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  • Writer's picturerahulmd

Prioritise ^ 4

Prioritise! Prioritise! Prioritise! Prioritise!

One of the things that Product folks have to be really good at is prioritisation. This skill is critical not just for product folks, but also for entrepreneurs and business leaders.

There will ALWAYS be more things to do than your organization has the resources to do!

Based on my experience, prioritisation has to happen at 4 different levels:

  1. Strategy level - choosing your goals and approach

  2. Different initiatives for each strategy theme - think of these as features

  3. Specifics of what you are doing - in the software technology product you would call them User Stories :-)

The core of any Prioritisation exercise, no matter at what level, is an

Evaluation of Value vs Cost.

When you choose your strategic goals and the approach, you are looking at how attractive the goal is - the value it can deliver, and whether you can achieve that at a reasonable cost given the resources at hand.

When you prioritise features, you are looking at the value the feature will deliver and how much resources it would take to deliver the feature.

Most organizations do a pretty good job prioritising at a strategy and feature levels. Now, you are probably wondering what happens at User Story level prioritisation?

Here, there is a trade off required between long term cost and short term value, and engineering teams who are efficiency oriented will push to reduce long term cost.

But what they don’t keep in mind are 2 aspects:

  1. Long term cost reduction is useful only if long term value is guaranteed

  2. A lot of things can happen due to which long term value may not materialise

They assume that long term value is guaranteed.

It is up to the business and product leaders to be transparent about the risks involved. Till that trait is developed in the teams, Product Managers need to be involved during the user story prioritisation to ensure that each story that is picked up for development is critically and ruthlessly evaluated.

Sometime back, I was advising an early startup who were trying to launch a new product. They had outsourced the development to a dev shop. The team wanted to take a modular approach which meant we would have a product ready for launch in 6 months (best case). I worked with the team to rip up the plan and put together something which helped us release a bare bone version in about a month!

If you remember, I started off by saying that there are 4 things, but talked about only 3 till now - strategy, feature, user story.

The 4th element is prioritising to manage your own time at a professional and personal level.

On this topic, let me leave you with an anecdote.

Several years ago, while working for a great leader who played a big role in my development, I was telling him that I did not have time to do something that I thought was important in my personal life.

He asked me 3 simple questions:

1. How many hours a week do you work?

About 48-50 hours

2. Do you finish everything you have to do?

Hell NO!!!

3. If you cut the time to about 44 hours and dropped a few of the non-critical items, would all hell break loose?

Hmmm Probably Not!!!

And that is the essence of prioritising. Focusing on the highest priority items and managing expectation around the less important items!


If you are facing challenges with prioritisation in your organisation, give me a shout and let's...

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