How Product Managers Prioritize Great Ideas

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Successful product managers know that work does not stop once a product launches. In fact, it has just begun.

As the product matures, internal teams, customers, and partners will all have ideas on how to make the product even better. Product managers then must collect, curate, and promote those ideas into features.

Idea management ensures that key feedback and requests are seamlessly integrated into your product planning and development processes. It also allows you to confirm which ideas will add value to customers and the business.

What is the most effective method product managers use to prioritize ideas?
Scoring. Ideas should be evaluated based on projected maximum value using metrics that apply to the specific market or industry. The scoring mechanism for ideas should be meaningful and measurable, but high level enough so the team does not waste time evaluating ideas that will never get implemented.

Ideas are important -- you do not want to sit on them. After all, that next idea could be the thing that makes your product a winner. An idea scorecard allows product managers to quickly rank ideas.

For example, when we are capturing ideas at Aha! we evaluate them on two axes: impact and effort. This provides a simple, straightforward way to easily rank ideas as they are submitted. Other values that might be useful include sales or growth -- but no matter which values you choose, they should always roll up to high-level impact.

Here's a quick checklist that helps product managers cull and curate ideas:

1. Check the details
There are several ways to approve ideas. Start with a quick review to determine if more information is needed. If this is the case for a specific idea, email the submitter. Doing so will start a dialogue about how this idea will enhance the product.

2. Merge duplicates
Merge existing ideas so that you can reduce the list to unique concepts -- without losing the details and nuance of each request. When you merge two ideas, the one to which you merge should become the "master" idea. Any additional ideas that are submitted should either by added to the master. Or, if the idea was already implemented, notify the submitter.

3. Rank based on score
Even if an idea seems so rich that it will immediately be promoted to a feature, you should quantify the value of that idea against metrics that matter to your business. Rank ideas based on those scores. Use a simple "effort" scale to rank these features based on projected maximum return.

4. Respond quickly
Responding to ideas with "yes," "no," or even "someday" is important. It ensures that customers and internal teams feel heard. But this also helps product teams reinforce product positioning and direction.

5. Promote to features
Once an idea has proven value for both your customers and your business, the next step is to promote it from your backlog to a feature. Establish a link between the original idea and the corresponding feature. This way you will be able to trace its origin from idea to committed feature on your product roadmap.

When product teams practice idea scoring, it encourages quality discussion and additional insight. The result is happier teams building bette products.