How to Prioritize Product Improvement Ideas

There are a number of reasons that product managers struggle when it comes to managing product improvement ideas or features requests. Sometimes it’s lack of ideas, sometimes it’s a lack of good ideas, sometimes it’s the fact that there’s no way to manage all those new ideas… But sometimes even if you have a good way to manage a lot of good ideas, you’re not sure how to prioritize your product development schedule.

At IdeaScale, this is a question that we hear a lot in a few different formats. Things like “how do I prioritize good ideas when I have them?” or “how do I control for the fact that I don’t have a lot of resources to implement ideas?” or “how do I make sure I select ideas that are going to have a positive impact on my organization?” and the good news is that having a good approach for idea evaluation helps with all these issues and more. Obviously, IdeaScale customers use this evaluation best practice for more than product ideas (they also use it for process improvements or new market discoveries), but the tactics used to evaluate process improvement ideas can also apply to product and feature ideas.

However, everything begins with process. There are a number of different ways to set up an innovation process, but what you’ll notice is that most of these processes resemble a funnel in some way with lots of ideas coming in the front end and just a few being implemented at the end. In a Harvard Business Review article about a disciplined approach to evaluating ideas, the author talks about their evaluation of businesses to invest in and notes that of the ones that they evaluate, only about 8% make it to the final stage. The evaluation methods that you use are the stage gates that determine what makes it to the end, which is why it’s good to define your evaluation methodology at the same time as you define your process. There are at least seven (although probably more) techniques that can be used to evaluate ideas throughout this funnel at the various stage gates.

Usually the lower threshold methods are used in the earlier stages. Buy in and additional research happen towards the middle of the process, and final in-depth alignment and rigorous evaluation measures that review product features against business objectives occur at the end of the funnel. The reason this generally happens is because the evaluation in the initial stages often informs the evaluation in the later stages. For example, it’s difficult to provide a practical financial assessment without doing some more in-depth research and investigation in some sort of refinement or proposal-building stage.

Folding Burritos actually has a really great blog post that details numerous ways of understanding and prioritizing product ideas. But you can also view our webinar on the subject.

This is a guest article from IdeaScale. Let us know in the comments how you prioritize product ideas.

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