How do I prioritise what I want? (requirement prioritisation)

Great Products ConsultingDefine (Requirements), Project ManagementLeave a Comment

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Prioritisation is probably a concept that you’re familiar with – you take a list of things and figure out which ones are more important than the other ones. Sounds simple enough?!

When you’re building an online web platform or mobile app, prioritisation comes up all of the time! In this article, I’ll look at prioritisation as it relates to defining what you want your product to do. This notion of requirement prioritisation is a difficult one to grasp – because everything is important!  I'm going to take you through this process and share some tips for prioritising what you want.

What are you prioritising?

Requirements describe what you want your product to do. Requirements range from high-level statements (e.g. The user will be able to create an account) to detailed statements (e.g. The user will be able to create an account with their first name, an email address and a password). Every requirement needs a priority so you know how important it is.  

Prioritisation methods

There are really two main prioritisation methods:

  1. Low/Medium/High or Must Have/Should Have/Nice to Have; and
  2. Ranking

Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail:

1. Low/Medium/High or Must Have/Should Have/Nice to Have

This is a simple categorisation of your requirements based on the following criteria:

  1. High/Must Have: These are the things that have to be there in order to launch your product. They are critical to the success of your product. If these things don’t work, you have to delay your launch until things are fixed.
  2. Medium/Should Have: These are the things that “should” be there for the launch of your product, but don’t stop the launch from going ahead if they're not built or not working properly.
  3. Low/Nice to Have: These are the extra things that you’d like your product to do, but they’re not all that important to your product right now.

All of your requirements are given one of these priorities. Initially, your product will be focused on the “high priority” requirements, and if there’s time and money, the “medium priority” requirements can be included. Generally, your “low priority” requirements will be built after your initial launch.  

2. Ranking

Ranking is a straight-forward list that starts from 1 (the most important) and increases sequentially from there. It dictates the importance of one requirement relative to all other requirements. This is the method used in the Agile methodology to manage the list of things to be built. You start with 1, and keep going down the list until you reach your last requirement. You’ll have to decide which of the requirements on your list need to be included in your initial launch, and then you’ll continually develop your product after that.  As new requirements are discovered, these need to be slotted into the list based on their priority.

How do you decide the priority?

So, how do you decide if something is a “must have”? Which requirement is #1?

There are several things to consider. Requirements are important if it's:

  1. Critical to solving the main problem/need/goal you’re trying to address
  2. A legal, regulatory, or security requirement
  3. Needed for a satisfactory user experience
  4. Inclusion will help you to achieve your goals
  5. Driven by potential customer and user feedback

The key is to be as objective as possible in setting your priorities. You may even have to test how important a requirement is by talking to potential customers and users. Prioritisation should be an informed business decision. Make sure you take the emotion out of it. You can’t make everything a “must have” – otherwise, you’ll never launch!

Why is prioritisation important?

You’ve prioritised all of your requirements, so how does this help you build your platform or app?

Prioritisation comes into play when you’re deciding how much you want to build. Unless you’ve got all of the time and money in the world, you need to make decisions about what to include in your development project. If you’ve prioritised your requirements objectively, you start with your highest priority requirements first. Most people are constrained by their budgets, so prioritisation forces you to decide if you really need something or not.    

Prioritisation also becomes a consistent and easy way to make decisions about your development project, and to communicate the importance of each requirement to your team. If a high-priority feature is taking longer than it should to build, or if there are issues with it during testing, then everyone knows what they should be working on.

Prioritisation is ongoing

After you’ve launched, you continue to add new features and functions to your product, and you’re going to have to decide what to build next. You should continue to prioritise these requirements, so that you can make objective decisions about the improvements you make to your platform or app. This will ensure that you’re spending your money on the right things – and that’s critical for your product’s success.

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