Back to all articles

How to prioritize product ideas: Finding your framework

Josh Porter
Josh Porter
Managing Partner, Digital Products
8 min read
8 August 2023

After a successful round of product discovery and idea generation, it’s not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed by the various directions your organization can take its next new product. 

In our downloadable longread, How to Generate Product Ideas in Software Development, we walk product teams through several exercises designed to help them develop a shortlist of strategic, value-based, and data-backed product ideas. 

Now, we’re tackling the challenge of prioritizing those potential features and products to determine which one(s) should move into the next phase of testing and validation. 

Weighing what’s worth it

Given the extensive research and effort invested in developing product ideas, deciding which concepts to pursue and which ones to postpone (or scrap completely) is easier said than done. Without grounding your decision-making process with a structured prioritization approach, you face the risk of falling into the trap of favoring concepts based on subjective criteria, such as:

  • The allure of the shiniest new idea
  • The preference of the loudest voice in the room
  • The apparent simplicity of implementation
  • The personal interest of the product manager

By evaluating each potential feature and/or product based on the same set of criteria, your product team can effectively compare the opportunities and drawbacks of each option — allowing you to make objective, informed decisions about what comes next.

We’ll walk through three popular product prioritization frameworks teams can use to analyze concepts and clearly communicate the value of each as you work with additional stakeholders. But regardless of which framework your team chooses to work within, be sure that you weigh the following aspects of each idea:

Market opportunity: Assess whether there is a genuine need for this product or feature and whether the marketplace is already saturated with similar solutions.

Cost of build: Determine the resources and investment required to bring this idea to life and evaluate its financial feasibility. 

Competitive advantage: Identify the unique differentiators that will set this product apart from existing or potential competitors.

Risks: Thoroughly analyze potential risks and challenges associated with pursuing this particular product concept.

Time to market: Understand the timeline and development efforts needed to deliver the product to customers.

Value created: Define the benefits that this product will offer its users and assess whether the incremental value justifies the cost.

Company-specific value: Consider how this product aligns with your company’s objectives and evaluate its potential to contribute to overall organizational goals.

The MoSCoW Method

The MoSCoW Method is one of the most popular product prioritization frameworks. It categorizes potential features and products into four distinct groups:

  • Must-Have: These are the indispensable components, the bedrock of your product. Without them, the offering would lack its essential functionality and it wouldn’t be viable for launch.
  • Should-Have: These features are crucial for delivering a highly valuable and competitive product. While not as critical as the Must-Have features, they significantly enhance the user experience and align with your team’s core objectives.
  • Could-Have: The Could-Have features are desirable but not essential for the initial release. They represent potential enhancements that can be deferred to future iterations without compromising the product’s core value.
  • Won’t-Have (at least not now): This category includes features that, for the time being, are not deemed necessary or feasible. They might be considered for future development, but for now, they’re set aside to focus on higher-priority items.

With this approach, teams can confidently move forward with the Must-Have and Should-Have features, providing a solid foundation for the product’s functionality and user experience. The Could-Have features offer additional value without delaying the initial release, while the Won’t-Have category keeps you from being distracted by less critical aspects at this stage.

Jobs-to-be-done framework

The Jobs-to-be-done framework, or JTBD, looks at potential products from another perspective: the users. It’s used to understand the fundamental needs and motivations of customers when choosing a product or service, examining the underlying reasons why customers “hire” a product to get a specific job done.

For example, a software company that creates automated marketing templates might use JTBD to identify that customers hire their product to “create professional marketing materials quickly and easily.” 

By understanding the context of time constraints, limited design skills, and the need for brand consistency, the company can tailor their templates with an intuitive drag-and-drop editor, industry-specific designs, and customization options, prioritizing features that directly address the core job customers seek to accomplish. This customer-centric approach leads to a more compelling solution and increased customer satisfaction.

RICE framework

RICE is a simple product prioritization framework that looks at four factors, which are each assigned a score to evaluate and rank potential features or projects.

  • Reach: How many users or customers will each particular product concept impact in a given timeframe? Reach quantifies the potential audience impacted by the change, and the more users affected, the higher the reach score.
  • Impact: This measures the degree of positive change or improvement that a feature or project will bring to the users or the business. A high-impact feature can significantly boost key metrics or bring about substantial user benefits. Typically, the highest-impact features are ranked a 3, medium-high are 2, features with medium impact are 1, low-impact are 0.5, and minimal impact are ranked 0.25.
  • Confidence: How much certainty or confidence does your product team have in its estimates for reach and impact? Confidence takes into account the quality of data and research used to evaluate these factors, so a higher confidence score indicates greater certainty in the estimates.
  • Effort: This factor quantifies the resources, time, and complexity required to implement the feature or project. A high effort score denotes that significant resources and time will be needed for execution.

Once each product concept has been evaluated for each factor, you can calculate their total score. Multiply the values for Reach, Impact, and Confidence, then divide by Effort to yield the RICE score. This framework ensures valuable features with a broad reach and high impact, coupled with manageable effort, are given precedence in the product roadmap.

Choosing the right framework for your needs

The frameworks we’ve outlined provide proven models for prioritizing product concepts and are three of many within DEPT®’s product development toolkit. While each can be effectively applied to a variety of projects, it’s important to select the one that best aligns with your organization’s specific needs and objectives.

For example, we’ve found that companies with longer development life cycles often find success using the phased approach of the MoSCoW Method. The Must-Have and Should-Have categories allow our clients to launch with a viable product, while the Could-Have and Won’t-Have segments provide room for phased enhancements over time.

On the other hand, for startups looking to quickly validate new ideas through rapid prototyping, we often gravitate toward recommending the RICE model for its simplicity and ability to lead to quick prioritization decisions.

Consider your organization’s culture, consensus-building norms, and availability of customer data as well. Teams with deep customer insights will gain value from Jobs-to-Be-Done as they seek to align features with user motivations.

In some cases, our team works with clients to develop a customized hybrid approach combining elements of multiple frameworks. No matter what model you choose, ensure it meets the goals of the project, resonates with the values of your organization and integrates smoothly into existing workflows. An experienced product team can collaborate with stakeholders to determine the right strategic prioritization framework tailored to your company’s specific objectives and positioned to deliver maximum value.

Innovation requires prioritization

Ideating and developing the next product or feature that will take your organization to new heights or transform your industry is no easy feat.

Product teams are faced with the daunting task of continually innovating — but truly innovative products don’t typically come about without extensive research and a deep understanding of your users that you can apply to each stage of product development, from idea generation to product prioritization and beyond.

Whether your team uses one of the frameworks above or looks to other methods to guide this process, using a structured and unbiased approach to prioritize your product ideas is essential to deciding which ones are worth taking into the validation and prototyping phase — and ultimately releasing to your customers. 

product vision meeting


How to generate product ideas

Get your copy of our latest longread for a look into DEPT®’s Discovery Sprint process. Plus, explore five idea generation exercises and see them in action with a real DEPT® client.



Managing Partner, Digital Products

Josh Porter