Feature Prioritization Matrix 101 for Product Teams

Userpilot Team
11 min readAug 14, 2023

What’s a feature prioritization matrix and how can product teams leverage it to make better product decisions?

These are the key questions we cover in the article. We also look at:

  • The reasons to use a feature prioritization matrix.
  • How to develop your own prioritization matrix.
  • Prioritization mistakes to avoid.
  • Examples of different prioritization frameworks.
  • And what to do after prioritizing features.

That’s quite a bit, so without further ado, let’s get right to it!

TL;DR

  • A feature prioritization matrix helps product teams decide which features to develop next, focusing on high-impact features and resource optimization.
  • A product prioritization framework helps you maximize customer value and deliver the best ROI by encouraging methodical examination of data before making decisions.
  • They also help PMs ensure that the new features are aligned with product and business goals.
  • To create a prioritization matrix, define criteria that are in line with your goals and create a grid or table around them. As you rate feature ideas according to the criteria, plot them on the grid.
  • Not involving key stakeholders is one of the common prioritization mistakes. This impedes communication with other teams, creates silos, and doesn’t allow you to leverage others’ unique expertise.
  • Customer requests aren’t enough to make product decisions. Validate them with data from other sources, like analytics or insights from customer-facing teams.
  • Not recognizing your personal bias is another mistake. To avoid it, involve a diverse group of stakeholders, including customers, to ensure more objective and customer-centric prioritization.
  • Instead of relying solely on your intuition, supplement it with insights from market and customer research or feedback to inform prioritization decisions.
  • There are a number of different prioritization frameworks, like RICE, Story Mapping, Opportunity Scoring, ICE, and the Kano Model.
  • To choose the right matrix for your team, consider your development framework, the product’s development stage, the organization’s values, available time, and the number of stakeholders involved.
  • After prioritizing features, validate them through customer feedback to ensure they address real user needs, and there’s demand for them.
  • Next, put them on the roadmap, considering feature interdependencies and timelines.
  • To see how Userpilot can help you make informed prioritization decisions, book the demo!

What is a feature prioritization matrix?

A feature prioritization matrix is a product management tool that helps teams decide what features to develop next. It helps them deliver high-impact features efficiently and avoid wasting resources.

The matrix normally consists of a grid or table where all the features are listed along with the criteria.

The criteria usually revolve around feature importance, like its business or customer value, the resources required to build them, like cost or time, and how much they reflect the organization’s values and goals.

Why should product managers use a prioritization framework?

A feature prioritization framework helps the product team to deliver high-impact features. Here are some more benefits to consider:

Maximize customer value and satisfaction

By using a methodical approach to prioritize features based on customer feedback, market research, and user data, product managers can identify features that are most aligned with customer needs and preferences.

This enables the team to have a better chance of delivering a positive user experience and increasing customer satisfaction. This often translates into higher feature adoption and customer retention.

Alignment with product/business goals

Using a feature prioritization matrix helps the team stay true to the product vision and strategy.

By prioritizing potential features using predefined criteria, PMs can better identify features that will have the biggest impact on achieving product goals and the company’s strategic objectives.

It also helps them to avoid falling into the build trap and building bloated products with a diluted value proposition.

Product vision
Product vision.

Allocate resources effectively

Even if they wanted to build all the features in the world, PMs can’t do it because they’re limited by the available time, budget, or expertise of the team.

Using a prioritization framework forces the PM to consider the feature’s complexity and required resources. As a result, they’re able to allocate the time, money, and skillset they have at their disposal to those initiatives that will deliver the best ROI.

How do you create a prioritization matrix?

Here’s the process of creating a simple prioritization matrix (the value vs. effort framework), step by step:

  1. Select the criteria. In this case, we’re using a feature’s customer/business value on one hand and the effort required to build it on the other.
  2. Create the grid. In our grid, the X axis represents Value, and the Y axis — Effort.
  3. Divide the grid into 4 quadrants.
  • Low value-Low effort — fill-ins
  • High value-Low effort — quick wins
  • Low value-High effort — time sinks
  • High value-High effort — big projects

4. Prioritize the features. Place each feature into one of the quadrants.

To make the prioritization process even more granular, you could assign numerical values to each feature. For example, a particular feature could score 2 on Value, and 5 on Effort. Then you divide Value by Effort, so 2/5=0.4

If you consider one of the criteria to be more important than the other, you could also weigh the scores:

Value — 60%, so 2 x 0.6= 1.2
Effort — 40%, so 5 x 0.4= 2
Overall — 1.2/2=0.6

Feature prioritization matrix: Value vs. Effort
Feature prioritization matrix: Value vs. Effort.

Example of the Value vs Effort feature prioritization framework

Let’s imagine you’re a product manager developing a platform that helps businesses streamline their HR processes and improve employee management. Your team has a backlog of features and improvements they want to prioritize.

To do so, they decide to use the Value vs. Effort prioritization framework.

Here’s the outcome of the prioritization process, by feature:

  • Advanced employee performance analytics — High value (7/10) — High effort (8/10)
  • Customizable HR reporting and insights — High value (8/10) — Low effort (4/10)
  • Employee onboarding and offboarding portal — Low value (4/10) — High effort (6/10)
  • Document storage — Low value (4/10) — Low effort (4/10)

Based on the scoring and classification, the team decides to prioritize the customizable reporting feature.

Mistakes to avoid in the feature prioritization process

Here are a few common mistakes that product managers make during the prioritization process.

Not involving stakeholders in the process

When prioritizing features, you should involve all the key stakeholders, like the senior leadership or the development team.

First, this improves communication and alignment across all teams involved in the development process and ensures they are on the same page.

Second, it leverages their unique expertise and perspectives. For example, the developers are in the best position to assess the feasibility of the feature or the effort required to build it.

Finally, it increases ownership. When people are involved in decision-making, their commitment increases. For instance, the senior managers are less likely to undermine the PM’s decisions.

Relying solely on feature requests received from customer feedback

Customer requests are a valuable source of ideas. However, it shouldn’t be the only one.

To get a more objective view, triangulate customer feedback with product analytics. In this way, you will be able to understand why the users are requesting the feature in the first place. This allows you to identify the best way to address their needs and pain points.

For instance, you may be able to solve it by providing more in-app guidance or improving the onboarding to help them discover the right features. Or you may come up with innovative ideas that better solve the problem.

What’s more, not all feature requests will be in line with the product vision.

feature-request
Feature request.

Team/individual bias when prioritizing features

As a product manager, you know the product to the core. You’ve been a part of its inception and growth. The product is your baby, and surely you know what’s best for it, don’t you?

Not quite. You and your team may be biased, and this makes it very difficult to make decisions that will genuinely advance customer and business goals.

This is another reason not to exclude other stakeholders and customers from the prioritization process.

Relying on gut feeling alone

Good intuition is an important trait of a good PM. However, making decisions on gut feeling only won’t take you far. You may make a good call once or twice, but you will be out of luck sooner or later.

And making data-driven decisions is getting easier and easier, so there’s no reason to rely exclusively on your intuition.

Conduct market research, collect customer feedback, run product analytics, and seek input from sales and support teams to collect the data necessary to make informed decisions.

Use analytics to support prioritization decisions
Use analytics to support prioritization decisions.

5 additional feature prioritization frameworks for product teams

Apart from the popular Value vs Effort matrix, there are a number of other useful frameworks that your team may consider.

1. RICE method for determining which features go on the product roadmap

RICE is a prioritization matrix developed originally by Intercom.

The name stands for:

  • Reach — how many customers will benefit from the feature
  • Impact — how it’s going to benefit the customers or the organization — e.g., improve retention
  • Confidence — how confident you are about your estimate of the reach, impact, or effort
  • Effort — what resources you will need to deliver the features

To implement the RICE matrix, first score each feature along each of the dimensions. Next, multiply Reach, Impact, and Confidence, and divide it by Effort.

Feature prioritization matrix: RICE
Feature prioritization matrix: RICE.

2. Story mapping for prioritizing features based on user stories

Story mapping is a visualization technique that allows you to map out all the interdependencies between individual backlog items.

You start the prioritization process by mapping out the user journey and all the touchpoints. Next, you list all the corresponding tasks and actions that users perform at each of them and present them as user stories. It’s important that they’re small enough to be completed in one sprint.

Next, you score each of them based on your criteria, like impact or effort.

Feature prioritization matrix: Story Mapping
Feature prioritization matrix: Story mapping.

3. Opportunity scoring for identifying features that increase customer satisfaction

Opportunity scoring is a customer-centric prioritization technique that focuses on features that users value but need further development to satisfy them entirely.

To implement the framework, you need customer input. Ask them 2 questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the feature, on a scale of 1–10?
  • How important is the feature, on a scale of 1–10?

Next, create a chart in which the X axis represents Importance while the Y axis — Satisfaction, and plot the features onto it. Your priority should be the Underserved features, i.e., those of high importance but low satisfaction.

Feature prioritization matrix: Opportunity Scoring
Feature prioritization matrix: Opportunity scoring.

4. ICE scoring model for prioritizing high-value product features

The ICE prioritization framework is a simplified version of the RICE model developed by Sean Ellis.

The acronym ICE stands for Impact, Confidence, and Ease. To apply it, score each feature along each of the criteria on a scale of 1–10 and then multiply the results. The higher the score, the more important the feature.

Feature prioritization matrix: ICE
Feature prioritization matrix: ICE.

5. Kano model for identifying basic features, satisfiers, and delighters

The Kano model is a well-known prioritization framework.

It’s used to prioritize product features into three general categories:

  • Threshold features/Basics — the essential core features that make up the MVP. If you skip them, the product won’t do the job it’s meant to.
  • Performance features/Satisfiers — features that aren’t essential but very important because they increase customer satisfaction. It’s difficult to build competitive products without these features.
  • Excitement features/Delighters — the features exceed users’ expectations and give them extra satisfaction. They captivate the users’ imagination and make your product stand out from the competition.
Feature prioritization matrix: Kano Model
Feature prioritization matrix: Kano model.

How to select the right prioritization framework for your SaaS?

When selecting the feature prioritization matrix from your team, consider the following criteria:

  • Development lifecycle: prioritization frameworks like the Kano Model or MoSCoW (Must Haves, Should Haves, Could Haves, Won’t Haves) are great for scoping waterfall projects but are of limited use in Agile.
  • Development stage: early on in the product lifecycle, you can prioritize features using a general framework like the Kano Model or Product Tree. However, later on, you may need a more detailed scoring system to prioritize the backlog items.
  • Organizational values and goals: a customer-centric organization may choose Opportunity Scoring or the Kano Model as they prioritize customer satisfaction and delight, while Value vs Effort may appeal to organizations that focus on business goals.
  • Time available: for quick decisions, a simple matrix like Value vs Effort will work better than techniques that require considerable reflection, collaboration, or complex calculations.
  • Stakeholders: certain techniques, like Priority Poker, often used by Agile teams, is not suitable when lots of stakeholders are involved. In this situation, a framework like RICE is recommended.
Feature prioritization technique: Priority Poker
Feature prioritization technique: Priority poker.

What should product teams do after prioritizing product features?

Once you prioritize your features, you still need to validate them and only then include them in the product roadmap. Let’s look at both of the processes.

Validate features through customer feedback

Feature validation can help you confirm that you’ve made the right prioritization decisions.

How can you do it?

It’s best to involve customers. Start with techniques that don’t require many resources, like a fake door test. If the results are positive, develop a low-fidelity prototype and show it to your customers. Use the feedback to improve it and build a more complex version. Rinse and repeat.

The more realistic the prototypes get, the easier it is to validate them as real customers can test them out in real-life conditions.

Feedback request
Feedback request modal built in Userpilot.

Create a product roadmap

Product roadmap is a visualization tool that allows you to communicate your product strategy with stakeholders, both internal and external.

Once you prioritize and validate your features, you’ll have to include them in your roadmap. Depending on the maturity of the product and the complexity of the features, this could be very straightforward or verging on impossible.

For example, if you already have a product in place and there are complex interdependencies between various features in the pipeline, it will require a fair bit of juggling and negotiation.

Roadmap template
Roadmap template.

Conclusion

A feature prioritization matrix is a tool that can help you make better decisions about which feature to develop first.

By outlining clear criteria that are aligned with organizational and product goals, it forces the team to assess feature ideas methodically. In this way, they can minimize the negative impact of personal bias or external pressure on the product development process.

If you want to see how you can use Userpilot to collect customer data that will help you make informed prioritization decisions, book the demo!

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Userpilot Team

Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com