Drivers are common criteria you can use to prioritize what to build next. They're particularly valuable for scoring features in the early phases of prioritization, since they can be used to sort/filter features. Multiple drivers can also be rolled up into a single Prioritization score which is a useful way to surface strategically important features.
Why prioritize with drivers?
The decision of what to build next is a big one. After all, you're about to direct your most valuable resource (your designers and engineers) to spend days, weeks, or months tackling certain problems or objectives. You want to feel confident that you're asking them to work on the right thing.
Why not break the big decision around what to build next into smaller decisions: how valuable is this feature for advancing X, Y, and Z ? That's where drivers come in handy. They represent prioritization criteria: goals, areas of focus, or broad attributes of the product with strategic importance.
When you go through the exercise of scoring features based on how well they support each of several common drivers, it helps you feel confident that what you're prioritizing is in fact strategically valuable. It also serves as helpful supporting evidence for justifying your prioritization decisions before key stakeholders.
Examples of drivers
Drivers are often framed as broad attributes of your product you'd like to focus on for strategic reasons. For example, if one of the core ways your product differentiates itself in a market full of clunky enterprise tools is through delightful user experience, you could evaluate all your feature ideas based on how much they'd contribute to the UX magic of your product. This could be your first driver.
While a key differentiator like UX magic may be a long-term focus for you, other areas of focus may vary as your organization's goals change from quarter to quarter. For example, you might be gearing up for a big push to serve more enterprise customers and for that reason, choose Compliance, Platform reliability, and Security as this quarter's drivers.
- UX magic
- Platform reliability
- User delight
- User adoption
- User engagement
How to add a driver to your Features board
Like all column types, you can show/hide drivers on your Features board using the column configurations bar at right.
Toggle on the entire column group, then individual drivers.
Add new drivers by selecting [+] Add new strategic driver.
A popular exercise for scoring drivers
Still not sure where to begin? Here's a valuable exercise our team used to great effect when we were just starting out.
Add two drivers to your board:
- Satisfier – To what degree is this table stakes functionality? (basic/expected functionality that solves a key pain point in the product today or that users will be frustrated not to see in your product e.g. support for inline graphics in an email client)
- Delighter – To what degree is this exciting/innovative/new functionality that users will love but didn't know to ask for? (exciting enough to help you win new business)
Get your team in a room, and filter your Features board to show only those features that represent new ideas or candidates under consideration. (As prework you might want to narrow even further so your team is scoring a reasonable subset of promising features during the session – not all feature ideas.)
(Learn more about how to customize your project's status values. 👀)
Explain that you'll be scoring each feature from 0-5 based on to what degree it's a satisfier and a delighter.
To heighten the drama, give each teammate 10 seconds to write down each score on a slip of paper. Then on the count of three, have everyone share their scores. In cases where scores differ by more than one point, have a brief debate. The most senior PM in the room facilitates the discussion, acts as a tiebreaker, and helps the team settle on a final score.
When the exercise is over, you'll have scored all your features along two particularly valuable dimensions for making prioritization decisions. But you might just find that the very process of debating your disparate scores was the most valuable thing of all.
Using drivers to prioritize what to build next
Once you've scored your features along each of several drivers, you can use the Prioritization score to incorporate them all into a single value.
Enable a Prioritization score on your board under the MISC. column types. This is also where you can select [+] Add column to create a new Prioritization score.
Customize how each driver is weighted into the final score:
You can even divide your score by the estimated development effort if you'd prefer to ground your scores in reality. But just as often, you'll find you won't have effort estimates at this early juncture. In fact, since estimates can be time-consuming for your dev team to generate (even more so if they're done accurately), you may only seek estimates for those features you think there's a fair chance you'll go build.
Group strategically important features into an initiative
Once you've used the drivers or a Prioritization score to surface strategically important feature ideas, you'll want to capture them somewhere!
Chances are, you've spotted some trends in the sorts of features that have been surfaced through the exercises above. For example, if user adoption and engagement are your two main drivers, then perhaps many of your ideas could be addressed in a new onboarding flow. This could be the initiative you decide to work on next!
How are drivers different from initiatives?
If some of your drivers and initiatives seem related, that should come as no surprise. They all likely relate to your current areas of strategic focus!
- Drivers tend to be more open-ended (e.g. New user adoption) and are never complete.
- Initiatives are like projects/milestones (e.g. New onboarding flow) that have a start and an end. They typically represent a coordinated effort to advance one or more business objectives (e.g. increase the number of monthly active users by 4%).
- Drivers can be rolled up into a custom-weighted Prioritization score, which can be used to sort/filter your Features board. That makes them especially useful for surfacing promising ideas in the early stages of prioritization.
- Initiatives are for planning projects/milestones you intend to work on. They're most useful for grouping together complementary features that support a common objective. Unlike drivers, they can be used to organize features on the Matrix/Roadmap so are often more helpful during the later phases of prioritization and for fine-tuning your plans.