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At my company, we've just completed a large survey of features that we might want to add to our web application. Now we want to share this list with about a dozen (non-technical) product stakeholders (sales reps, customer support, etc) to get their input about priority. There are about 20 features under consideration. For now, let's suppose that all stakeholders are equally important, and we're not yet considering implementation difficulty. We just want to know what features are important to people.

My current best plan is to put the items in a shared spreadsheet and ask everyone to vote on what their preference would be. To make this manageable, we could have everyone:

  • Specify their top 5 (or N) desired features
  • Rank ALL features by priority, but with low granularity, like Low/Medium/High, and maybe you can only have a maximum of 5 "High" votes

Can anyone recommend a good way to do this, or suggest a better variant of the above?

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From my experience, I recommend the Buy a Feature game.

This works best if you can get all the stakeholders in the same room, so that your stakeholders have a chance to discuss their opinions.

Putting a virtual "price" on features helps you to adjust the prioritization to the relative effort that it takes to implement a certain feature.

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One way would be to set up a quick survey - there are sites that let you do this for next to nothing.

  • Rank each feature between 1 (must have) to 5 (hardly necessary).
  • Or else "Yes, Maybe and No"

Else you could send each a spreadsheet and use a clever macro to merge the results.

I think you'd get more accurate results if you ask them to choose their top 5 "must" have future features.

For most accurate - and meaningful - results, add a field asking them to explain why each feature they choose is important. This prevents people from simply ranking them to get you off their back, without even caring what they vote for.

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My approach would be to send the list first and get the ranking (1 to 10) order, sit and order the requirement based on the ranking and call for a meeting with all participants, discuss and go for a ranking negotiation that enhances the understanding of what customers really want.

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I suggest using the MoSCoW prioritization; e.g. ask them these questions for each feature:

  • Would we have problems if this feature doesn't exist in the product? (y/n)
    • Yes: Can we have a workaround for the problem? (y/n)
    • No: How much relative value does it add? (1 to 10)

For a single answer, YY is a must-have, YN is a should-have, and N is a could-have. For your case, with multiple votes, you can calculate an average and then map it to the values above.

The advantage of MoSCoW prioritization is that it's relatively objective, and based on something that makes sense in the product.

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I would create a drag and drop online list and I would share it with the stakeholders. In that way, you promote the discussion between them.

The result will be an ordered and prioritized list that has the agreement of all the stakeholders.

The Product Backlog is also an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product.

This solution is visible, transparent, clear to all and at the same time you keep the coherence with the Scrum framework.

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