Common Challenges to Implementing Prioritization Frameworks

After deciding to implement a new prioritization framework, many teams find themselves defaulting to certain bad habits. These bad habits can impede your product team’s ability to launch a product effectively. At ProductPlan, we understand the need for a sound product strategy. To achieve this, product teams need to implement the right prioritization frameworks. However, many teams find themselves using the wrong framework or following old, bad habits.

Product teams face many challenges when bringing a product to market, especially choosing the right framework. Below are the four most common challenges product managers and team face when implementing the right prioritization framework.

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1. Don’t prioritize based on the competition

It’s common to run through a prioritization cycle and feel great about the outcomes, only to still feel the pull of prioritizing a feature already offered by a key competitor.

When there’s clear evidence adding a particular feature adds to your own business’s bottom line by attracting and retaining customers, it may very well deserve a slot on your roadmap. But that conclusion should be based on the research, customer feedback, and innovative ideas developed internally.

2. Avoid saying yes to everything

Even after prioritizing specific initiatives with their new framework, product managers often still struggle to say no to requests from salespeople, C-level executives, and customers.

However, a key reason for using a prioritization framework in the first place is to prevent this type of development overload and scope creep. By educating stakeholders and relying on a framework, the team has an additional supporting rationale for denying requests.

3. Don’t prioritize what’s easy

It’s tempting to rack up “wins” by cranking out many features quickly. The drive may even come from the development team because they prefer to work on easier-to-build functionality.

Resist these temptations and encourage your staff to do the same. The strategy must focus only on building solutions that move the needle for your company and its KPIs—delighting customers, growing market share, and adding revenue—not on what can get developed and released in a hurry.

4. Keep your backlog in order.

Even with a stellar prioritization framework, the participants only have a limited amount of time and mental bandwidth to consider all the alternatives. Ensure folks are only deliberating over high-caliber concepts by pruning the backlog regularly.

Over time the product backlog can become an unmanageable mess, transformed from a useful, well-organized repository of ideas into a chaotic storage bin. Ensuring your backlog retains actual value requires prioritization.

Backlogs are not supposed to be the dark closet where we toss ideas we don’t feel like dealing with. Moreover, teams shouldn’t treat it as a junkyard of annoying sales requests, way too specific customer asks and ignored technical debt. If something is never built, it doesn’t belong in the backlog; it belongs in the trash. If it’s important enough, evaluate it in the future and treat it accordingly.

When managed well, the backlog should be an orderly queue of inspiration. By prioritizing the items kept there, it can serve that purpose. Finally, the product team should consider categorizing items coming up for prioritization separately. But doing so requires discipline and hard choices when implementing a prioritization framework.

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