Product Prioritization: Buy-a-Feature

Using cash to identify key ideas

Welcome to ‘Product Prioritization’ — our series of tools, tips, and best practices for the skilled Product Manager to determine priorities and get results. Each month, we will highlight one of the dozens of popular methodologies and explain how to use it.

For our third installment, we take a look at ‘Buy-a-Feature.’

At Left Travel, we enjoy using the ‘Buy-a-Feature’ technique when working with internal teams or external users who ‘want it all.’ It’s always challenging working with stakeholders who want all of the features, all at the same time — this prioritization technique helps enable them to describe the value they see in the features in a new way.

What is ‘Buy-a-Feature’?

‘Buy-a-feature’ is a product prioritization technique used when a product is under development to quantifiably estimate how valuable a feature or an idea is. To do so, a product team will work directly with customers and key stakeholders to solicit feedback and prioritize enhancements or features which the participants want or value most.

How to use ‘Buy-a-Feature.’

Our team loves this prioritization technique, and as such, we highly recommend it under the right circumstances, such as during an in-person focus group. To use it, we’ve developed a game that breaks it into 5 simple steps:

Step 1: Make a feature list.
As a team, make a list of the features that need to be prioritized.

Step 1.5: *Optional* Assign each feature a price.
Give each feature on the list a value or price. The value or price should be based on the relative size, LOE, and scope of the project to represent the effort required to build it.

At Left, we’ve run this technique with and without prices. While both options work well, we’ve found that by having prices it helps focus groups that are outside of software development understand the actual ‘cost’ of a project.

Step 2: Get customers and stakeholders together.
Get your company’s stakeholders and/ or customers into a room (or on a video call) to start the game. Explain the features on your list to the group to ensure everyone has full clarity on their benefits.

Step 3: Give out the cash.
Give everyone in the focus group the same amount of money to use during the game. If you’ve assigned prices to the features as in Step 1.5, give them between 50–60% of the total cost of all of the listed features. This is to make sure they are being selective in their buying decisions.

Step 4: Have them buy.
Ask your stakeholders to “buy” the features they like. They can spend all their money on one or two, or spread it out evenly — it’s their “money,” they can spend it how they want to!

Observe the buying process and have the stakeholders explain why they spent money on the features that they picked. This is the Product Manager’s opportunity to listen to your customers and/ or stakeholders and understand both their individual and group ‘buying’ decisions.

Step 5: Collect observations for action.
Arrange the list of features by order of how much was spent on each feature (top=most money; bottom=least money). Now you have a list of features ranked and a value assigned to them.

Once the game is completed, use the ranked list and collected observations to make informed decisions on future product development based off of your customers’ and stakeholders’ needs.

Tips when using Buy-a-Feature:

  • This technique carries more weight when done with end-users as it shows the value they see in the features they would use in the product.
    This game can be run either individually with a stakeholder, or in a group of stakeholders.
  • If there are a few features that are bought with a similar amount of money, group them together. For example, a $5 difference between two features may be insignificant or subjective to the particular stakeholder, depending on how much money you gave the group.
  • Allow ideas to flow from your participants. If new features or ideas come up, use the structure of the game to ask what the estimated value of the feature would be and where it would fit within the ranked list.
  • For a fun twist, use real money. There’s something about handling real money that changes people’s buying behaviour.
Brent