How to prioritize your future development

Making and prioritizing decisions to build features for your digital product is no easy task.

There are so many factors to consider, including making sure you understand what your customer wants (or will want), what level of impact the feature has in the success of your product, how much time it takes to develop a feature, how expensive the development of that feature will be, and whether or not you have enough developers on staff. One way of coming up with a list of priorities is by looking at each idea from three different perspectives: 

1) The user perspective - What benefits does this new feature provide? How do we know if customers want this new functionality? Will this feature improve the customer experience and interaction with our product?, will it make our products more competitive in the marketplace? 

2) The business perspective - Will this new feature help us achieve our long-term vision for the product, company, and customers? How is this feature helping our organization achieve our business goals?

3) The developer's perspective - How difficult will it be to build this feature? What technology is required to build this feature? 

How do you convert these perspectives into actionable items that your team can use to prioritize software development tasks and features? Well, it all starts with your definition of "priority."

"If you ask most managers, they'll tend to prioritize features that make the product "bigger" and better (adding a new content module or expediting the purchase flow), whereas developers will tend to prioritize features and tasks that make the product more stable and robust (e.g. fixing existing bugs, optimizing the code, or updating 3rd party integrations)."

For example, let's say your team is working hard to complete a new feature called "Multi-Select Editing." This feature allows customers and prospects to select multiple items in a table. Maybe this new feature is a high priority because you have already had a number of requests for it and you know that increasing the usability of your product will increase sales. In this case, the business perspective (what's in it for the customer) is really driving the decision.

Let's say you decide to make Multi-Select Editing a high priority. It's currently in development and is scheduled for release next quarter. To ensure that it gets the attention it needs, you assign one of your best developers to work on this task. After a few months, another feature, "Filtering," also becomes a high priority because it has gotten a lot of customer requests as well. Somehow, Filtering will make your product more competitive.

There's a problem here. You have two high priority items, but you only have one developer! What do you do? While Multi-Select Editing and Filtering will both support long-term business needs, which is the highest priority for your product? Which new feature does your customer want more? Filtering is a new feature that will allow customers and prospects to narrow their search results based on the information they supply. Multi-Select Editing could be considered an improvement of your product's existing functionality (i.e., table editing).

What if you request help from other squads? You can't just have them build three new features at once because there will be diminishing returns in the quality of each new feature. You also don't want to have them building and supporting features that might never get used by your customers, because then you're just wasting money on things that aren't important.

But what if you could somehow figure out which task or feature is most important for your product’s long-term vision? Then you could simply work on that one item until it was completed. If there were two equally important tasks, then you would just do both of them. This is where a product roadmap can help! 

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap shows the long-term vision of a product and all of the features that will be built to support it. Many people use the term "product roadmap" to just refer to the document that contains this information, but, in fact, a product roadmap is a lot more than just a document. It's essentially the plan for how your team will build new features to make your product more competitive.

The product roadmap is important because it gives everyone in a company—from the CEO to engineering team members—the same vision of how they will all work toward a common goal. It also helps keep projects on time and within budget, because you can adjust your plan to take advantage of new opportunities.

But what is great about the product roadmap in particular is that it includes everyone's input. It shows exactly how the features will support the product's long-term vision.

What actually goes into a good product roadmap? The best roadmaps contain both visual and textual information.

A visual roadmap can show the features of your product in a graphical way. It could be a simple diagram with boxes that represent each product feature and lines between them that connect related features to one another. Or it could be a multi-page illustration with more detailed product information and all of the features of your product. The Product Roadmap will help the team to ensure that important features or tasks don’t get lost between iterations and that the long-term vision of the product remains visible at all times, allowing the team to validate how each feature  will support the desired outcome and vision from all perspectives: product, end user and technical aspects .

Developing a roadmap of tasks and features to be included in your next software development project is important and requires the input from everyone on your team. As you prioritize what will go into this new product, make sure it aligns with your long-term company goals. Zemoga can help by providing expertise for every step of the process – from identifying requirements to designing and writing code. Our experts know how to integrate data along the way, so we’re able to provide insight into where potential pitfalls might lie before they happen. 

Contact us  to get started on building out the perfect solution for you!

About the author

David has been working with us for 10 years, helping to give shape to many products and initiatives, and ensuring our Business Analysis team participates in exciting projects that empower users and clients alike.