Product Feature Requests - A Sloppy Guide
Six months ago, I was asked to send an email to several members of our service organization to help them work through feature requests. Someone turned my email into a Google Doc and I stumbled across it this morning.
Six months of perspective made this a fun read for me. It’s sloppy, but the gist still feels good to me.
Things to think about when making FEATURE REQUESTS
Generally speaking, when I’m evaluating a potential feature I go through a thought process something like:
1) What opportunity / problem is this trying to solve? This question frames the issue and focuses my thinking. I find that writing it down is a very valuable exercise.
2) How do I know how big this problem / opportunity is and is it in line with current priorities? I often get to this point and realize that what I’m thinking about isn’t really that big a deal. Or isn’t what we’ve elected to focus on at the moment. We have so much opportunity and such little time — it’s critical to filter.
3) What do I think the best solution to the problem looks like (feature(s) & process)? This is how/when I brainstorm a number of options before narrowing to a couple I think are worth exploring. A common trap I fall into is thinking of the solution here before I’ve really thought through the problem. I sometimes have to force myself up to step 1 which leads me to different/better ideas for solutions/features.
4) Who will this change impact (e.g. Community, Client, Candidate, AMs, CSAs, etc.) and how? This helps me avoid solving a problem for one customer while creating a problem for another. This step often reveals short comings in my solution.
5) What are the ‘corner use cases’ involved here? Often times it’s easy to get fired up about the main use case, only to find later in the process that there are ‘edge cases’ that must be accounted for. Finding them early is far less expensive than trying to patch code after its’ been designed, developed, tested, and released. This is a tricky step. I often think about all the lifecycle stages of the customers involved. What does this change mean for a new user? For a 10 time applicant? Video on file? Implicated resume? What happens at questionnaire vs. rank candidate? There are a million things to think about here.
6) Does my solution solve enough of the problem I identified to start? Often, when I get to this point, I’ve had to make compromises to my original idea to account for different customers, or corner cases. What I started with felt good, but has been diluted along the way and now doesn’t really solve enough of the original problem/opportunity.
7) Have I over engineered the solution? Can I solve the problem with less product / process than I’ve outlined?
8) How am I going to measure the success of this new feature and/or process? It’s easy to make measurement an afterthought. I rarely get the right solution in place with my first attempt. Data is the only way to know whether to invest more, change course, etc.
9) Rehearsal - For me, this is the most important step. You’ll see me close my eyes while we’re talking about a feature to do this. I walk through the whole thing in my head. Visualizing the solution reveals things I’ve missed despite all the questions above.
10) What are the technical implications of the feature/process? Is it feasible? Does my best guess at cost / benefit feel acceptable? On occasion, I fall into the trap of thinking of the technical solution before I’ve answered all of the questions above. If I find myself thinking about database table structure, or query parameters, I force myself back up the list to be sure I’m not putting the cart before the horse.
11) Where does this fall on the priority list given the other things I can be doing with my resources/time? If I’ve got a good solution, to a big problem/opportunity, It’s important to understand how it ranks relative to the other good solutions I’ve got to other big problems/opportunities.
12) All this said, sometimes the answer is just obvious and we knock it out.
For what it’s worth, the process is never linear. Inspiration often starts at different steps of this process. I will bounce through these questions in my head several times before I feel confident that I’ve got something worth vetting with others. Different things get revealed at each step that force me to re-evaluate.