I really believe that effective prioritization is the most critical skill a Product Manager should have.
- Productivity is meaningless if your team is solving the wrong issues.
- Communication with stakeholders is easy if your priority order makes sense.
Two types of Prioritization
Let’s take a step back and explore the two types of prioritization that are needed in Product Management.
1. Within a Project
These are tasks that are part of a project with a clear deliverable (an epic).
You have a list of user stories that are part of a major feature and you need to choose what needs to be included in version 1.
This type of prioritization is simple. This is project management; it’s like planning a party.
- You scope the project
- Define the hard requirements as part of the project.
- You define some deferral candidates so you can cut the scope if necessary.
- You work with the team to ensure that you are optimizing development so engineers aren’t blocked.
2. Independent Projects
By independent projects, I mean prioritizing a list of stories/features/bugs that can each independently add value to the company.
We can either improve the accounts page or spend time reducing technical debt.
Here, you are ranking investment opportunities; you are deciding where engineering effort should be allocated to return the highest value for the company.
Independent Project Prioritization
This is the essence of product management. Your product isn’t a project; there is no final deliverable.
Your job is to optimize the evolution of your product in the direction of your company’s vision.
It’s not a simple function.
Trying to calculate ROI for everything will just get you in trouble.