The process for managing product feature requests (PFRs) from founders and CEO should be no different than managing PFRs from the other internal stakeholders, such as, marketing, sales and customer service.
PMs should define and establish a transparent and centralized process that captures all the required context for roadmap prioritization. Sometimes, the senior leadership (CEO, founders) might have additional context which isn’t captured well in a typical PFR process, such as, customer commitments, learnings from past launches, board requests, budget constraints, external competition, etc. This can be a reason for them to either bypass or frequently tweak the PFR prioritization to prioritize their intended features. However, this practice is neither scalable nor healthy for the long term growth of a company.
Based on my work experience, here are some best practices to manage PFRs from across the organization, especially CEO and senior leadership:
PMs should establish a centralized and transparent PFR process for submitting new product feature requests to the product team. You can use many existing tools like pendo, asana and salesforce to set up a PFR process in your organization.
The features requests can be categorized as follows -- i) New featuresii) Improving existing functionality iii) Bug fixes
Each feature request should be submitted with additional context for prioritization, such as, feature description, priority, expected completion timeline, customer impact (quantifiable metrics), any customer commitments offered, effort estimation and an open field for additional context.
PMs should regularly review the consolidated feedback from PFRs with the senior leadership and also ensure that the prioritized features can easily funnel into the overall product roadmap.
While the PFR process is a reactive mechanism of driving the product roadmap, developing a working-backwards strategy is a much more proactive way of building a future-focused product roadmap.
The “working backwards” method, also known as the Amazon method, is a methodology pioneered by product teams at Amazon, where all projects work backwards from the ideal customer end state. This method flips product development on its head by challenging teams to focus on the product’s benefits rather than the features.
I’ve shared some resources below that explain the process of developing a working-backwards product strategy in an organization.
In summary, PMs should strive to set up a centralized and transparent PFR management process, which is consistent across all internal stakeholders, including the CEO and founders. Additionally, PMs should also proactively develop a working-backwards product strategy that enables the product and engineering teams to make more data driven decisions and focus on delivering the product benefit rather than just a series of features.
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