3 Ways Great Product Managers Prioritize Feature Requests


Product managers are busy people. And while meetings with marketing, sales, engineering, design, and support teams may fill their weekly calendars, it is the work of managing ideas and feature requests that most commands their attention.

To offer maximum value to customers, great product managers know that each product feature must be prioritized effectively.

But with so many ideas and requests swirling around -- and stakeholders clamoring for their "pet" feature -- it can be all too easy to lose your firm grasp on the product's direction and allow divergent viewpoints to creep into the product roadmap.

Features should be added based on how they will add value for the product's end users. That value needs to be quantifiable, using metrics that reflect effort and reward. Product features should also be prioritized based on how well they match up to the overall business objectives.

Of course, this is easier said than done. With so many teams involved in each launch, it can be challenging to know where you should begin.

Efficient features management takes skill, even in single-product companies. But in more complex organizations? It takes real expertise.

Here are four tips to make feature prioritization more efficient -- and hopefully more enjoyable:

Stay true to goals

As a great product manager, you must establish a "goal-first" approach for your product and the features you will add. To do this, the product team must agree on strategic initiatives that will help achieve those goals, then align the roadmap and requirements against them.

Explain your product's direction to all cross-functional teams involved with your product. Clearly articulate the value that new features will deliver to the customers and business. This clear, goal-first direction will ensure that you are all tracking towards the same finish line.

Lead with conviction

While it may sound cliche, there is a reason that product managers are considered the CEOs of their product. Competing interests over which features should be added to a product can create chaos. Even on teams where consensus and trust are ingrained, someone must make the final call when there is meaningful disagreement.

Product managers are the ones who make those tough decisions -- and that is why it is essential to lead with conviction. If you do not take action to resolve disagreements you run the risk of pushing indecision into engineering. They will either start building what they think is right or thrash and simply stall out.

Write more (and less) down

Engineers often complain that there is not enough written down. Yet an abundance of detail makes it impossible to focus their efforts. Resist the urge to 
. Instead, capture features and their related stories or requirements as bit-sized chunks.

This approach gives you a record of what customers and product stakeholders are requesting. It also makes it possible for you to incrementally improve these ideas and add additional details over time. Perhaps most crucially, it helps you assess if feature requests align with the your goal-first approach.

Rank based on business value

Good product managers quantify the value of features that matter to their business. 
 rank these features based on an objective scoring system. Use a simple "effort" scale to rank features based on projected maximum return. Doing so will help you confirm how much each feature will cost in terms of resources. This is not the "official" effort estimate, but it will give you a sense of what it will take.

As a product manager, the onus is on you to keep all teams on the same track to success.

Managing feature requests in a way that ties those features back to key business objectives and high-level goals is essential. And it is what separates so-so product managers from the great ones.