When faced with a collection of potential features, design ideas, or research projects to prioritize, how do you move forward? Choosing which design effort the team will work on is especially difficult when every stakeholder, executive, and team member has a different opinion or favorite item they’d like to see tackled first.
I’ve seen a lot of prioritization schemes in my career. The one I favor most was taught to me by product manager extraordinaire, Bruce McCarthy.
What makes Bruce’s formula so great isn’t only that it delivers a straight-forward approach to identifying top priorities. It’s the collaborative method we get to those top priorities. Implementing the formula rewards teams that use their UX research strategically.
I love this. It gives me tingles just thinking about it.
Bruce’s simple formula looks like this:
(Value ÷ Effort) x Confidence = Priority
What Bruce’s formula says is this: we want to prioritize work that offers large value while taking a small amount of effort, assuming we’re confident in both our estimates of value and effort. With this formula, we can put what might otherwise seem like apples and oranges (or worse, apples and orangutans) on a single scale, where the highest results are what we should work on first.
How might we calculate Value?
To fill out Bruce’s formula, we need to arrive at a number for the first variable, Value. This number represents how much value we’ll produce when this item is delivered. As UX design leaders, we, of course, want to start with value to our users. Will this item provide a great solution to a challenging problem our users are facing? Does it get us closer to our vision of the ideal user experience? Or, will it be something they don’t really care about?
The beauty of Bruce’s formula is we can make this as simple or detailed as we’d like. A simple way to represent Value is 1, 2, or 3, for low, medium, or high. If we think the item is a critical solution to a big problem, we give it a 3. If it’s something users…