The Dilemma of a Product Manager
How do you know if that feature is a good idea? An easy mental model for quick prioritization of new requests.
Recently I’ve written an article about six feature prioritization methods. While it’s useful to have a framework in place, you often cannot pull a formula out of your pocket when somebody proposes an idea to you.
In this article, I’m briefly summing up my mental decision map, including all the questions I’m going through when somebody mentions a cool new feature.
If you’re a Product Manager, you’re probably responsible for most of the critical decisions surrounding your product. New ideas are always coming from stakeholders through many channels — you have to bring focus, reason, and logic to these discussions.
On some occasions, you’ll be challenged by others. They have a problem or a feature idea for your product, and they feel it’s an urgent and essential need. But your team is already working on something else at the moment, and you’re hesitating to change focus.
What do you do then?
The following mental decision map might help you to get more information out of your stakeholder. It should start a discussion to:
Explore the exact needs
Agree on priorities
Agree on possibilities
While you’ll be able to answer some questions alone (like if something is aligned to the product vision or not), for some others, you might need to ask your stakeholder or development team.
There are five different answers to where the idea might end up:
It’s not aligned with the product vision, so you’re dropping it
It’s not likely to provide a considerable impact, so you’re putting it to the bottom of your backlog
It’s likely to provide an impact, but it’s not urgent, so you’re putting it in the middle of the backlog
It’s expected to provide an impact, it’s urgent, but it does not worth sacrificing what you’re doing right now, so you’re putting it to the top of your backlog
It’s likely to provide an impact, it’s urgent, and it’s worth sacrificing what you’re doing right now, so you’re focusing on this now
Of course, the map is simplified by purpose, and there are three things you should keep in mind:
The model only addresses a few key questions and not some others — such as where is the UX design, how much research is needed, and what is the level of confidence for an idea.
The top/middle/bottom of your backlog is relative. It won’t provide an answer to if the idea should be #53 or #76 if you have 400 items.
Your backlog should be changing as the expectations for your product change. Maybe an idea didn’t seem impactful before, but it is now.
Thank you for reading the article! Credits to Patrick Thompson, Aviad Herman, and Bálint Végh for providing input and perspectives.