Product management, Engineering, User experience

Buy a Feature

An method to prioritize features based on their expected value return by engaging with customers and stakeholders.

Also called: Buy-a-Feature Prioritization Model

See also: Design Thinking

Relevant metrics: Number of users who purchased the feature, Number of users who completed the purchase process, Average time to complete the purchase process, Conversion rate of users who viewed the feature to users who purchased the feature, and Average revenue generated from the feature

In this article

What is the Buy-a-Feature prioritization model?

The Buy-a-Feature Prioritization Model is a product prioritization method that allows customers to prioritize the features they value the most by “buying” them. It involves four steps and is most effective when conducted in person with collaboration and interaction between product team members and participants. Aspects of the exercise can be designed to encourage collaboration.

Buy-a-Feature is a simple yet effective approach to determining what features customers value the most. The product team works directly with a group of stakeholders and customers to learn about their preferences and requirements. During this exercise, participants are given a fixed amount of imaginary currency, such as poker chips or Monopoly money, to spend on the proposed product features. Each feature is tagged with a price that corresponds to its estimated development costs. This way, customers can express their preference for the most valuable features by investing their currency accordingly.

Where did Buy-a-Feature come from?

The Buy-a-Feature prioritization model was conceived by Luke Hohmann as part of his dozen-strong suite of Innovation Games, designed to assist product teams in comprehending their customers’ struggles and formulating solutions to address them.

The Buy-a-Feature Prioritization Model

The Buy-a-Feature prioritization model is a valuable tool for product managers seeking to prioritize and develop their products in a way that aligns with the needs and desires of their target market. This innovative approach engages customers and stakeholders in a fun and interactive exercise, providing product teams with valuable insights into their customers’ priorities and decision-making processes.

Prioritization Through Discussion

The buy-a-feature template in Lucidspark creates a space for prioritization through discussion. Players are forced to negotiate and make decisions about the features that matter most to them.

As a result of this interactive process, the group gains a deeper understanding of what features are truly valuable to end users. Players must articulate their thoughts and present compelling arguments to the rest of the group, leading to a more thoroughly considered and refined understanding of what will resonate with customers.

Improved Insight into Customer Needs

Playing the buy-a-feature template in Lucidspark culminates in a clearer understanding of which features are most valuable to customers. The prioritization exercise provides a space for meaningful reflection and collaboration, leading to a more informed and strategic approach to product development.

By prioritizing features through discussion and negotiation, your team will be better equipped to identify the most impactful uses of your time and resources. This results in a more refined product roadmap and a greater chance of success in the market.

The Buy-a-Feature workshop exercise

The Buy-a-Feature exercise consists of four key steps:

  1. Assigning Prices to Proposed Initiatives. A list of proposed product updates and initiatives is created and assigned a price based on development costs, complexity, risk, effort required, or a combination of these factors. The list should be kept manageable in length to prevent overwhelming participants.
  2. Shopping with a Budget. Participants are given a fixed amount of play money and are tasked with “purchasing” the proposed initiatives. At least one item should be priced high enough that no single participant can afford it, encouraging collaboration and providing deeper insights into customers’ priorities.
  3. Observing and Learning. During this stage, product teams observe participants as they discuss, negotiate, and purchase features, gaining valuable insights into their priorities and needs. Facilitators may jump in to guide discussions if necessary, or provide additional play money to move past impasses.
  4. Reviewing Purchases and Exploring Decisions. Once participants have spent all their play money, the product team reviews their purchases and listens to participants explain their decisions, gaining a deeper understanding of what their customers think about the product and why. Why did they discard your cheapest feature? Why did they choose one feature over another? Why did those multiple stakeholders pool their resources to buy the most expensive feature?

By engaging customers and stakeholders in a fun and interactive exercise, product teams gain valuable insights into their priorities and decision-making processes, enabling them to make informed decisions about product development.

Tips for making the exercise fruitful

By involving end-users in the Buy-a-Feature technique, the value they see in the features they would use in the product is highlighted.

  • Flexibility in Implementation. The game can be conducted with a single stakeholder or a group of stakeholders, offering versatility in implementation.
  • Grouping Features with Similar Value. When several features are purchased for a similar amount, it may be wise to group them together, as a minor discrepancy in cost may be considered inconsequential or subjective to the stakeholder in question.
  • Encouraging the Flow of Ideas. In allowing for the free flow of ideas, new features or suggestions can be considered and integrated into the ranked list with an estimated value.
  • Enhancing the Experience with Real Currency. For a unique and dynamic twist, utilizing real currency can dramatically impact the buying behavior of participants, elevating the game to an even more engaging experience.

When to use the Buy-a-Feature model to aid prioritization

When a product team is faced with an overwhelming backlog of features and a limited development budget, the Buy-a-Feature prioritization method can help to streamline the decision-making process. This approach can also be useful when other market research efforts, such as customer surveys, have produced ambiguous results.

By offering a controlled environment in which a representative sample of the market must prioritize their requests with limited resources, the Buy-a-Feature exercise provides valuable insights into the true priorities of your target audience.

Relevant questions to ask
  • What are the objectives and outcomes you hope to achieve from this exercise?
    Hint The objective of the exercise is to understand customers' priorities and preferences for product features, and to use that information to inform product decisions.
  • Who are the participants and what is their understanding of the product and its features?
    Hint The participants are typically stakeholders in the product, such as customers, product team members, and subject matter experts, and their understanding of the product and its features may vary.
  • Are there any specific features that need to be prioritized or excluded from the exercise?
    Hint It may be necessary to prioritize or exclude certain features based on pre-existing constraints or priorities, but this should be clearly communicated to all participants
  • How will the Buy-a-Feature results be used to inform product decisions?
    Hint The results of the exercise will inform product decisions by providing insight into customers' preferences and priorities for features. This information can be used to guide product roadmap and development decisions.
  • What resources and materials will be required for the workshop (e.g. money, props, etc.)?
    Hint The results of the exercise should be clearly communicated to stakeholders and incorporated into future planning by using the information to inform product decisions and guide development.
  • How will the results of the exercise be communicated to stakeholders and incorporated into future planning?
  • Have you established clear guidelines and ground rules for the exercise to ensure fair and productive participation?
    Hint It is important to establish clear guidelines and ground rules for the exercise to ensure fair and productive participation by all participants. This includes establishing expectations for behavior and communication, and clearly defining the rules of the exercise.

You might also be interested in reading up on:

People who talk about the topic of Buy a Feature on Twitter
Relevant books on the topic of Buy a Feature
  • Innovation Games: Creating Breakthrough Products Through Collaborative Play by Luke Hohmann (2006)
  • Gamestorming by Dave Gray (2010)

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