Prioritization Notes

The best ideas on how to make a decision on what to do next

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All the best prioritization practices on a single page. Save yourself a hundred hours on reading dozens of articles—everything you need to know is on our short sticky notes. No verbalism, only real value for you to grow and increase team efficiency. Each note is an independent block of knowledge. Use it as a memo and share it with your team. You can read the whole article by the link to dive deeper. The topics are sorted in alphabetical order. We will update and expand our collection continuously. Subscribe to be the first to get the new notes.

AARRR

Metrics for optimizing funnel of product growth.

  • Acquisition—arrives from marketing channels telling about the product.
  • Activation—visitors converted into active users (e.g. passes onboarding).
  • Retention—users returning to use the product.
  • Referral—people spreading the word about the product.
  • Revenue—convert active users into paying customers.
AARRR Prioritization

What to do first for optimizing product growth funnel.

  1. Transform AARRR steps into scoring criteria for Weighted Scoring Matrix.
  2. Decide on criteria weights to focus on specific goals more. E.g. Retention is more important now.
  3. Decide on the score scale. E.g. estimates in affected users or just scores from 1 to 5.
  4. Add Effort Criterion with negative weight to consider development.
  5. Prioritize all product related tasks with scores for all tasks by each AARRR step.

AARRR score = A(Score x Weight) + A(S x W) + R(S x W) + R(S x W) + R(S x W) - Effort (score x weight)

Backlog Grooming

Items review on the backlog to ensure it contains only appropriate ones.

Timing options:
  1. End sprint.
  2. Mid sprint.
  3. On an ad-hoc basis.
Steps:
  1. Refresh what your roadmap and goals state for the product.
  2. Get relevant input from stakeholders.
  3. Prioritize the backlog and decide which stories must be discussed.
  4. Limit the meeting up to 45min with about 15min per story.
  5. Explain each story's relevance providing data.
  6. Decide if to work on or delete the stories.
  7. Send follow up notes to clear up any ambiguity on the decisions.
  8. Inform stakeholders of potential blockers and impact on timelines.
  9. Set-up break-out meetings to discuss big ticket items if needed.
Backlog Items Estimation
  • Estimate complexity instead of time/effort.
  • Compare; don’t estimate absolute values.
  • Use sequences for estimation.
  • Block the influences to avoid biased estimates.
  • Estimate by the whole team.
Do not estimate:
  • The entire backlog—only the things on top of it.
  • Sub-tasks—doesn’t add relevant understanding of items.
  • Repetitive items with a higher estimate.
  • Unfinished items from last sprint—re-evaluate in case of big context changes.
Backlog Prioritization

Organization of the backlog items to set their development sequence.

Collaborative workshop principles:
  1. Start prioritization with Users/Business insights to refine the OKRs.
  2. Introduce and evaluate each criterion separately to avoid abstract discussions.
  3. Agree on follow-up activities to keep prioritization an ongoing iterative process.
Content Idea Prioritization

Produce content that gain you more qualified visitors.

Describe content ideas sufficiently:
  1. Brief idea, draft title, article message, supporting materials.
  2. Research keywords: Search Volume, Keyword Difficulty, Search Volume. Use Ahrefs or SEMrush, etc.
  3. Link to similar article for SEO reference.
Evaluate with Weighted Scoring:
  1. Competence. Do we have enough experience, materials, and data to create quality content?
  2. Time. How much time will it take?
  3. Search Volume. Estimated Search Volume.
  4. Difficulty. Average keyword difficulty.
  5. Frequency. How often do customers mention the topic?
DHM Model (by Netflix)

Brainstorm ideas to answer:

Delight customers

How will the product delight (D) customers?
Both now and in the future.

Creating a hard to copy advantage

What will make the product hard (H) to copy?
Brand, Network effects, Economies of scale, Counter-positioning, Unique technology, Switching costs, Process power, Captured resource.

Margin-enhancing

What are the business model (M) experiments required to build a profitable business?

Design Docs at Google

A written description of a product to give a development team overall guidance to the project architecture.

Structure:
  1. Context and scope—rough overview of the landscape and what is being built.
  2. Goals and non-goals—bulleted list of requirements.
  3. Design—design overview and details.
  4. Alternatives—alternative designs that would’ve achieved similar outcomes.
  5. Cross-cutting concerns—how the design impacts security, privacy, observability.
Lifecycle:
  1. Creation; rapid iteration—write the doc, share with the project team, drive to a first stable version.
  2. Review—share and discuss with a wider range of colleagues.
  3. Implementation; iteration—begin implementation.
  4. Maintenance; learning—update the doc and re-read over time to find uncertainties.
Eisenhower Matrix

2x2 matrix for personal time management.

Make two separate assessments of each task:
  • Is it urgent or not urgent?
  • Is it important or not important?
Results:
  • Urgent + Important → Do First.
  • Not Urgent + Important → Schedule.
  • Urgent + Not Important → Delegate to others.
  • Not Urgent + Not Important → Avoid doing.
Fast Task Prioritization

Accelerate prioritization with a well-established process.

Principles:
  1. Proper task description—state problem/result/comments.
  2. Clear criteria—customize framework criteria to be unequivocal to the team.
  3. Automation—use spreadsheets/tools to reduce manual work.
  4. Collaboration—involve the whole team in the evaluation to collect diverse opinions.
  5. Regularity—evaluate weekly, re-evaluate monthly.
Feature Buckets
Buckets to sort features:
  • Metrics Movers—Improve key product metrics, e.g. AARRR.
  • Customer Requests—Requested by customers. Carve out the roadmap.
  • Delights—Based on insights in design/technology customers would love.
  • Strategic—Aligned with business values and goals.
When too few features in a bucket:
  • Brainstorm features fitting the empty bucket.
  • Think how competitors would exceed your product.
  • Ask teams about features you’re not building.
When too many features in a bucket:
  • Think if it was created to get work on the roadmap.
  • Think if the buckets could be rolled up into fewer ones.
  • Check if the buckets are too granular.
HEART

Combined methods to define metrics reflecting UX quality and project goals.

HEART—UX metrics categories.
  • Happiness—user attitudes collected via survey.
  • Engagement—user involvement measured via behavioral proxies.
  • Adoption—the number of new users of a product/feature.
  • Retention—the rate of existing users’ return.
  • Task success—behavioral metrics of UX (efficiency, effectiveness, error rate).
Goals-Signals-Metrics—process transforming categories into metrics.
  • Goals—Identify the goals clearly.
  • Signals—Map goals to lower-level signals sensitive to changes in design.
  • Metrics—Refine signals into metrics to track or use in an A/B test.
HiPPO Effect

Highest Paid Person Opinion with the most power in the room whose opinion can’t be disputed. Other opinions and data can be ignored. In some cultures, people can be afraid to speak against the HiPPO.

Results:
  • Ignored strategy and roadmap.
  • Development cost increase.
  • Growth rate decrease.
  • Team productivity decrease.
How to handle:
  1. Challenge decisions not aligning with goals.
  2. Explain each decision and support with data.
  3. Involve everybody in the discussions and collect opinions.
  4. Focus on customer opinions and core values.
  5. Enable free data flow within the company.
ICE

Evaluate each task with 1—10 scale for prioritizing initiatives.

  • Impact: Moves a user across the AARRR funnel.
    Scored: 1—minimal impact; 10—massive impact.
  • Confidence: Conviction warranting the feature build out.
    Scored: 1—not sure it works; 10—must work out.
  • Ease: Work required for the feature delivery.
    Scored: 1—26 weeks+; 10—< 1 week.

Total Score = (Impact + Confidence + Ease) / 3

Kano Model

Product development model to classify customer preferences into five categories.

Poll two groups of customers:
  • Group 1—If they had the feature?
  • Group 2—If they didn’t have the feature?

Scored: Expect / Like / Neutral / Dislike

Results:
  • Expect + Dislike → Must-be
  • Like + Dislike → One-dimensional
  • Like + Neutral → Attractive
  • Neutral + Neutral → Indifferent
  • Dislike + Expect → Reverse
MoSCoW Method

The simplest method to sort tasks with only one criteria. Mark each task with just one label:

  • Must—Critical to the current delivery timebox to be a success.
  • Should—Important but not necessary in the current delivery timebox.
  • Could—Desirable but not necessary. Could improve customer satisfaction.
  • Won’t—Agreed as the least-critical. Not planned.
Prioritizing Bug Fixes
Evaluate bugs by factors:
  • Likelihood—How many transactions (sessions) does the problem occur?
    Options: <1%  · 1% · <10%  · >10%
  • Severity—How bad is it if the problem does occur?
    Options: Obvious workaround available (OWA) · Non-obvious workaround available (N-OWA) · Important functionality unavailable (IFU).
3x4 Matrix Likelihood vs. Severity:
  • OWA + <1% → Very Low
  • OWA + 1% → Low
  • OWA + <10% → High
  • OWA + >10% → High
  • N-OWA + <1% → Low
  • N-OWA + 1% → Medium
  • N-OWA + <10%. → High
  • N-OWA + >10% → Very High
  • IFU + <1% → Medium
  • IFU + 1% → High
  • IFU + <10% → Very High
  • IFU + >10% → Very High
Problem Statement Guide

Optimize operating hours, reduce a human factor during implementation, and accelerate decision-making with proper task description.

Principles:
  • Clear and brief—comprehensible to anybody on the team.
  • Specific and supported—with existing files and links attached.
  • Readable—with paragraphs, bullets, bold, italics, highlights.
  • Reasonable—with subtasks or clear checkpoints.
Structure: 
  • Problem: detailed description of the problem to solve. 
  • Result: detailed description of the expected result. 
  • Solution/Comments: known info on solutions or obstacles.
REAN

Plan and analyze the complex sequence of inter-related multichannel marketing activities.

Map each marketing channel activity by:
  • Reach—effectiveness of the attraction to your site.
  • Engage—customers or prospects interaction with your brand.
  • Activate—actions customers take on your website.
  • Nurture—encouragement to return to your site and consume more content.
RHiNO Effect

Really High-value New Opportunity—a sales-person with a customer deal for an unplanned feature insisting re-allocating resources to build what's required to win the deal.

Results:
  • Ignored strategy and roadmap.
  • Resources allocated to serve a single customer.
Two ways to handle:
  1. Compare the opportunity cost and value, and argue against signing the deal if you have customer insight supporting the roadmap.
  2. Adjust the roadmap if the opportunity includes features you already had planned for later in the year.
RICE

Four-factor framework for prioritizing initiatives. 

  • Reach—How many customers will this project impact?
    Scored: Number of people/events per time period.
  • Impact—How much will this project increase conversion rate?
    Scored: 0.25—Minimal; 0.5—Low; 1—Medium; 2—High; 3— Massive.
  • Confidence—How much support do you have for your estimates?
    Scored: 20%—Moonshot; 50%—Low; 80%—Medium; 100%—High.
  • Effort—How much team time will the feature require?
    Scored: Number of “person-months”.

Total Score = Reach x Impact x Confidence / Effort.

Seagull Effect

Seagull—a person who rushes into a problem without ascertaining the facts, gives orders with formulaic advice, and rushes away instead of working alongside the team.

Results:
  • High staff turnover and low morale.
  • Increased chances for heart diseases among employees.
How to handle:
  1. Set clear expectations—explore what is required of the employee, how their performance will be evaluated, and agree to work towards the goals.
  2. Communicate consistently—observe what employees say and do, and speak openly with them about their work.
  3. Give powerful feedback—pay careful attention to each employee’s performance and praise as frequently as you give constructive feedback.
Silo Mentality

Unwillingness to share information/knowledge between employees or across different departments within a company.

Begins with competition among senior managers.

Сonsequences: 
  • Poor workflow.
  • Efficiency reduction.
  • Corporate culture damage.
  • Customer experience deterioration.
Escape:
  • Practice collective knowledge-sharing.
  • Company-wide software tracking the goals.
  • Hold inter-departmental events.
  • Consider altering the compensation structure.
Task Re-evaluation

Scores discard and reiterated assessment over time.

Steps:
  1. Set the score expiration period—depends on sprints and user context update.
  2. Set the re-evaluation deadline—must be ready before sprint planning.
  3. Set the team reminders—must be done regularly by the whole team.
Benefits:
  1. Shared understanding.
  2. Priorities actualization.
  3. Meeting time reduction.
Team Alignment

Team agreement on the organization's goals and on the process of allocating resources.

Communicate strategy to the team by:
  • One Page Strategic Plan—Planning Pyramid that graphically conveys how values, purposes, targets, goals, actions, schedules, and accountabilities align.
  • Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—a long-term (10-25-year) goal guided by core values and purpose.
Establishing the communication rhythm by:
  1. Short Daily Huddle.
  2. Weekly Meeting.
  3. Monthly Management Meeting.
  4. Quarterly and Annual Planning Meeting.
Benefits:
  • Improved productivity, performance, communication.
  • Higher motivation and morale; lower rates of staff turnover.
  • Faster decision-making; adaptivity to changing markets.
The North Star Method
  1. Set a North Star metric—consolidate the work you’re doing and the value you’re delivering across acquisition, engagement, conversion, and retention.
  2. Define your user flows—define your app’s key events; draw the flows between events; use your analytics to identify the percentage of users taking each flow.
  3. Build a growth model—use the information about the user flows and are guided by the North Star metric to determine the growth drivers.
  4. Create a spreadsheet—transfer the model to a spreadsheet and evaluate your opportunities, to see how they impact growth.
User Story Mapping

Visual exercise for prioritizing requirements in terms of customer value.

User story format: As a [type of user], I want to [action] so that [benefit].

Steps:
  1. Frame the problem—Define the customer problem.
  2. Define the user—Define your target audience.
  3. Map user activities—Outline the activities every user does.
  4. Map user stories—Break down each activity into user stories.
  5. Prioritize—Rank stories by importance top to bottom.
  6. Flow—Map the users flow through the product.
  7. Identify risks—Envision the potential user issues.
  8. Plan sprints/releases—Group stories by priority within each activity.
  9. Schedule the prioritized user stories into sprints/releases.
Value vs. Complexity / Effort Matrix

2x2 matrix for prioritizing initiatives.

Make two separate assessments of each initiative:
  • How much value will the initiative deliver?
    Scored: High Value / Low Value
  • How much effort will the implementation require?
    Scored: High Complexity / Low Complexity
Results:
  • High Value + Low Complexity → Quick Wins.
  • High Value + High Complexity → Big Bets.
  • Low Value + Low Complexity → Maybes.
  • Low Value + High Complexity → Time Sinks.
Value vs. Risk Matrix

2x2 matrix for prioritizing initiatives.

Risk options:
  • Schedule risk—Can’t be realized in time.
  • Cost risk—May cost more than allowed.
  • Functionality risk—Not able to implement.
Make two separate assessments of each initiative:
  • How much value will the initiative deliver?
    Scored: High Value / Low Value
  • How risky is the implementation?
    Scored: High Risk / Low Risk
Results:
  • High Value + Low Risk → Do First.
  • High Value + High Risk → Do Second.
  • Low Value + Low Risk → Do Last.
  • Low Value + High Risk → Avoid.
WSJF

Weighted Shortest Job First used to sequence jobs (eg., Features, Capabilities, and Epics) to produce maximum economic benefit.

WSJF = Cost of Delay / Job Size

Cost of Delay = User-business value + Time criticality + Risk reduction-opportunity enablement value

Scale each parameter with Fibonacci row (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20).

Weighted Scoring Model

Numerical scoring for prioritizing initiatives by multiple data layers.

Steps:
  1. List the initiatives under consideration.
  2. Devise a set of cost-vs-benefit criteria to score each initiative.
  3. Determine the weights of each criterion by their importance.
  4. Assign individual scores for each initiative by each criterion.
  5. Multiply each score by the criterion weight.
  6. Add up the results for each initiative.
  7. Rank initiatives by their total score.
ZEBRA Effect

Zero Evidence But Really Arrogant—a person considering them-self an expert really knowing the customer but doesn’t have any facts to back them up.

Results:
  • Ignored data and customer opinions.
  • Pseudo expert decisions about customer needs.
How to handle:
  1. Support each decision with real data.
  2. Involve everybody in the discussions and collect opinions.
  3. Focus on customer opinions and core values.