-sensitive and won’t have a significant negative impact on satisfaction if omitted

Won’t have – Least-important features that won’t be considered, except maybe there are surplus resources

The “Os” only feature in the name for memorability.

The MoSCoW method provides much clarity about what’s most essential to stakeholders and customers at a glance. It also leaves wiggle room for changing priorities.

Story Mapping

Here’s another simple model for prioritizing product features. Like the Kano model (and MoSCoW to an extent), it pays more attention to the customers than internal stakeholders.

The Story Mapping framework is based on Story Maps pioneered by Jeff Patton. It provides a more effective alternative to single-list product backlogs.

A Story Map features a horizontal axis that stands for usage sequence and a vertical axis depicting criticality. You arrange user stories, or “tasks,” along the horizontal axis in their order of how users perform them. You then position tasks on the vertical axis according to how vital they are top-down.

You can arrange related user stories into groups, or Activities. Draw a line across all the stories to delimit them under relevant Activities.

Story Mapping can be a very useful visual aid for making teams and stakeholders have a clear picture of what’s important.