How To Effectively Prioritize Your Product Backlog

5 min readMay 16, 2022
Stick Figure Prioritizing a List

I really believe that effective prioritization is the most critical skill a Product Manager should have.


  1. Productivity is meaningless if your team is solving the wrong issues.
  2. 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.

  1. You scope the project
  2. Define the hard requirements as part of the project.
  3. You define some deferral candidates so you can cut the scope if necessary.
  4. 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.