Brief Introduction to Product Strategy And Features Prioritization

    A strong and confident strategy in product management solves many challenges. Any product manager should strive to develop professional skills and abilities to build a strategy like great far-sighted commanders. The ability to plan well, determine priorities and evaluate them are the essential components for creating your effective strategy.

    This brief guide will be useful if you are looking for ways to improve strategic planning skills and want to learn how to prioritize competently.


    Do you remember the rules of the great commander Kutuzov, who was able to clearly determine strategic goals? He believed that strategy should always prevail over tactics. To win, it is acceptable to sacrifice a separate battle, because «the main thing is not to take a fortress, but to win a war.»

    The most of product management issues can be solved peacefully, however, managers should learn a lot from the great commanders.

    Product strategy as the basis of management activities

    The start of any product lifecycle should be attended by determining the product strategy. The advanced product strategy should satisfy customers’ needs and help to respond to the internal company's needs.

    In general, any strategy has a specific objective — to get you from point A to point B.

    As product managers and business owners develop their strategies, they define the core product and customer attributes essential for achieving success.

    The components of the effective strategy

    If you want to build a great strategy, you should care about the following:

    • Specific objectives
    • A clear plan with a set of particular actions
    • Focus on overcoming the biggest hurdle

    There are 4 parts that compile a typical product strategy:

    • product vision
    • goals
    • metrics
    • actionable plan

    Product vision involves the details about product positioning, the market opportunities, target customers, the analysis of competitors, and a clear market plan. It should also include information about who the customers are and what they need.

    Product goals are time-bound and measurable objectives that have defined all the required metrics associated with them. If you want to set what should be achieved in the next quarter, if you aim to expand into new countries, increase revenue, improve mobile adoption, etc., then product goals are crucial to start with.

    Product metrics assist to measure the progress of goals achievement. They also should be specific and measurable.

    The action plan should include specific steps to achieve the strategy.

    One of the most effective planning methods was proposed by Itamar Gilad — an experienced consultant in the field of product management. His article on Hackernoon is really popular and insightful. Itamar describes the usefulness and value of GIST-planning and proposes to introduce it into work instead of the traditional product roadmap.

    GIST planning: why is it worth to be applied?

    The author admits the usefulness of roadmaps and Gantt charts, however, he claims that plans may quickly go out of sync with reality.

    There is no room for agility. The changes at the top cause big ripple effects of replanning and project cancellations at the bottom.

    Roadmaps help to fund only big projects, so you need to prioritize and leave many potentially good ideas. In top-down organizations, winning ideas come from management. In bottom-up companies getting your idea to win became a very big deal, hence pitching, salesmanship and hype are now mandatory product management skills.

    What is the solution?

    The system of GIST planning may solve this challenge. Thanks to it, you get the lightweight plans that are built for change. The plans decrease management overhead, improve team velocity and autonomy, set a proper cross-company alignment and ultimately products and solutions.

    The GIST planning approach, described by Itamar Gilad includes four blocks, each with a different planning horizon and frequency of change:

    • Goals
    • Ideas
    • Step-projects
    • Tasks

    Together these blocks constitute all the core planning any company needs to do.

    Goals define the strategy of the company in terms of desired outcomes (where you want to be, by when, and how will you know that you got there).

    Ideas describe hypothetical ways to achieve these goals. You may have many ideas about how to achieve a given goal, but at most 1 in 3 ideas will deliver a positive result. That's why the ideas are hypothetical. The GIST approach implicates that product managers collect all ideas in a special Idea Bank that can hold hundreds of them indefinitely, prioritize ideas applying appropriate methods and frameworks, put as many ideas as possible to the test in order of priority.

    Step projects are aimed to break down big projects into small parts. According to GIST, every part should be no more than 10 weeks long.

    Each step-project is like an experiment that tests the idea. For example:

    Mockup → Prototype → MVP → Dogfood → Beta → Launch

    Step-projects are small and convenient, that's why product managers can avoid all the nasty side effects of long projects.

    Tasks are the elements of each step-project.

    Tasks as part of the GIST approach are well covered by Agile planning tools and Kanban boards. There is nothing to change at this level. The only difference is that the layers above are now Agile as well and ready for the change.

    How to simplify GIST?

    GIST planning may seem too complicated, but it can be partially simplified.

    Step projects look good for large projects as they help to validate ideas as soon as possible in order not to spend huge sums on the full development of the idea. For example, you can act without Step projects performing in mobile apps development.

    After we’ve chosen the best ideas, we prepare the tasks for their implementation. Then we collect the requirements, write specifications and push them to development. At the end of the sprint, we put them to production and collect data and feedback of users.

    This simplified process looks easier to implement: we set goals, select appropriate metrics for control and collect the ideas that can improve these metrics. Then we apply a Lean prioritization of ideas, implement features scoring, and write the task for the features that have won.

    Then the features get broken into tasks and they are pushed to development.

    The power of prioritization

    Popular ways and approaches of prioritization help to deal with the importance and urgency of the features and tasks.

    One of the most applicable approaches is a 2x2 matrix — the framework that is considered quite effective and powerful and does not take much time and effort.

    2×2 matrix for prioritization

    The system is based on the initial Eisenhower matrix that consists of two axes.

    The framework allows setting your own criteria and score product ideas, features and tasks. You may visualize such famous prioritization techniques as Value vs Effort, Value vs Cost and Value vs Risk with the help of this framework.


    ICE Scoring

    The main idea: ICE score method includes the formula that calculates the final score of the feature value in the following way: Impact*Confidence*Ease = ICE Score.

    In the formula your assurance in your evaluation is represented by Confidence, the featured effect on the product is Impact, and the Ease is about the easiness of implementation. Jusе кate your entire feature request and choose the most valuable ones to implement.

    RICE Scoring

    The main idea: RICE Scoring includes 4 values to evaluate your feature or idea:

    • Reach rates how many people each feature will effect within a certain period of time and how many of them will notice the changes;
    • Impact demonstrates how the feature will contribute to the product and how will the project impact your customers;
    • Confidence shows how I’m sure about all my estimation – both about impact and effort (how much my estimations look like a truth);
    • Efforts is estimated as a number of “person-months”, weeks or hours, depending on needs. It is the work that one team member can do in a specific month.

    You need to rank proposed features with a Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort, and use the final score you’ve come up with to decide what should be implemented at first.

    Weighted Scoring

    The main idea: Weighted Scoring allows evaluating features by your own criteria. Each criterion can have its own weight and scale (from 0…to 10). Using this prioritization approach, you can take your features or initiatives, rank them with the help of a benefit-versus-cost framework on a number of criteria, and then use the scores you’ve come up with to decide which initiatives make the cut. This method of scoring can be useful for companies to evaluate what they think is the relative impact on strategic objectives for a group of possible new features.

    Only after the group has discussed this idea, you can proceed to the assessment. This is the principle of the Planning Poker method, which was originally used to evaluate tasks for sprints, and now is often used by managers for evaluating ideas.

    What is Planning Poker?

    This is how it works: each estimator has a deck of Planning Poker cards with values like 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100, or other settings.

    These values represent the number of value or other units in which the team estimates ideas and features.

    Аs an estimator, you need to choose one card to represent your estimate. All cards are then revealed at the same time. If all estimators selected the same value, that becomes the estimate. If not, the estimators discuss their estimates. First, the people who put a minimum and maximum estimation, have a voice. Just to understand their logic.


    After the discussion, each estimator reselects an estimate card. All cards are again revealed at the same time. The process is repeated until consensus is achieved.

    Other prioritization methods

    All the described prioritization techniques look really helpful and reliable. However, you may try more options, choosing from many special techniques and frameworks for working with priorities. Here's some of them:

    • Kano model
    • MoSCoW prioritization technique
    • Buy a Feature approach
    • Feature buckets model
    • KJ Method

    As a result

    If the prioritization approach is chosen and implemented correctly, then everything is simple next: tasks are being developed by Scrum or Kanban. The product manager tracks the progress and enjoys the successfully implemented strategy.

    How do you find these methods and principles of working with product strategy? Do you have your own secrets? Please, feel free to share your thoughts.
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