Every SaaS product comes with specific and unique features. But not all features deserve the same amount of attention. Which features should you prioritize for your product, and why? Stick around, we’ve got the answers for you.
What is feature prioritization?
Feature prioritization is the process of ordering and ranking the features of a product based on value, cost, viability, and business goals. Companies typically don’t have unlimited resources at their disposal, so the prioritization process helps weed out the features that aren’t worthy of attention and resources and focus on those that are. Prioritizing features is also one of the best ways to speed up the development process for a product or service.
Why prioritize features?
Let’s take a minute to discuss why it’s important to prioritize certain features over others.
Every SaaS product has features that are more beneficial to users than others. However, what customers want from their products tends to change over time. As the demands of the market shift, so, too, must product producers.
Let’s look at an example. Originally, the iPhone’s main features were its ability to make phone calls, take high-definition photos, play music, and surf the internet. Then, suddenly, the market shifted toward phones with the ability to use and download different applications. Apple responded by developing the app store and making it available on all of its products. Had they not made this adjustment, Apple would have fallen behind its competitors who were successfully making the pivot. Thus, the true importance of feature prioritization is to give customers and end-users what they find most useful from a product.
What’s the best way to prioritize features?
Now that we understand why it’s important to prioritize features, let’s talk about how to prioritize features in your SaaS product. The most common way is to use a feature prioritization matrix template—a visual framework for assigning value to features based on different criteria. There are several different templates that you can use, such as scoring tables, the Kano model, and value versus complexity.
Using the scoring table template: An example
To demonstrate a framework in action, let’s use weighted scoring as a model for implementing feature prioritization.
The scoring table model of feature prioritization assigns objective values to features based on different criteria. These values are typically in ranges, such as 0–10, where 0 is the lowest value a feature can have and 10 is the highest. These values can also be weighted by criteria, such as a particular cost or risk having 1.2x weight to its individual score. For our model, we won’t use any weighting. For our criteria, we’ll use value, complexity, and feedback.
1. Setting priorities and defining value
The first thing you’ll want to do is take an inventory of all of the features you want to build for your product. When you’ve determined your features, it’s time to define value. There are many kinds of value that you should consider when it comes to features, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s explore three: customer value, product value, and marketing value.
The customer value for a feature is how much customers would benefit from a feature being added to a product. What do your customers stand to gain from adding this feature? Will their overall experience be elevated? This is perhaps the most obvious type of value, but the context of a scoring table helps deliver more insight. Rather than using a subjective determination of whether customers are deriving value, you can determine what, exactly, is driving value.
Product value refers to how much a feature increases the stability or positioning of your product. For example, if your product is having issues with crashes or slow runtimes, implementing a feature that decreases or eliminates the chances of these issues may have high value. Likewise, implementing a feature may increase the chance of having these kinds of issues.
The marketing value of a feature is its ability to bring in new customers and increase traffic for the product. How will this feature attract new users without turning away current users? Will this feature increase your company’s visibility? Marketing is an important aspect of product production because it’s how a customer base gets built. It makes sense to maximize marketing potential with features (if possible) because it helps solve many problems at once.
Building and releasing features comes with an inherent time and labor cost. Something to consider when prioritizing features is the complexity of releasing these features—in other words, how feasible it is. How long would it take to release the feature? Is it possible to build and release it in a workable timeframe? If not, is the feature still worth prioritizing? The addition of a feature may seem necessary on paper, but its complexity may drag the overall quality of the product. On the flip side, a feature that doesn’t seem necessary at the beginning may be well worth adding if its implementation has a low turnaround time.
3. Customer feedback
One of the most overlooked areas of product improvement is direct customer feedback. What features are customers specifically requesting for your product? Which features do they like the least? You may be surprised by the feedback you receive. If you operate solely on gut feeling, it’s all too easy to unintentionally overlook or disregard what customers have to say about your product. Value what they have to say by tuning into their feedback and responding accordingly.
Understanding the results
After scoring each criterion, the final step is to take a look at the total tally for each feature. After going through your table, what score did you see for each feature? Which features had the most value, and which had the least? Were you surprised at the results? Keep in mind that the scoring table method is not the end-all be-all; there are several other ways of assessing the value of features.
Putting it all together
Feature prioritization is critical because it gives companies the ability to understand what is and isn’t working for their product. It provides a competitive edge in the market, and even helps speed up the product development cycle. Scoring tables are a great way to assess feature value, but there are various other methods as well.
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