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14 Tech Leaders’ Tips For Prioritizing Bugs, Tickets And New Features

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It’s certainly true that no tech product is perfect; it’s likely also true that most tech products are never really “finished.” Dealing with a regular influx of bug reports and feature requests is all in a day’s work for most tech teams, and developing workable strategies for prioritizing them is an essential part of a tech leader’s role.

While everyone across the business team and user base probably has an opinion on what glitch or wish-list item is most important, only the tech team has the full knowledge and bird’s-eye view into what will have the largest and most positive impact. Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council share the factors they and their teams consider when prioritizing bugs, tickets and feature requests and why these criteria are so important.

1. Consider The ‘Impact-To-Effort’ Ratio

We usually look at the “impact-to-effort” ratio. This criterion is crucial because it helps us maximize the value we deliver to users by focusing on tasks that yield the greatest positive impact relative to the resources required to resolve them. – Madhu Madhusudhanan, Oloid

2. Create A ‘Portfolio’ Allocation

Rather than looking at a specific criterion and ranking requests, we create a “portfolio” allocation for the team—something like 70% strategic initiatives, 10% bug fixes, 10% tech debt and 10% internal requests. Stakeholders prioritize within each category, and senior leadership reviews allocations quarterly to make strategic adjustments. – Chris Copeland, Bestow

3. Look At The Business Value

We consider business value when prioritizing internal bugs, tickets and feature requests. In our case, this means deeply understanding our client’s strategic goals. For example, we score metrics including customer quality of life, revenue generation, tech debt and cost advantages. Once this scoring is complete, we clearly understand what must be actioned and when. – Matthew Cloutier, Sticky Strategy

4. Take A 50-50 Approach

I like a 50-50 ratio of building new features to generate new revenue or disrupt new markets to working on internal bugs, security and maintenance tasks to “keep the lights on” for the existing customer base. If you do not invest enough in keeping the lights on, your product will become stale, buggy, underperforming and unmaintainable, and the cost of replacement will be too high. – Simana Paul, SumUp

5. Map Out The Dependencies

By mapping out dependencies, you can typically find a small subset of bugs that block a lot of other tickets. Start with these, and you’ll have more flexibility in your next round of prioritization. With a strong foundation, you can build bigger and better than you can on a fragmented base with a lot of temporary fixes. – Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket

6. See If There’s A Workaround

Other than the obvious customer impact factor, we consider whether there is a workaround. Can the customer perform the action they intend on their own with help from customer support or with a few extra clicks? That helps us determine what is impossible for our customers to do on their own and that will therefore have the most impact. – Wendy Johansson, MiSalud Health

7. Think Of Outcomes Versus Outputs

Think about what will drive business outcomes versus outputs. Outputs are the deliverables or actions you take toward achieving your goals, while outcomes are the actual difference made by the outputs—the results that impact your customers. Completion of a given output doesn’t matter if you miss the outcome. So, when thinking about priorities, ask yourself, “What will drive outcomes for our customers?” – Chet Kapoor, DataStax

8. Don’t Overlook The Forest For The Trees

Are you missing the forest for the trees? It can be easy to be “all hands on deck” for a bug that just appeared, but you must think about whether that defect is aligned with a bigger strategic arc your team has deemed important. It is easy to “thrash” when a hot request comes in, but it is important to take a step back so you don’t lose sight of the thoughtful, strategic plan your team may have devised weeks ago. – Matthew Polega, Mark43

9. Align With OKRs

Alignment with objectives and key results is the single biggest factor we consider when prioritizing. Our OKRs reflect the current priorities. If a feature or bug has no significant impact (either positive or negative), then it’s a low priority. Similarly, if it has a significant impact, then it’s a high priority. This way, the entire team is aligned on priorities, from sales to product to engineering. – Manojkumar Parmar, AIShield (Powered by Bosch)

10. Seek Alignment With Team Members’ Interests And Strengths

We prioritize items that align with our team members’ interests and strengths, as this can lead to more creative solutions and higher-quality work. By considering passion alongside business priorities, we can balance our team’s engagement and motivation with the needs of our customers and stakeholders. – Avani Desai, Schellman

11. Ensure Critical Security Fixes Come First

When prioritizing fixes, you need to primarily consider the business and user impact. Critical security issues must always be the highest priority—it’s essential to avoid losing your users’ confidence or risking damage to your reputation, data loss or privacy impacts, or fines. The ability to deliver a compelling customer experience with appropriate testing comes next, as it impacts conversion rates and growth and helps you avoid losing users. Close business proximity is key. – Brad Mallard, Version 1

12. Determine How Many Customers Will Be Affected

One factor our team considers when deciding how to address bugs, tickets and feature requests is how many of our customers will be affected by the change. For instance, if over 50% of users ask for a specific feature, we know that getting this done as soon as possible will have a measurable impact on our company and customer satisfaction. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

13. Bring In The Product Owner

When deciding how to prioritize internal bugs, tickets and feature requests, it’s critical to leverage the product owner in the process. The product owner should be responsible for bug and feature prioritizations, while the tech owner should be involved in prioritizing changes such as security patches, database upgrades and so on. – Mark Schlesinger, Broadridge Financial Solutions

14. Consider The Part Of The System That’s Affected

In addition to the usual business priority and severity measures, one factor we consider is the part of the system that is or will be affected. This is because we may decide to focus on one area of the app, fixing a lot of bugs and implementing key enhancements there. This method allows us to focus QA on just one area, reducing the risk of side effects. It’s also more efficient for the developers. – Adam Sandman, Inflectra Corporation


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