In the last article, I talked about how we follow problems roadmap as our product roadmap.
Today, I am going to talk about how we prioritise these problems for an increment.
Which problem to solve first?
Problem prioritisation is one of the most important responsibilities of a product owner. And therefore, the product owner needs to have full control over it. It is a constant balancing between business needs, customer expectations and the team’s ability to deliver.
Most of all, it is very important for the product owner to make the right decision about what is the most important thing that should be done by the team, for maximum gain, without wasting the development team’s time, increasing the cost of development or delayed delivery of something that is of utmost important to the customer. They also need to be able to understand and explain why that is the most important thing.
Different product managers have their own set of rules and considerations when prioritising the backlog. This is how we do it.
Step 1 — Defining goals and themes.
Within our team, we work in quarterly increments, and each increment has a list of top priority problems that need to be solved for the customer.
Once we have the top problems prioritised, we move on to grouping them into themes. The reason that we do themes, before doing the features is the same as why we do problem road maps, instead of feature/product roadmap: it limits the creativity and thought process of coming up with best solutions. There can be many solutions to a problem, and by putting a pre-defined feature on the themes board, we are opening up the possibility to ignoring alternating ways of solving the problem.
The major advantages of having a birds eye view of all the themes on a board are:
- The best solution can be chosen instead of fixating on one solution.
- The focus is primarily on solving the user’s problems, instead of delivering just another feature.
- You will never forget the “why” for any problem. Why are you solving it? Who are you solving it for? Why should it be prioritised?
Step 2 — Categorising themes
Next, we put the themes into four buckets:
- Important and urgent
These are the problems that need to be solved right away. They are bound by deadlines or associated with major risks for business, as well as users.
2. Important but not urgent
These are the problems that are associated with mid term and long term goals. These are very important problems that need to be refined, flushed out and prioritised next.
3. Not important but urgent
These are the ones that consume your time and energy, but do not add much value. Try to negotiate deadlines, requirements and scope as much as possible so that they don’t become risks later.
4. Not important and not urgent
These are the pretty things, or things that are nice to have but are not causing any issues or problems. Unless you have enough time on your hands, or you really want to make your customers happy, these don’t need to be prioritised.
Step 3 — Prioritising themes
After placing all the problems in their relevant buckets, we pick up the ones from the first bucket, and each product owner picks up two problems and define them properly.
After that the team votes on their top three problems, based on their viewpoint of how important they are, why and what is the impact of each problem statement. We then order them by the highest number of votes, and then pick up the first three problems for an increment.
Its not over yet. We still have a few more things to go through. However, considering the length of this article, I am going to talk about them in a separate article later.