Show Notes:

I have collected around half a dozen feature prioritisation strategies over time that I refer to while planning my product release. It makes you feel you are in control and on top of things when you are equipped with such valued knowledge. With such a body of collected wisdom accumulated over years, you tend to think you would never go wrong applying these principles. One principle that has stayed with me over sometime is offered by Jeff Sutherland, which he shared in his book  Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. (Listen to my podcast on the book summary of Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum)The Chapter 8 of the book is titled Priorities.
Let me first summarise the key take away from the chapter.

80 percent of the value is in 20 percent of the features.


“The true power of Scrum lies in its ready, prioritised, and sized backlog of what to do.”: Scott Maxwell.

The first thing you need to do when you’re implementing Scrum is to create a Backlog. It can be hundreds of items long, or contain only the few things that you need to figure out first. The idea behind the Backlog is that it should have everything that could possibly be included in the product. You’re never going to actually build it all, but you want a list of everything that could be included in that product vision.

Now the big question is what you decide to do first?

The questions you need to ask are: what are the items that have the biggest business impact, that are most important to the customer, that can make the most money, and are the easiest to do?

You have to realize that there are a whole bunch of things on that list that you will never get to, but you want to get to the things that deliver the most value with the lowest risk first. With Scrum’s incremental development and delivery, you want to begin with the things that will immediately create revenue, effectively “de-risking” the project. And you want to do that on the features level. In product development there’s a hard-and-fast rule that has been proven over and over again.

80 percent of the value is in 20 percent of the features.

“The difficult part isn’t figuring out what you want to accomplish; it’s figuring out what you can accomplish.”: Scott Maxwell

Figure out where the most value can be delivered for the least effort, and do that one right away. Then identify the next increment of value, and the next. The key is prioritizing the work. And product owner must know it.

Why you could still fail to apply this principle?

For you to be able to apply judgement and pick the vital 20 percent of your features for your sprint team to work in a sprint, you should have been able to complete research on value, usability and feasibility of the all the features in hand much ahead of time. For example, if you have ten features in hand, for you to be able to pick the vital two of the ten, your customer team should have evaluated and researched on value, feasibility and usability of all ten features and put them in a Value Vs Difficulty matrix.
If you have failed to do customer research and discovery for all the intended features, you will be compelled to pass along those features which you are ready with but may not be high value.

Hence, make sure the customer team is ready with its VUF (Value, Usability, Feasibility) research of its features well ahead of the sprint planning.