Product Roadmap Prioritization: How to Decide What to Build—and Get Your Stakeholders to Agree
What’s priority number one on your roadmap? Here’s your guide on figuring that out.
Prioritization is hard.
The problem isn’t just deciding what to build.
It’s also the stakes. (Imagine you build the wrong thing, waste everyone's time, and lose customers… Yikes.)
It’s also the team. (Some of the most difficult moments of my product management life have been in meetings trying to get everyone to agree to the roadmap.)
It’s also dealing with your own uncertainty. (You’ve made a decision… but is it a good one? How do you know? Are you even qualified to be making product decisions?)
So ya, it’s hard. But having a good system can make roadmap prioritization easier.
In this article, I’m giving product teams a step-by-step guide to prioritizing features on their roadmap and getting approval.
Roadmap prioritization principles
There are many ways you can approach prioritization, but some are better than others. In my opinion, there are some critical foundational pieces you need to have a robust prioritization process.
Solid data and metrics
We get it, Kareem. Data is important, yada yada yada.
I know, it’s like you can’t read anything anymore without some phony talking vaguely about the “importance of data.” Here’s what I mean, specifically:
Understand how your customers use your product. You can get that from user interviews, screen recordings of user sessions, data on user behaviour, and so on.
Understand what problems your customers have. You can get this from customer product feedback and feature requests.
Understand which customers have which problems. You can get this by collecting customer data and attaching it to feature requests. Then, slice and dice your feature requests by their plan type, MRR, region, etc.
Those things will help you prioritize features better. But they’ll also help you justify your prioritization decisions to the other people on your team.
The data above is geared towards helping you be customer-centric. Customer-centric companies are companies that prioritize the needs, preferences, and satisfaction of their customers above all else. They focus on understanding and fulfilling customer demands, delivering personalized and positive experiences, and building long-term relationships with their customers.
Why be customer-centric? Because it fosters success. For example, Deloitte has found that customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t focused on customer outcomes. For you, it means consistently maintaining market fit, improving sales, and boosting customer retention.
How does centering the needs of your customers impact roadmapping? Being customer-centric means using your customer feedback and feature requests as part of your decision-making approach. Be customer-centric by:
Collecting customer product feedback and feature requests
Close the loop with customers when you build what they ask for
Different types of features
Thinking about your customers’ needs is important, but it’s obviously not the only thing that matters. You should include customer feature requests on your roadmap but don’t forget strategic features they haven’t asked for or technical debt.
We like to handle this by setting aside separate “buckets'' for our development budget. For example, you might assign 50% of your Dev hours to customer feature requests, 25% to strategic features, and 25% to tech debt.
That way, you can consistently make progress toward what your customers need, what you think could set you apart from competitors, and ensure the technical foundation of your app is solid.
Product managers are usually responsible for roadmap prioritization, but they’re not the only voice.
You already know that: you’ve probably sat through hours of painful meetings trying to get agreement on roadmap priorities.
Getting buy-in can feel like agony, but it’s perhaps the most important part of a PM’s job. And there are ways to make it relatively painless.
With those foundational pieces established, let’s dive into how to prioritize features to your roadmap, step by step.
Step 1: Define your goals
Your product roadmap is a planning document. At its core, it’s designed to help your teams see how you’ll get from here to there.
So, start by defining what “there” is—your end state and your goals. For example, you might establish goals like the following.
Churn. Increase customer retention rate by 10% within the next six months.
Acquisition. Increase the number of new customers acquired by 25% within the next six months.
Free trials. Boost the number of free trial sign-ups by 15% within the next three months.
Expansion. Increase upgrades to the Premium plan by 5% over the next three months.
The goals you set help you define the criteria by which you’ll prioritize features. It’s a critical first step.
My suggestion: Pick the number one business goal for the duration of the roadmap and make that the foundation on which to make prioritization decisions.
Step 2: Identify your stakeholders and involve them
Next, figure out who you need to bring into the prioritization process.
You probably already know who most of these people will be, but take a moment to think a bit more broadly. You’ll probably want to include members of the following teams:
Customer success. They are the customer experts and know what customers are asking for.
Support. They can tell you what features or aspects of your product that customers struggle most with.
Sales. They can tell you best what prospects are asking for and what feature gaps are most responsible for lowering acquisition rates.
Developers. Your product development teams can tell you how much effort new features will take and also where to focus your tech debt development budget.
Executives. They can help evaluate whether your roadmap is consistent with the larger product vision. Also, they typically approve the roadmap, so it’s good to have them be part of the process to create it.
Marketing. This is more optional, but sometimes it’s useful to have marketing involved with feature prioritization so they know what features are coming down the pipe.
Once you know who needs to be involved, figure out how to engage them. Should they participate in the prioritization process? Should you show them a draft roadmap? Will you simply bring everyone in at the end for a presentation and approval meeting?
My suggestion: Include your teams by inviting them to review a draft of your roadmap and provide feedback. Then invite them to a short meeting together to approve the roadmap. That’s what’s worked best for me.
I also really like these stakeholder interview guides from Kim Goodwin. It’s a bit of an oldie, but a goodie.
Step 3: Build your product backlog
Once you know how you’re going to include your internal team members, you can start thinking about features. Here’s when you’ll need to assemble the list of features you’ll prioritize.
If you’ve been collecting new product feature requests from your customers into a feedback repository, this should be fairly straightforward—just look at the backlog of features or initiatives that you’ve already gathered.
Feature voting boards
Your team members
And many more.
Step 4: Decide on a prioritization framework or strategy
Cool—you have your big list of features. Now, choose an approach to prioritization. Run it by your stakeholders so everyone agrees on the criteria you’ll use to make priority decisions.
Some feature prioritization frameworks and models you could consider include:
Savio’s prioritization strategy. We designed this specifically out of our deep experience as PMs. Unlike most other methods, ours focuses specifically on using customer feedback as the central pillar for prioritization.
Value vs. Effort Matrix. Score each feature on its business value and its effort. Prioritize easy and high-value features first.
ICE scoring framework. Score each feature on its impact, effort, and your confidence in your impact and effort scores. Multiply those three factors together. Prioritize from highest ICE score to lowest.
RICE scoring framework. Score each feature on its reach, impact, effort, and your confidence in those scores. Use the formula Reach * Impact * Confidence / Effort to calculate the RICE score for each feature. Prioritize features with the highest scores.
Weighted scoring prioritization framework. Score each feature on criteria that you think are important. Combine each criterion’s score together into a weighted average score. Prioritize features with the highest scores.
MoSCoW priority framework. Chunk down your features into must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won’t-haves. Then prioritize from there.
The Kano framework. Use customer surveys to categorize your features into must-be qualities, one-dimensional qualities, attractive qualities, indifferent qualities, and reverse qualities. Then prioritize from there.
User story mapping framework. Map out your product into activities, tasks, and details in the order that users would do them. Then prioritize from top to bottom, left to right.
Not sure which approach to choose? Here are the prioritization methods I think are worthwhile and the ones to avoid.
Step 5: Create your draft roadmap
Once you’ve chosen your prioritization framework, you just need to go through the steps and do it. You’ll end up with a prioritized list.
Now, put that list on a visual roadmap that you can share with your internal teams and maybe even your customers.
Note: The right roadmapping tool can help. Savio lets you display your customer feedback data directly on your roadmap so stakeholders understand why you made the product decisions you did. Or, find other roadmapping tools here.
Step 6: Get feedback and socialize your stakeholders
Now take that fresh draft and do a listening tour with your stakeholders (you’ve already identified them!).
I like to do this individually because it’s easier to focus on a single perspective and, in my experience, leads to better conversations. Here, the big tips are:
Listen (like, for understanding)
Ask lots of questions
Once you’ve done that with your main stakeholders, go back and revise your priorities.
Step 7: Approve
Finally, get approval in a product meeting.
Here’s when you can gather everyone around the table and have the big conversation. In the old world, these conversations might have been painful.
But this is the new world:
You’ve chosen a prioritization approach that the people in this room have agreed on
You’ve done a thorough job collecting potential features, including from each of the teams present in the room
You’ve carefully considered each feature using the approach you agreed on
You’ve reviewed your draft roadmap with each of these people already
So this meeting should really just be ceremonial.
If there is some disagreement, use your customer feedback data to help justify your product decisions. For example, make relevant customer feedback data (number of requests, MRR, Kano model category, etc) visible on your roadmap. That way, your stakeholders can see the context behind your decisions.
And you're done!
Hopefully, now you have a robust product roadmap that you built relatively painlessly. Let me know what you think—what worked and any advice you have for others.
Roadmap prioritization FAQ
What is a product roadmap?
A product roadmap is a strategic document that outlines the vision, direction, and planned development of a product over a specified time period. It communicates your high-level goals for the product, key features, and milestones.
Roadmaps act as a guide for cross-functional teams to align their efforts. They make it easier to prioritize tasks, manage resources, and set expectations for stakeholders.
What is product roadmap feature prioritization?
Feature prioritization is the process of determining which features, enhancements, or improvements should be developed and added to a product—and in what order. Prioritization is typically based on a feature’s importance, value, and alignment with the overall product strategy.
Prioritization can involve various frameworks and techniques, such as the ones listed above: the MoSCoW method, Value vs. Effort matrix, and the RICE scoring model, among others. These help you evaluate and rank features systematically.
Why do you need to prioritize features?
Prioritization helps product managers and teams allocate resources, time, and effort efficiently by focusing on the features that have the most significant impact on customer satisfaction, user experience, and business goals.
It helps you make sure you’re building the right new features, and which ones you should build first. Ultimately, it helps you create better products.
Kareem is a co-founder at Savio. He's been prioritizing customer feedback professionally since 2001. He likes tea and tea snacks, and dislikes refraining from eating lots of tea snacks.
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