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Create Better Products by Doing Less

Building the best product isn’t about filling our backlogs and roadmaps, it’s about taking the time to determine those few items that will deliver the most value. We’ve seen many techniques for product owners to generate many ideas through brainstorming sessions, have end users contribute to the idea log, or let everyone add ideas. What if the opposite approach yielded better results?

Jim Semick, Founder & Chief Strategist at ProductPlan, advocates for just that in his article “The Essentialist’s Way to Building Better Products.” The focus of his “Less but better” is that we derive more value from focusing on a few high-value tasks or features than trying to add as much as we can. Determine what is essential and allocate most of your team’s effort on it.

The challenge here is our fear of missing out. Many of our product management tools, and even innovation platforms, are set up to collect as many features as possible for the highest number of sources. By filling the funnel with ideas, we hope that we won’t miss anything. The problem here is that this is a fear-based approach rather than an empowered one. If product owners take full ownership, they can spend their time and their team’s effort on the highest ROI items.

The good news is that this is a shift in focus and effort, not a change to our product management tools or process. By using the tools to filter out the great ideas from the good ones, product owners can streamline their value chain. For more guidance on how to determine what behaviors support essentialism, check out Jim’s article.

Our Take

  • Filter, filter, filter. When setting up your roadmap and backlog, try to filter out as many items as possible so that only the best gets into your delivery queue.
  • Define clear criteria at each step to estimate value and cost so you have a better idea of what your high ROI items are.
  • Use your product management platform to capture value criteria to allow easier scoring and comparison of opportunities.

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