Product development never really ends, does it? It merely evolves to accommodate the needs of the customers and according to the changing dynamics of a shape-shifting market. ‘Evolve or become redundant’ is the call. It is hard to ignore the idea that ultimately all products are MVPs that keep maturing. Product teams thus are constantly contemplating which features to add next to the software product to make it exponentially better and more attractive.

“What to add next’ can be a double-edged sword. While adding the right features make your product more attractive and lucrative, adding the wrong ones can turn your product into a graveyard of features no one uses. Adding too many unnecessary features dilutes the product’s perception in the mind of the customer.

Of course, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach here. There are, however, some factors that you can consider to make smarter, easier, and more accurate decisions.

Relevance is relevant

Relevance ranks very high when deciding which features to add. What does the market want? Do the customers need the product? Is the new feature relevant to the users or is it just a cosmetic add-on?

Most product managers conduct market research to validate the relevance of features as essential to determining which features to build next. However, research shows that 49% of product managers struggle to get this data.

Having a proper feedback mechanism, and engaging with the customer regularly by leveraging contextual surveys can assist product teams to identify feature needs with more clarity. Thorough product evaluation to assess where the product is lacking when compared to customer expectations becomes important. How can the product help the customer complete his/her task easier/faster? Is a feature imperative for the customer to draw value from the product? These are all important evaluation points to determine the relevance of the features.

Weighing in business value v/s complexity

Product managers need to evaluate features based on business value versus the complexity to build and implement those features. Features that have the highest business value but need the least effort are the low-hanging fruit and hence the first to make it to the priority list.

Leveraging scoring methods to rank features according to their strategic influence, and conducting GAP analysis to rank opportunities by understanding the current state of customer satisfaction assists product managers adopt an outcome-driven approach towards prioritizing features. This approach helps product managers decide which features to roll out in the next release more objectively and contextually.

Mapping user journeys for meaningful insights

In the age of the conscious customer knowing your target demographic is imperative. Today, it’s all about user experience. Customers understand the value of good user design. In other words, the customer is mature and will no longer accept mediocrity.

Ensuring that customers have great first interactions with the product is half the battle won. Mapping user journeys to assess how the customer uses the product and how easy it is for them to reach their end goal and evaluating the highs and the pain points in this journey provides great insights into the features to release next.

The features that help the user reach their end goal fast must get priority.

What’s the usage frequency?

Features add complexity to a product and hence should be ‘worth’ adding. Given this, it makes sense to assess the usage frequency. When will this feature be used? How often will the users interact with it? It is a smart move to prioritize features and spend time building those features first that the users will be engaging with more often.

Things that go bump in the night

What are the features keeping the product team awake at night? Which features are a nightmare to deal with? What brings product performance to its knees? Is scalability a challenge? Is product stability an issue? Is product usability not up to the mark? Things like these are recurring nightmares for product managers. It is also a great place to start feature planning.

To plan the next feature, you need to first identify what’s not working as intended. Evaluate what needs to be optimized NOW to make the product more attractive, performance-oriented, easier to use, more secure, etc. first. Then move to the features that lean more towards aesthetics.

The ‘a-ha’ focus

Software products buzz when they successfully create ‘a-ha’ moments in the life of the customer. The faster the user experiences this wow moment, the higher the rate of user adoption is. Introducing such jackpot features thus become essential to drive compelling value and ultimately ensure product success. Hence, they will rank higher on the priority matrix.

After this will come the features that solidify a product by ensuring a better product-market fit. Then come the features that don’t necessarily seem essential but contribute immensely to catalyzing incremental value. And finally, on the priority matrix come those ‘good to have’ features, features that the customers might want but these don’t quite have a huge business impact.

Impact on growth potential

Finally, when deciding the next feature to your software product ask yourself about the growth potential. How does adding the new feature impact product growth? Removing friction to help users switch from competition products, or providing third-party platform support, making it easier for users to invite others to use your product, for example, are small things that can all greatly impact the growth potential of the product.

A smart way to decide which features should find a place in the pipeline is to develop a features prioritization matrix. This matrix should evaluate the market data to drive an optimized roadmap for product features. While there might be exceptions to the case, this approach will ensure that deviations are minimal and that you can build a robust product your customers will love.