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Determining what to fix first with a Prioritization Workshop

Executive stakeholders may have an idea of the issues in their company’s operations and products—but they don’t always know how to prioritize solutions to achieve the best results. Today we’ll explain how prioritization workshops are the answer, combining user-centric thinking with objective business data.

Our clients are often aware when their operations are plagued with redundant tasks and which workflows can be streamlined. When this is the case, we recommend starting with research to understand company processes. When we’re partnered with companies, we spend time interviewing the people involved—observing how they do their work and gaining an understanding of the fundamental issues that plague the process, so that the right solution can be put in place later down the line.

But once we’ve accurately identified the inefficiencies, bottlenecks and pain points from unique perspectives, how does all of that information work together to create an effective and efficient solution? How can we know the most impactful place to start?

One tried-and-true method to make these important decisions is a prioritization workshop.

The prioritization workshop

Before we kick off with a prioritization workshop, our team discusses known inefficiencies and pain points with our client, ideating together on potential features and capabilities that solve the issues and satisfy users' needs. The ideas we come up with for new features and capabilities are often referred to simply as "requirements".

Once these requirements have been established, it’s time for the prioritization workshop—where we guide stakeholders in thoughtfully weighing the relative importance of the requirements (ie. the proposed features and capabilities).

The important first step of comparing requirements should always be based on objective criteria, particularly:

  • Feasibility
  • Business value (ROI, NPS, overall efficiency, etc.)
  • Estimated timelines

It may sound easy to apply fairly straightforward criteria like these, but finding alignment can be tricky; discussions around prioritization bring to light unique and often conflicting perspectives, needs and goals. For example, one stakeholder might prioritize mobile capability for field operations, while another prefers to focus on a desktop app for office workers.

To navigate potential disagreement, we strongly recommend that discussions center around user experience and objective criteria (like those listed above), as opposed to gut feelings.

The danger of gut feelings

Making certain dangerous assumptions in a prioritization workshop can lead to major opportunity costs—not to mention the financial cost of developing a product or workflow that nobody ends up using. Here are some examples of questions you should ask and thoughtfully consider in a prioritization workshop, instead of assuming the answers:

  • Why does this requirement exist?
  • Where did this requirement originate?
  • What does this requirement solve?
  • What are the potential impacts of this requirement?

Simply assuming the answers to these questions can easily lead to prioritizing the wrong requirements, leading to a high-cost product or workflow that is not useful and not adopted. Next thing you know, you’ve wasted countless hours and resources on a project with no ROI.

So why are faulty assumptions still at the heart of major decisions in boardrooms around the world? One factor is the sense that many stakeholders have about themselves—that they “already know” the important details. This sense of already knowing often leads to a lack of data collection, further separating decision-makers from objective, verifiable facts.

Of course, in many cases, stakeholders are very much open to data collection. In those cases, however, assumptions can still be a problem. Usually, assumptions continue to be an issue when there’s a problem with the data being collected. For example:

  1. The data being collected is not in a digestible format—for example, employees may be passively collecting raw data and leaving it buried in a complex database that most stakeholders aren’t proficient in
  2. The data isn’t being presented at the right time, so it’s not available or top-of-mind when decisions are being made

In either case, when data isn’t provided in the right way, there’s far too much room left to base critical decisions on faulty assumptions. Just try summarizing a 16-page report you skimmed 3 weeks ago, and you’ll see how the facts can become a little fuzzy.

Eliminate guesswork with user-centric thinking

To reduce the likelihood of making these faulty assumptions, we present new potential features within the context of the user’s experience, alongside business data, in a collaborative workshop. For example, if we’re discussing a feature that allows the user to transfer funds using a new dashboard, we’d include context like:

  • Benefits the user would gain
  • Common pain points and sources of confusion
  • The backend effort necessary to build a seamless experience
  • The larger path the user would take within the app (i.e. navigating to and from the new feature)

And alongside this qualitative information about the user experience, we’d bring in business data such as:

  • Profits that may be lost in the product’s current state
  • Diminishing rates of user growth or loss of users
  • Wasted time spent on outdated processes and/or inefficient workarounds
  • The risks associated with inaccurate data

We use this kind of business data to help stakeholders connect the more subjective user perspectives with the financial implications that are directly impacted by those perspectives.

What to remember about prioritization workshops

So remember: if you want to objectively and thoughtfully prioritize competing solutions, it’s critical to present both sides of the coin—both the users’ perspectives and the business data—and connect the dots where appropriate. Not only will you have a better grasp of which solutions should be tackled first, but you’ll also be better equipped to navigate competing interests without ruffling too many feathers, and better understand where and how to allocate resources.

To find out how a prioritization workshop could benefit you and your company, book a call with one of our in-house experts.