Product roadmap prioritisation is NOT a scientific process

Prioritisation is a crucial step in product development. It ensures that we (and our team) are working on the right things. It helps us stay true to the product vision and the yearly/quarterly goals.

But, what is prioritisation? What does it mean?

Most product managers, when asked, will show you their backlog with some variation of a priority indicator (P0 / P1 / P2) and try to explain how they prioritise.

They will use acronyms like RICE, MOSCOW, KANBAN to make it sound scientific.

However, prioritisation is not scientific. If it were, we would not need multiple rounds of meetings, prioritisation, and alignment before shipping a feature.

Then, what is prioritisation? It is the best guess – the best guess of the ROI (return on investment). It is the best guess based on all the information you have at that time. It is that guess that uses the least amount of unknowns.

So, does that mean we should skip the process of prioritisation? And, instead, do what our “gut” tells us?


Prioritisation is essential, and we should still do it.

When we do it, we should:

1. Focus on getting the information that helps reduce the number of unknowns.
2. Create mental models and processes that increase the efficiency of the prioritisation step.
3. Get better at it every time we do it. We should learn from our mistakes.
4. We should also learn from others who have a better gut feeling. They are better at us because they know something we do not. It is best to ask them what they know, how they know it, and how can we get access to it.

But remember:

1. Prioritisation is a best guess, and a best guess is precisely that – a guess.
2. Guesses, by definition, are not scientific.
3. There is no perfect formula to create the best guess. Everyone has a version of a perfect formula, and you should have one too.
4. A complex formula or method does not make it better or correct.

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