How do I prioritize product ideas?

Product ideas come from many sources — often as a continuous stream from customers, leadership, partners, and of course, the product team. But this stream can quickly turn into a deluge. Hundreds or even thousands of requests can pile up with stakeholders eagerly asking when their idea will be implemented. When this happens, you need an objective way to organize, rank, and prioritize ideas.

Idea prioritization is a core element of idea management. While every idea presents an opportunity to enhance your product, not all are worth investing in. For example, an idea that is popular among customers may not align with your product strategy. And another might require more resources and bandwidth to implement than you currently have. Prioritizing helps you weigh all these factors and make informed decisions about which ideas to pursue. We will explain how in this guide.

Review, organize, and rank ideas

A list of example product ideas collected in an Aha! Ideas portal.

Why should you prioritize product ideas?

Before we dive into how to prioritize product ideas, let's go over why it matters. It can be tempting to go after the new ideas at the top of the list — or the ones submitted by the loudest advocates. But sticking to a set method of prioritization is more effective for a few reasons:

  • Consensus: People may feel passionately about ideas, especially their own. This sometimes leads to arguments about which ones are worth implementing. But following an objective process to rank ideas can reduce or dissolve conflicts like this, making it easier to agree on what has the most value.

  • Strategy: Your product strategy should always guide your product decisions. Ranking every idea forces you to consider how each one supports your overall goals, safeguarding you from pursuing ideas that do not align with the big picture.

  • Time: Even large product development teams face capacity constraints. Most likely you will not have time to build every great idea that comes along — you need to focus on the most impactful ones. Prioritization helps you to allocate resources wisely.

  • Transparency: Avoiding arbitrary or opinionated decisions can be a challenge, especially when customers are involved. But using the same prioritization method across all ideas offers a transparent and standardized approach which can be helpful for explaining your decisions.

  • Waste: It is painful when effort is wasted. Moving forward with ideas before fully vetting them can cause your resources to be squandered on features that do not truly create value for customers. Prioritizing value from the start — before an idea even becomes a feature — can help avoid this.

Related: What are some best practices for brainstorming product ideas?

How to organize and prioritize product ideas

Are you sitting on a pile of product ideas? Here is a step-by-step walkthrough for prioritizing each one:

  1. Review every idea.
    Try to carve out time each day for a quick review of new ideas. This is easiest to do when all of your ideas funnel into a central place, like a spreadsheet list or ideas portal. This is when you can determine if more information is needed and reach out to the submitter.

  2. Reduce clutter and duplicates.
    Merge similar ideas so each one is unique — while retaining any details or nuances from the separate entries. In addition to reducing clutter, this can give you a better sense of the overall popularity of a given idea.

  3. Rank each idea.
    It is important to rank ideas based on consistent criteria. To do this, many product teams use an idea scoring mechanism. This means considering factors like strategy, effort, and importance to estimate the value of each idea — then quantifying this value by assigning a numerical score. A higher score corresponds to higher value.

  4. Run reports and analyze.
    Scoring sets you up to prioritize ideas quickly and efficiently. Start simple — sort your list of ideas from highest to lowest score to see the most impactful ones at a glance. With finessed spreadsheets or idea management software, you can also group related ideas into categories or customer segments for a high-level view of trends.

  5. Promote ideas to features
    Once you have reviewed, scored, and categorized every idea, your product team should have a clearer understanding of which ones will be valuable to implement. At this point, you can promote an idea to a product feature and add it to your product backlog. Keep in mind that an idea's value can change over time. You will likely need to repeat much of the same prioritization work again before these features make it to development.

  6. Respond to people who submitted ideas and provide feedback.
    Whether you respond directly or send automated messages or notifications, keep submitters updated on the status of their idea. Your responsiveness shows that you care about everyone's input and helps customers understand your reasoning.

Related: 7 Tips For Reviewing Every Customer Idea — In 24 Hours

Product prioritization frameworks and scorecards

Product teams often use frameworks to prioritize features. You can use these same frameworks to help you evaluate ideas. While you may not go as in-depth at this stage, it is worth deciding on a consistent prioritization system early on.

  • Product value scorecard: Offers a way to prioritize work based on value at multiple stages in the product development process. It aggregates scores for factors like population, strategy, need, and confidence into one overall idea score you can track.

  • Impact vs. effort: Determines a simple idea score with estimates of the potential impact to customers and the effort required to implement an idea. Assign scores for both impact and effort, then calculate Impact - Effort = Idea score.

  • Kano model: Measures customer satisfaction against feature sophistication to help you know where to invest time and resources.

  • Eisenhower matrix: Evaluates urgency against importance to help you decide between competing ideas.

  • MoSCoW method: Helps you categorize ideas as must-have, should-have, could-have, and will not have at this time.

  • Opportunity scoring: Measures how important an idea is to customers and their satisfaction with the current solution. You can calculate opportunity score as Importance + (Importance – Satisfaction) = Opportunity.

  • RICE framework: Stands for reach, impact, confidence, and effort. Similar to the product value scorecard, RICE offers a well-rounded view of priorities.

Related: Get started with free prioritization templates

An example of how to score ideas and features with a product value scorecard in Aha! software.

Taking a more disciplined approach to prioritization and idea scoring leads to better decisions for you and your customers. And when you carry this approach from idea to feature and beyond — you can trust that you are always focused on building and delivering the most value.

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Additional idea management resources

Aha! Ideas features

Idea management guides

Product development dictionary