Feature selection made easy

Have you heard the phrase “Everything is important!” or “Everything is top priority”? Such statements can result in effects that ripple through product development. No matter what, delivery teams will have the same work capacity and they won’t be able to deliver more. Forcing the situation only leads to endless arguments, dissatisfaction and demotivation, resulting in higher fluctuation, unstable teams, loss of domain knowledge, and even in project failure.

In this article we would like to share a practice that can help Product Owners and business stakeholders to make the first step towards prioritization.

Categorize your features

Kano modeling was proposed by Professor Noriaki Kano of Tokyo Rika University, Japan. It states that the relationship between the performance of a product attribute and satisfaction/dissatisfaction level is not necessarily linear. Kano suggests 3 main categories: Mandatory, Performance and Excitatory features.

But how do we figure out which feature is in which category? Customer surveys, gauging customer feelings toward both having or not having a certain feature help in classification. Answers are evaluated by comparing customers’ preference about having and not having a feature. This way features are classified as….

M – Mandatory or Threshold: Features our customers naturally expect to have in the product. It is a natural expectation for a smartphone to be able to make a phone call or send a text message. If your customers can’t make a phone call, they won’t buy your product. But if they can make a phone call, they will not be excited about it, as it is a basic feature. The key here is finding the satisfactory  level and not spending more on it.

P – Performance: Features where the more effort put into them, the better they are, and the happier the customers are. For example the longer the battery of a smartphone lasts without charging, the longer the phone can be used, the happier the customer is. Obviously if it needs to be charged every hour or constantly, she will be extremely dissatisfied. This example also shows that to some degree, performance features can fall into the Mandatory category, too, therefore they need to be worked upon.

E – Excitatory or delighter features:  Features  people don’t really expect but if they work well and are useful, customers become excited about them and the product. An example is NFC payment with a smartphone. If it works, they are happy. If it doesn’t… well, nothing happens, they have never expected it anyway. You need to have excitatory features in your product because they make it stand out, resulting in a unique selling proposition. The more effort you invest into them, the more customer satisfaction is acquired.

Over time, delighters can become mandatory features (e.g. texting on a mobile phone) – or they can disappear if they failed to delight.

Q – Questionable:  Features that don’t make sense. For example if customers are happy with the feature, but happy without it as well.

R – Reverse: Features customers would be happier without. E.g. Full-page ads on an online newspaper website.

I – Indifferent:  Features where the user is neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with.

This is only the first possible step to figure out the basic hierarchy of features of your product and its enhancements. You will need to further prioritize your features to set your team or teams in the right direction. Be aware that constantly introducing new features to a product can be expensive and may just add to its complexity without boosting customer satisfaction. On the other hand, adding one particularly attractive feature could delight customers and increase sales without costing significantly more.