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How to Prioritize Features: A Compass for Product Managers

How to Prioritize Features: A Compass for Product Managers

Embark on a journey of strategic product development with this in-depth guide. Learn about the key principles of feature prioritization: MAP Approaches, Quick Wins, Problem-Driven Development, and Data-Driven Decisions. Transform your tech startup into a beacon of value and innovation.

Ivan Zhuikov

Product Manager

September 22, 2023
Table of content

As a founder, launching your tech startup feels like charting a course across an expanse of unexplored opportunities. It's like being a captain at sea, steering your vessel with a compass called strategic product development. The wide array of potential features can often feel like a foggy morning at sea, obscuring your sight, and making you ponder, 'Which feature deserves immediate attention? Which ones can hold off for now?'

Welcome to your beacon through the fog – a concise, practical guide illuminating the path with four key principles of product feature prioritization: MAP Approaches, Quick Wins, Problem-Driven Development, and Data-Driven Decisions. Armed with these guiding principles, you can confidently traverse the rough seas, charting a course towards clarity and precision. Ready to embark on this transformative journey together? Let's set sail!

Navigating with your North Star

In the realm of product development, the Minimum Amazing Product (MAP) approach is key. This strategy zeroes in on the most crucial features that enable your product to excel, while minimizing the time to market.

Consider the login options for a new application. Rather than diluting resources by offering a wide range of login options (email, social media, phone number, biometrics, etc.) from the outset, you might opt for a single, efficient, and user-friendly method initially. For example, a "magic link" method, which sends a one-time-use link to the user's email, provides a seamless and secure way to log in, eliminating the need for users to remember their passwords or go through tedious "forgot password" flows.

By doing so, your team can direct their focus towards refining the core features of your application. As you gain more users and derive insights from their behavior, you can expand your login options to meet their evolving preferences, thereby improving their overall experience.

Magic Link

A MAP is not a half-baked product, but an iteration that delivers significant value to users right off the bat. It serves as the 'North Star' for your product's initial trajectory, shaping the pathway for future enhancements.

With the MAP approach defining our course, let's navigate to our next waypoint: Quick Wins that deliver immediate value.

Immediate Impact with Low Effort

Quick Wins, another essential principle in our compass, involves prioritizing features that are easy to build and deliver immediate value.

This strategy leverages 'low-hanging fruits' - features that are simple to develop yet significantly enhance user experience or fill a vital product gap.

Let’s look at one of our cases of a health-tech startup that beautifully capitalized on this strategy. The major challenge they faced was the manual input of health report data into their system, a tedious process that consumed considerable time. Recognizing this inefficiency as a 'quick win' opportunity, we implemented an automated data parsing solution. This transformative feature automated the extraction and input of health report data, eliminating the need for laborious copy-pasting tasks. The result? A drastic reduction in wasted man-hours and a notable surge in system efficiency for the client.

Quick wins provide instant gratification to users and your team, offering regular product updates to keep it relevant and competitive. Incorporating quick wins ensures steady progress and continuous value addition, supporting larger, long-term product goals.

Effort vs Value Prioritization

As we journey from quick victories, we steer towards the path of prioritizing features that truly matter. Welcome to the terrain of Problem-Driven Development.

Balancing Essentials and Evolving Desirables

Problem-Driven Development, especially when using the MoSCoW method, centers around features that alleviate user pain points.

The MoSCoW method is a prioritization technique that segments features into four categories: "Must-Have", "Should-Have", "Could-Have", and "Won’t-Have". It's a powerful way to sift through essential, enhancement, and bonus features, each representing a different level of user problem severity.

The MoSCoW method

While there are various other methods like the RICE score, Kano model, and the Eisenhower matrix, the simplicity and effectiveness of MoSCoW set it apart. It ensures an optimal balance between user satisfaction and development efficiency, leading to a more problem-oriented product development.

Instagram, for instance, began with a "Must-Have" feature - photo sharing. Over time, features like Stories and Reels, initially a "Could-Have" or even a "Won't-Have", became user favorites, demonstrating the adaptability required in feature prioritization.

Thus, Problem-Driven Development using the MoSCoW method is about identifying, solving, and continually reassessing user problems. This methodology forms a bridge to our next crucial principle - Data-Driven Decision Making.

Guiding Product Development with Insights

Data-Driven Decision Making is a critical principle in feature prioritization. It advocates using reliable data to guide your feature development. Digital resources, including user behavior patterns, market trends, and competitive analyses, provide invaluable insights into user needs and product efficacy.

Consider Duolingo, a popular language learning platform, which also employs data-driven decisions. The app constantly collects and analyzes user data to optimize the learning experience. For instance, data showed a pattern of users grappling with grammatical nuances in specific lessons. As a solution, Duolingo introduced 'tips' - contextual insights and explanations for those troublesome areas. This not only made those lessons more digestible but also boosted user engagement and success rates.

By grounding decisions in data, you can align your product closely with user needs. This approach helps identify areas for improvement, potential risks, and new opportunities, fostering a successful product development journey.

Data doesn't replace intuition or creativity, rather it underpins these with solid facts. Clear, quantifiable insights aid in refining your strategy, ensuring your product stays in sync with user demands and market trends.

Making the Most of Prioritization Principles

As we've explored these principles, each offers unique insights that can help guide your feature prioritization process. Here's a recap of these actionable insights for easy reference:

MAP Approach

Start with a Minimum Amazing Product (MAP). Identify and develop core features that make your product stand out. It's about delivering remarkable value to users right from the start, just like the guiding 'North Star'. It forms the base for your product's journey and future decisions.

Quick Wins

Prioritize features that are easy to develop and deliver instant value. These are 'low-hanging fruits' that enhance user experience or fill a critical product gap. One of the examples is the automation of health report processing in a health-tech startup. Quick wins offer immediate gratification and ensure steady progress towards long-term goals.

Problem-Driven Development

This principle uses the MoSCoW method to classify features based on the severity of the user problems they solve. It's a balance of satisfying users and maintaining development efficiency. It allows products to adapt, like Instagram did when 'Could-Have' features became user favorites.

Data-Driven Decisions

Ground decisions in reliable data to closely align your product with user needs. Both Netflix and Duolingo use this approach to understand their users better and respond to their needs. This principle helps identify improvement areas, potential risks, and new opportunities, and ensures your product evolves in line with user demands and market trends.


Product development is an expedition. The principles discussed are your compass, guiding you to products that resonate with users and withstand market tides.

But, don't just learn these principles — implement them. Begin today. They'll transform challenges into opportunities, driving innovation and growth. You'll not only shape your product but also its market standing.

So, step up, captain. Use these strategies to illuminate your path. Build not just a product, but a beacon of value attracting users time and again. Your voyage starts now— set your course and make waves in the tech world.

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