Product Management

How can Product Managers stay sane when bombarded with ideas and feature requests from all parts of the business?

You work under a constant avalanche of requests. Each department and stakeholder tries to convince you *their* feature is the most important for the product. How do you manage their requests?

  • Product Designer at Peak

    To keep my productivity levels high and my brain sharp and focused, I find it useful to write things down. I find that writing down thoughts and ideas helps clear up the mind and allow me to focus on the bigger picture. For all documentation my go-to app is Notion and I am enjoying every single second I spent on this app.

    This is what my process looks like: On Monday morning, the first task for the day is to prepare the list, check on what's been done and what hasn't. It's important to understand why some things on your list are not yet completed, as it makes it easier to estimate the next weeks and avoid disappointment for not finishing your tasks on time.

    I try to set up goals for the week with priority levels and leave some space for "unexpected tasks", which appear every week.

    Recommendation: Try to break down larger goals into smaller, more achievable chunks. Research has found that smaller goals, not only get accomplished faster but makes us feel more motivational and inspirational.

    The process of achieving goals starts by setting up what you want to achieve. It might take you 30 minutes or more to create a good list, but it's important to first understand whether you are actually targeting the right goals. Only then, you can fully understand what you should be pursuing.

    I'd also recommend you look at...

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  • The Team at JAM

    Products are built from features. So, to build a product is to add (or to remove!) them. If features are like arrows trying to hit the bullseye, a product manager is a shield which stops the badly aimed ones.

    Intuition is not enough for that. You need a system. Capture, Inspect, Prioritise (& Shoot).

    Capture.

    You won’t know which feature to pick unless you have a "menu of options" to choose from.
    Log all requests in one place.
    Spreadsheets are great, but might be getting a little too 2014 in the era of shared project management tools like Trello, or Productboard.
    Make it easy to submit requests.
    When everyone has a “genius idea” just logging it would take half of your day. Let people submit requests themselves. But be sure to specify the information you need to receive to make sense of their ideas. Rather than “Make it easy to upload pictures”, you should get:

    I want to be able to (do what?) upload photos from Google Pictures directly, (at what point/where?) when using the editor. (Current state/problem) Now, I have to exit the app, download the pictures to my phone, and re-upload them in the editor. (+ Screenshots)

    Inspect.

    Go through feature requests regularly. Acknowledge the feedback you get, both from the team and the users. Telling users their input matters builds loyalty (or product stickiness for you SAAS folk!), and increases the chances of turning them into promoters. Sometimes just replying “thanks for taking the time to share your feedback” is enough. You, might want to add a funny gif to that message to sound less like a bot. Or better, read Tom Greever’s “Articulating Design Decisions”.

    Categorise the feedback you get.

    Is it a bug, an emerging need, or new feature request? With clear categories you’ll be able to quantify the impact of acting upon a request.

    Prioritise.

    Establish your prioritisation criteria. Consider the goals you’re trying to achieve, your constraints, and the impact of executing a particular feature on the users. Score each idea based on these parameters to assign them a final value (more on user impact scores here).

    With clear numerical values assigned to each feature, it will be easy to see which one is a priority.

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  • Product Manager at Enablon

    Even though I haven't found the universal recipe for this (but I'm still looking!), there are some techniques you can use to keep your head above the water:

    Challenging the requests you receive

    Always coming back to the root need (the “why”), you might realize some feature requests coming from stakeholders are actually not the right solution to a real problem, or that there is actually no problem to fix.

    Putting in place a dedicated process to receive feature requests

    Prioritizing
    In an ideal world, it would be nice to build all possible features… But, in the real world you have to choose which are the key ones that will drive real customer value. This is what is important (and hard) to identify. Defining a list of criteria that you will look at to prioritize and validate it with your product leadership team can help.

    Categorizing the requests
    Identify the criteria that apply best to your case and will help organize your backlog. Also, some requests often are isolated or very specific and wouldn’t apply to the majority of your customers.

    Involving your customers
    By hearing from your customers, your will learn to identify their key needs and what’s truly important to focus on.

    There is no one way to approach this issue, and no unique recipe. My advice would be to keep moving forward and trying new ways.

    If it doesn’t work, try again and do better.

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