Simple prioritization framework for making better guesses

Recently at Stockwerk Makers meetup, I had the honor to tell how product development prioritization is done at our company ResQ Club. This framework could be for you if you:

  • think most prioritization/roadmap frameworks out there are way too complicated

  • feel that long-term plans are merely guesses, if even that

  • prefer actually working efficiently instead of second-guessing whenever a new idea comes to somebody’s mind

  • accept that you can never be 100% right, but still want to have confidence you are going to the right direction

So, let’s start.

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On the left you see an example of one of the projects we did earlier this year, on the right you see (a part of) our ideas backlog. Why did we pick this project instead of all the other possibilities? What makes that idea stand out from the others?

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We force ourselves to look at the big picture every two months, reminding us why we exist and what we ought to accomplish (outcomes instead of outputs!). Then we come down and peel off one layer of abstraction at the time, landing at a pool of possible projects that have a direct (hopefully positive) impact on us reaching our objectives.

First we ask “Why we do what we do?”. If we don’t remember why our company exists, why should we come to work in the morning at all? This shouldn’t change every two months – it’s more about checking whether or not we are acting accordingly.

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Our mission at ResQ Club is to “Stop food from being thrown away”.

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From this abstraction, and being aware of where we stand as a company and as a business, we define our next milestone for a few months into the future. Six months is not set in stone, and we keep the objective as it is until it is actually reached (we can’t predict the future, after all).

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For us, our objective is to bring our service to international markets all the while staying profitable. Do you already see how this imposes constraints and gives guidance on prioritising product development projects?

To not make a premature leap from objectives to concrete projects, we soften the blow by agreeing on focus areas (themes) that help us to reach our objective. As the objective is still relatively abstract (and vague), it makes it easier to a) align your team around initiatives that matter and b) to give proper context for people making day-to-day decisions.

For us our current focus areas are “Automation”, “Partner engagement” and “Bad to good UX”. These support our efforts to expand to new markets while staying profitable in the following ways:

Automation reduces the complexity of our service, enabling us to decrease our headcount per market.

Improving our product for higher partner engagement increases our marketplace liquidity and defensibility, helping us to keep high level of offering in new markets without labor-intensive account management work.

Bad to good UX reduces support workload as we prevent any occurrence of a bad user experience from happening again.

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At this point, it’s rather easy to take a look at our project backlog and start making decisions on which projects to take on to improve on these aforementioned parts of our service.

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And there it is, hopefully making more sense to you as well!

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It’s helpful to map your projects to your themes in your day-to-day work, as well as write down what your themes are actually about.

Alternative framework for freelancers / small teams

Feel like that the above framework is too complex? Not really aiming for the moon, but trying to just get some focus to your side project? Try this simplified version then.

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Hope this helps, let me know what you think. I’m always open for a quick chat if I feel I might be able to add any value to you.

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