How Product Experts Prioritize

  • Microsoft: Applying The Eisenhower Matrix to a busy inbox
    Microsoft Product Manager, Anusha Bahtnagar, a prioritization technique called The Eisenhower Matrix to prioritize what comes into her inbox. As a PM working with cross-continental teams, it’s common to wake up to a full inbox.

Our gut instinct when we get an email from someone higher-up, is to drop everything we’re working on and focus solely on that. But this might not be the best thing for our prioritization!
The Eisenhower Matrix effectively sorts your tasks/emails into four categories, and presents a solution.

Important and Urgent: Top priority tasks that require your urgent attention (eg, crisis management tasks.)
Urgent and Not Important: Time sensitive tasks that could be handled by someone else. Delegate these tasks.
Important and Not Urgent: Tasks that you definitely need to do, but they can wait. Schedule these for the future.
Not Important and Not Urgent: Declutter and eliminate tasks.

  • Amazon and Google: Making customer-focused prioritization decisions
    A common theme across many companies, is that the customer comes first. The same goes for prioritization.

Asal Elleuch, a Senior Product Manager for Amazon Prime, calls prioritization “a never-ending and iterative process.”

It is constant if you are committed to delivering value. I make decisions on priority based on the impact to customer experience (am I solving a problem and if yes, how big is this for the customer?), the impact to key business metrics, and the level of effort or cost of getting this done.
Focusing on the customer gives you an incredibly useful yardstick for prioritization. After all, your company’s values should already be customer focused. And most of your stakeholders should also be aligned on The Why. The Product vision should also be heavily influenced by customer needs.

Being customer-focused in your prioritization will help keep your decisions aligned with everything else. Like one big customer-centric puzzle!

Google product teams achieve this by using North Star Metrics.

Your North Star Metric can be any metric or action which provides the most value to the customer. For instance, Spotify’s North Star Metric might be clicking ‘play’ on a song. Google Search’s North Star Metric might be clicking on a search result.

You can then base your prioritization decisions around that metric. Whatever updates/features/bug fixes will have a greater impact on that metric become high priority.