How to prioritize a feature list, the hard way

Raw customer feedback is always too much about features, and too little about the problems customers are trying to solve.

So you need to rework the feedback to map to the problems customers have instead, merging and splitting feedback as you go. Hard work. Now you have transformed your list of features to a list of problems.

Can’t you just build things in this list in “most common problems” order? No. Because how often a problem occurs is not the same as how important it is.

Also, the type of user that has that problem is also very important.

In a B2B context, the buyer is much more important than the user. In B2C there are different kinds of users, which have wildly different priority.

And there are likely five other important factors too, all specific to your specific problem area, that we haven't even talked about yet.

Could you build a ranking system weighing these things together, and get a bottom up priority list?

You could, but it wouldn’t be at all as exact as it looks to be. It’s easy to fool yourself. Remember that the raw customer was very biased, is this something to build a solid mathematical model based on? I think not.

A better way is to not build a ranking model, and work from the list of common customer problems.

Instead, look at your company’s business goals, and start mapping customer problems to business goals.

Say some users have problems with the checkout flow. This maps directly to a revenue target.

Someone didn’t like the design of the site. Talking to them, you find that that leads to them not trusting you. Which indirectly leads to lost sales.

So maybe you put up “Increase customer trust” as a node in a tree and continue mapping. As you add more feedback, and more nodes, you get a much better picture of how things fit together.

Looking at the whole tree, you can now prioritize which customer problems to work on, based on business goal priority. This will make a lot more sense.

Because your job is not to build features, or even to solve customer problems. It’s to drive business outcomes.

And yes, you do that by solving customer problems, and building features. But that’s not where you start.

That’s how you prioritize a feature list, the hard way.