When the Hopper’s Overflowing, How Do You Prioritize NPD?

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As a Product Manager, you are the center of activity for everything involving the product(s) you are responsible for.  Depending on your organization the scope will vary.  However one thing is consistent: You have to balance new feature requests, time to market, and finite development resources.

In my experience, how you approach this problem varies significantly, primarily, according to company size. Larger organizations will have more-established durable processes and requirements. Smaller companies will be more ad hoc with decisions largely left to the individual manager. I have lived in both.

From the perspective of a Product Manager with P&L experience, I have some high level views. For established products (e.g. anything R2.0 and beyond), there will be short, medium, and long time frame development efforts.

jtpedersen_321 Ignite_railroad tracks_choice_NPD (2)For instance, you are focused on delivering for the current quarter, next quarter will already be underway, and then infrastructure-level efforts (e.g. platform technology changes) required to support roadmap efforts multiple quarters down the road.

At any given time there is more you will want to achieve than you have resources for. This become acutely apparent in the short-term when deciding what makes the cut for the next release.  Here, the criteria can look like:

  • What is the impact on long term efforts?
  • Is there immediate revenue impact?
  • Is there a time-to-market consideration (frequently, but not always)?
  • What are the political (e.g. internal) considerations?
  • Are there any executive overrides (e.g. ’cause the CEO said so). ?

The last point is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I have seen more than one new feature rushed through development because the CEO promised something on-stage during a major presentation.

Constant management and juggling…is part of the deal, part of the product manager’s life. However I constrain myself to avoid overdoing it. Priorities, aside from barn-burners that show up unannounced, are reevaluated at every half-cycle. For instance, if your major release cycles are quarterly, then formally review where you’re at every 6 weeks.

There’s no one answer. I simply figure out what works for my organization(s), and then work to make the basic processes transparent, understandable, and consistently applied.

If you are a product manager, how do you assess priorities?

Image credit(s):
Priority – Nick Cowie
Railroad Tracks – Jan Flaska