How we decide what to build next

Stuart Hall
by Stuart Hall
March 18, 2016

Feature requests, bug reports, wants, needs, nice to haves but what to build next? As product managers we are overwhelmed by all these on a daily basis.

At Appbot we spend a lot of time listening to and watching our customers (not in a creepy way ?). Customer feedback is by far the best source of ideas for new features.

Here I wanted to share our current process at Appbot on deciding what to build next, how we identify and decide.

Listen for pain points, not solutions

There’s a fine line between building what your users want and feature creep. Suggestions more often than not come about in the form of a solution.

“Your product should do X”

As product managers it’s our job to find out why. This means asking “why?” a lot.

What we are looking for is the pain points, what is the customer trying to solve when they want a particular solution.

Collate the pain points

I can guarantee you that once you start discovering the pain points rather than the feature requests you’ll start seeing the same recurring themes over and over again.

Write the pain points down, add votes to them when they come back again.

What to build next

Now you have a nice list to work from, you can just pick the one off the top, right? You could, but we take it one step further.

The product team gathers around a whiteboard and we start throwing ideas up onto the board, sometimes there can be 20 ideas pitched. Things that customers have brought up and ideas of our own.

Once all the ideas are up we start to vote on 3 different factors:

* What % of customers will it benefit? – Is it something 100% of customers will use, or an integration maybe 2% will use?
* How difficult is it to implement? (100 for super simple, 0 for impossible)
* What potential impact does it have on our revenue? (100 for huge impact, 0 for no impact)

The we take those three numbers and add them together and it becomes obvious very quickly which one we should build next.

what to build next

Afterwards we clear the whiteboard and completely forget what came 2nd. If it doesn’t come up during the next planning session then it’s not worth doing.

Results

We are still working on our process, it’s far from fool proof. But it does help us make a decision quickly.

You can see in the chart below the impact on our Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) major releases have had for us.

Screenshot 2016-03-18 13.37.51

We are going to continue talking to our customers, find out their pain points and then implement those features that will have a big impact both on their business and ours.

Hope this helps!

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