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MANAGING THE BUSINESS OF SOFTWARE

Focus on doing a few things really well. Spreading your efforts across too many projects prevents any of them from succeeding.—Steve Johnson, product management evangelist (yes, I’m quoting myself) [Tweet this]

I was in an airport after a conference and watched a fellow passenger groom his backlog. He was old school; he had his stories on index cards. And he was flipping through them, moving some around, making notes on others. Finally, when my curiosity got the best of me, I asked, “Are you grooming your backlog?”

He was surprised I had a clue about what he was doing. We had a nice long discussion about his job, his role in the product team, and his difficulties in knowing how to feed the team with user stories.

The big issue: knowing what to give them next.

Prioritization is a critical skill for product management.Prioritization is a critical skill used for many of the items in your product playbook. The basic tenet of prioritization is to make a list of all the things you want to accomplish and order the list based on value.

We don’t want the product team cherry-picking the list for easy stuff or fun stuff. We always want them working on the most important thing. And we don’t want product managers and product owners just guessing; we want to know that this is more important than that.

It’d be ideal if we can hard facts to work from, like the results of a survey or perhaps the “jelly beans and fishbowl” approach described in my ebook,"On Roadmaps and Roadmapping." But absent hard facts, we ought to be able to use our judgment and simple prioritization scheme.

Here’s one approach…

Just count up the number of YES answers for a score. Or, you can use this prioritization scheme with low, medium, and high or 1 through 5 or use a Fibonacci system. I prefer to keep it simple by using just YES and NO. You can use a similar scheme with roadmap items, products, features, epics, and stories. For that matter, you can use it for promotional items as part of an agile marketing plan.

Here's a screen shot from Under10 Playbook showing this method to compare multiple opportunities. 

screen shot from Under10 Playbook

Are you grooming your backlog by shuffling? Or are you using a quick, objective system?

Whether rating a competitor or a feature or a product idea, objective decisions beat subjective ones every time. [tweet this]

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