Should you take feature requests? How to work with product opportunities, not feature requests
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As a product manager, you're no doubt familiar with the deluge of feature requests that can come your way. From stakeholders, customers, and team members, everyone seems to have an idea for what your product should do next. But are these feature requests really the best way to move your product forward? The truth is, while feature requests can seem like a great way to gather customer feedback and improve your product, they often fail to take into account the underlying problems and opportunities that these requests represent. In this blog post, we'll walk you through a few key steps to help you turn feature requests into product opportunities.
Step 1: Ask about the target customer.
When a feature request comes in, the first thing you should do is ask about the target customer. Who is this request coming from? Is this a bright idea coming from a stakeholder? Or is it direct feedback from an important customer? What persona does this customer represent? Who would use this feature and how would it benefit them? Understanding the problem from the customer's perspective is essential to identifying the underlying opportunity and it can make or break the success of a new feature well before anything is built.
For example, let's say you are a B2B SaaS company and an important stakeholder has asked the product team to build a new feature that allows customers to track their team's progress on a specific project. By asking about the target customer, you might discover that this customer represents a persona that is critical to your business and that the problem they are trying to solve is actually related to team management and onboarding, not necessarily tracking the status of a project. This will help you understand the underlying opportunity and will ensure that you stay on track building features that actually meet customer needs.
You shouldn't pretend a feature is successful once it has been delivered. It is only successful if it moves the needle on desired outcomes.
Step 2: Is this the only solution?
Once you understand the problem from the customer's perspective, it's important to think about other potential solutions. Are there other ways to solve this problem? Can we solve this problem in a quicker, simpler way that has a greater impact? What kind of impact would we have if we did deliver this solution?
For example, in the case of the stakeholder who requested the project management feature, you might consider other solutions such as creating team management templates, providing training on project management best practices or enhancing team member profiles.
Additionally, this can be a good time to include stakeholders in a brainstorming session to gather more ideas and solutions from different perspectives. This can help to identify a wider range of potential solutions and ensure that the final solution is the best fit for the problem at hand, and one that supports business needs.
Step 3: How are they solving this problem now?
Another important step is to understand how the customer is currently solving this problem. What kind of impact would we have if we did deliver this solution? Are there any drawbacks to this solution?
For example, in the case of the stakeholder who requested the project management feature, you might find that customers are currently using excel spreadsheets to track their team's progress, which is time-consuming and error-prone. By providing a solution that improves the project management process, you could have a significant impact on their productivity and efficiency.
Will it move the needle? If the goal is to migrate customers away from using spreadsheets to track their team's progress, it's important to consider what needs to be true for that to happen. Will the new feature alone be enough to encourage customers to make the switch? If not, what other factors may be influencing their decision to continue using spreadsheets?
If the new feature is implemented, and customers don’t migrate away from spreadsheets, is it really a success? You shouldn't pretend a feature is successful once it has been delivered. It is only successful if it moves the needle on desired outcomes.
Step 4: Does the solution or the opportunity support our strategy, priorities, and broader business.
Once you have a clear understanding of the problem and potential solutions, it's important to evaluate whether the solution or opportunity aligns with your business strategy and priorities.
For example, in the case of the stakeholder who requested the project management feature, you might find that this opportunity aligns well with your company's focus on increasing productivity and efficiency for your customers. However, if it does not support your overall objectives, even if it seems compelling or interesting, disciplined product managers should be prepared to push back, re-evaluate or deprioritize it. This ensures that the final solution is aligned with the company's vision and strategy.
In conclusion, instead of just taking feature requests, it's important to understand the underlying problem and potential solutions. One potential solution is to have stakeholders submit requests by answering these questions themselves. This is an improvement on simply collecting feature requests, but there is no substisite for validating these opportunities and solutions with customers directly.