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Friday, March 15, 2013

Developing a list of features for current and future versions of the product - Part 5

These are a series of posts on the process of generating a list of features for the software product; such a list of features can be aggregated, built upon and prioritized for the current and future versions of the product. These are important to ensure that you have the best of features for the future of the product, features that will make the product successful. However, before you can do that, you need to ensure that you have reviewed all the ways that you can generate a list of features, including from customers, from reviewers, and from other stakeholders. In the previous post (Developing a list of features for current and feature versions of the product - Part 4), I talked about the help pages for the product on the site of the company, and how data analysis of customer visits to such pages can help determining which features are popular and also which features cause the maximum problems to customer. In this post, I will add more details on the capturing of feature requirements from different sources.
A person who views different software products that do the same kind of work typically has a very good idea of which features are the most exciting, the ones that are the most sought after, and the ones that get good reviews. For example, if there is a new version of a software that helps users do printing, then the organization would go to technical experts from different media organizations such as Cnet, New York Times Technical Section, and many others, and look for a good review from them. Now, this process is not so easy as picking up the phone and requesting a review. For many of these media people who write the technical columns which review new products, they are experts and also fairly busy people, and they need to be approached in all seriousness, providing them with the product, time to play with the product, a list of the top features currently features in the product.
When such a discussion finally takes place, the reviewer will typically spend time with the person from the organization (typically this would be the Product Manager of the specific product), and it is during this conversation and the show and tell that the product manager will be able to generate a fair number of comments. These comments would be able to provide the Product Manager with a list of items that the reviewer feels are done well, which are sellable and which excite users. At the same time, the reviewer will also provide a list of features which are missing something, features that the reviewer feels are incomplete or with workflows not optimized for the intended users of the application; and most important, the reviewer will also have a list of features that are important for the customer, but for whatever reason, are not present in the customer. It could be that such a feature got discussed but was dropped from being included in the product for some reason.
With such a list, some study will reveal a list of big features, big feature modification and small improvements that can be done in the feature level, these would need to be balanced against features resourced from other stakeholders, and eventually a list of prioritized features can be generated, which can then be set against the current version of the product, or the next version.

Read more about this in the next post (Developing a list of features for current and future version - Part 6).

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