How to make world-class product decisions

Updated 13. Apr 2023

Making decisions is a critical part of life🤔. We have to make decisions every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Some decisions are small, like what to wear or what to eat. Others are more important, like whether or not to go to college or which job offer to accept.

⏩In the next paragraphs, you can read a few words about systems and personal decisions. Or you can skip the section describing how to make a team-wide product decision-making machine.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Software development decisions can significantly impact a project's future and, as such, must be carefully considered. From decisions about how to meet customer needs and business objectives to decisions about features, user experience (UX) design🌈, bug fixes🐛, programming language selection and framework choice, the decisions we make inform the success or failure of a project.

✔Check our free 👀 tool to help your team set product priorities straight.

When I started as a product analyst, I remember deciding which framework to use was among the most difficult I had to make. Looking back now, it's clear that such decisions contributed a little to my professional career. The most I learnt was through trial and error. By doing things. And the most important lesson was that, in the end, it's all about priorities. Because if I focused on the wrong thing, I was very quickly overwhelmed with unimportant stuff.

"If You Don't Prioritize Your Life, Someone Else Will"

📌Ask yourself:

  • How are you deciding about your priorities in life?

Making good personal decisions is essential, but it cannot be easy. Sometimes we second-guess ourselves and change our minds after we've made a decision, but other times we regret them because we didn't think them through carefully enough.

But suppose you want to be or remain a successful CPO, Product Director, Product Manager or Product Analyst. That's when the tables turn. You're not the one deicing about the priorities of the product, but your customers and market are. Read on.

Systems for effective decision making

"Goals are for losers." - Scott Adams.

The size of an organization can have a significant impact on the decision-making process. Larger organizations tend to be more complex and require additional levels of approval, which can slow down the decision-making process🐌. Smaller teams may find it easier to move fast as they make decisions with fewer layers of bureaucracy🐰. No matter the team's size, even the most agile ones will fail more often without proper processes.

"In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system" - Scott Adams.

Goals can provide direction and motivation, but they can be out of our control. Accomplishments are less fleeting than goals, but working on a problematic goal without seeing any progress can lead to feelings of stress. The content description shows how changing circumstances can make it impossible for someone to reach their goals, even if they put in the hard work. Goals can still be beneficial in providing guidance and focus, as long as we remember that sometimes elements outside our control may prevent us from achieving them.

Making a company-wide product decision-making machine

A system provides a method and requires activity regularly. That’s how successful companies operate.

📌Ask your team:

  • Who is driving product decisions?

There are numerous product prioritization methods, and we will discuss a few in a second. But first, it's important to mention the numerous specifics every team has. And that it is also extremely important to stay flexible and to try and combine different techniques. Let's dig into the specifics of efficient decision-making techniques that help your team choose the next features to develop.

✔Check our free👀 tool to help your team set product priorities straight.

Let's assume you are already familiar with the following:

  • Epics

  • User stories

  • Tasks

  • Spec sheets

The main question is, how does all this stuff gets prioritized?

The content I describe below summarises an Udemy lecture from a course: Become a Product Manager | Learn the Skills & Get the Job.

I chose to summarise their content because of the quality and practicality.

Prioritization is a major part of your CPO, PM, or analyst role. You're in charge of prioritizing everything, not only the tasks up to the epics. But sometimes, you must help the marketing department with branding and product campaigns. You must consider many things for prioritization, such as different teams inside your company, technologies, competitors, etc.

Let's look at a few practical techniques you can use right away:

✔Check our free👀 tool to use similar techniques right away.

1 Assumption testing

🎈Where to use?

Inside of smaller stories, inside the bigger epic.

It's a system to remove risky assumptions and to derisk what the team is doing. For every user story, you must assume a few things. You're trying to remove the risky assumptions through user studies, tests and data. But you can't remove them all. The team must assess the remaining assumptions and discover the biggest assumption.

🤓How to?

  1. Note down the biggest and riskiest assumption of the user story. An example of a good and basic assumption is "Customers will understand that they have to enter their email to log in".

  2. Assign Value score (1-10). A score of 10 is really assuming something, and it's quite risky.

  3. Assign an Importance score (1-10). What is the importance and impact of developing or doing that thing we're assuming?

  4. Rank = Value score + Importance score. Sort assumptions based on that Rank score.

What you're basically trying to achieve is that if you're completely wrong about this one thing, you might want to try it first. You can't gather any more data and can't figure it out until you do it. You might try it first and get information on the next things you're thinking about doing.

2 The Buc Method

🎈Where to use?

Versatile - everything from Epics to Tasks.

B = Business benefits

U = User benefits

C = Cost

🤓How to?

For every Epic, User story, or Task:

  1. Assign a score from 1-10 for B, U, and C categories.

  2. Final Score = B + U - C. Summarise the benefits and subtract the cost.

Prioritise based on that Final Score. The highest priority is the Highest Final Score.

❗NOTE: It's challenging to score things because there isn't enough data to support scoring accurately. That's why it's important to make this a group effort.

✔Check our free👀 tool, where you can prioritize with a team and use similar techniques immediately.

3 The MoSCoW method

🎈Where to use?

Versatile - everything from Epics to Tasks.

M = Must

S = Should

C = Could

W = Would

🤓How to?

Think about things in terms of user and business values. For every Epic, User story, or Task:

  1. Imagine you're not going to make any of [Epic, User story, Task]. And ask yourself, what is the worst thing that happens?

  2. Find things without which you cannot leave without building [Epic, User story, Task] and mark them as an M = Must.

  3. Next, go through other things and ask yourselves if this is something we Should do, or is it something we Could do, or is this something we Would do (if we have an opportunity).

❗NOTE: If you have a Must-have thing, it must not depend on something else you haven't built yet. Make sure that the other feature is also a Must-have.

✔Check our free👀 tool, where you can prioritize with a team and use similar techniques immediately.

Although the three presented methods are helpful, they do not apply to every scenario. For that reason, as I've already mentioned above, there are numerous product prioritization methods and numerous specifics every team has. And that it is also extremely important to stay flexible and to try and combine different techniques.

Our tools allow you to do just that. Not only tailor your decision process system to your needs but also collaborate with your team or customers to help you prioritize your busy backlog of things and make that an inclusive activity.

This second blog focuses mainly on the often-neglected area of product prioritization. We aim to help you define and align your priorities with your product vision. In this blog post, we cover 3 techniques for effective prioritisation. The next one will focus on the definition of product prioritization and your decision-making process.

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📞You can also contact us; we will help you prioritize correctly.