The three types of features in your product backlog

Posted on February 10th, 2011 in Agile, Kanban, Lean by siddharta || 5 Comments

One of the big mistakes that an agile team can make is to create a backlog of features and then treat every feature in exactly the same way. From a business point of view, features are not all equal. Some features are very important to the success of the project, whereas others are extremely unimportant. I’m not talking about business value – you can have unimportant features which have a high business value, for example. How? Read on.

The three types of features

A useful model for analyzing your product backlog is the Kano model.

The Kano model can be used to categorise feature into three buckets (actually five, but I am going to focus on three):

  • Basic features: Basic features are features that are absolutely must-have, but do not add to customer excitement. This sounds like a contradiction, so lets take an example. Most web applications require you to login. This is a must have feature – users cannot use your application if they can’t login. At the same time, no one is going to purchase your application based on the quality of the login functionality. In other words, you need to have the feature, but once its there, there is no point wasting more time in refining it.
  • Linear features (also called performance feature): Linear features are features which fall into the “more is better” category. If you have more linear features, the customer feels proportionately better. For example, the number of camera file formats that are supported by a photo editing application are linear. If one app supports 10 camera models and another supports 20 models, it adds to the customer excitement, but only a little.
  • Differentiating features (also called excitement feature): These features are high excitement features that set you apart from the competition. A few differentiating features can offset the absence of many linear features, because they generate excitement for the customer. Marketing campaigns and product positioning may be based on these features.

It helps to know the composition of the backlog based on these three categories. If you know that, then you can apply different strategies to each type of feature.

For example, basic features are not worth spending too much time on. Implement it, make sure it works, then move on.

Differentiating features, on the other hand, are worth spending a lot more time to get it right. You may want to call in some expert users to try it out during development, or run it through a couple of iterations of user experience trials before development starts.

Linear features might fall somewhere in between.

In other words, the process used for developing the feature should vary based on the kind of feature you are dealing with. If you treat every feature on the backlog through the exact same development process, then you are likely doing your stakeholders a disservice – either wasting too much time on basic features, or spending too little time on differentiating features (or both).

Webinar

I’ll be expanding on this idea further in an upcoming webinar on Using Class of Service to Manage Risk. The webinar will happen on the 16th of February, 9:30 PM IST (See time in other timezones). Sign up for the webinar to join the discussion.

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5 Responses to “The three types of features in your product backlog”

  1. toolsforagile Says:

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