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Product Roadmap Prioritization: Weighted Scoring or the Kano Model?

Deciding which features end up on your roadmap (and which features don’t) is one of the most important decisions product managers face. There are several ways to go about it. In this article, I’d like to talk about two methods: weighted scoring and the Kano model.

Prioritizing Your Product Roadmap: Two Methods

The weighted scoring model is popular among product management professionals and there is a growing awareness of the Kano model.

The weighted scoring model, while built on a combination of data points and educated guesses, is an attempt to bring objectivity to your product roadmap prioritization. The Kano model tries to focus more on the intangible benefits that specific features or initiatives will bring to customers.

Either model can work well in the right circumstances. And in some cases it might be worth trying both frameworks to help you prioritize your product roadmap.

The Weighted Scoring Model

With a weighted scoring approach, you take your proposed features or initiatives, rank each of them using a benefit-versus-cost framework on a number of criteria, and then step back and use the scores you’ve come up with to decide which initiatives make the cut.

As you can see in the screenshot below, a sample weighted scoring page from our product roadmap software, you can use whatever criteria makes sense for your product and company objectives when evaluating contending initiatives against each other for prioritization on your roadmap.

In terms of potential benefits, for example, you can use real-world data — or, if you don’t have that at hand, educated guesses — to score an initiative on its ability to increase revenue, or to add customer value or value to the company itself. In terms of costs, you can evaluate an initiative on its complexity or level of difficulty to implement, or its hard-dollar operational costs, or even the risk it will fall flat with customers.

The point with the weighted scoring model is to quantify, to the best of your ability, each competing initiative on your list to help you prioritize the roadmap.

Note: Whatever format or software tool you use to build a weighted scoring model, I recommend you make the final output as visual as possible.

This will make it easier for you and your team to clearly see the entire landscape of possible items for the roadmap. It will also make it easier for you, when presenting your roadmap to executives and other stakeholders, to visually explain why you made the prioritization decisions you made.

Product Roadmap Prioritization screenshot

Sample Weighted Scoring Screen in ProductPlan’s Product Roadmap Software


The Kano Model

Unlike the weighted scoring approach, where you assign quantitative values to each initiative to help make prioritization decisions more clinical and objective, the Kano model lets you view competing initiatives with a much more subjective eye.

Indeed, the Kano model is often explained as measuring product function against customer delight.

When prioritizing your product roadmap using the Kano model, you break out potential features into a series of categories, described below, and then weigh each in terms of its necessity versus its ability to delight. You’ll see a visual representation of the Kano approach in the graph below.


First, there are the threshold (basic) features. These are the features that have to be in your product. Your customers will expect them. Your competitors have them. They’re necessary.

But that doesn’t mean you need to continually invest a great deal of time, resources and development cycles into them. That’s because over time, you will experience diminishing returns in terms on the all-important “customer delight” from these threshold features.

Next, there are performance features. These are the features, for example, that make existing products faster and run more smoothly. If you put more investment in time and resources into performance features, this effort will in fact result in a linear, or proportionate, increase in customer delight.

But it’s important to understand that, like the threshold features, performance features are also somewhat defensive investments. In other words, you continue to invest in them at least in part because if you don’t your competitors will catch up with you.

Finally, there are the excitement features. These are the viscerally exciting elements of your product, the “wow” features — the things that your users will love and even tell their colleagues and friends about. And ironically, these are features your customers might not ever ask for — or even know they want.

This is where expertise will be so valuable — truly understanding your key personas and the problems they face. If you can include these excitement features — and they hit the mark with customers — your product will enjoy a disproportionate amount of customer delight.

Conclusion: Both the Weighted Scoring and Kano Model Can Work for Your Product Roadmap Prioritization.

A large part of a product manager’s job is making difficult choices about what makes it into the product — and what languishes (possibly forever) on the backlog.

Having a standard framework for prioritizing your product roadmap can be invaluable to help you make smart decisions that ultimately lead to product and company successes. The prioritization method you choose will depend on your product, your organization’s culture, and your product management style. Both the weighted scoring and Kano model work well in the right circumstances — as do the other approaches we explain in our product roadmap book.

Meet the Author

Jim Semick is co-founder of ProductPlan, a leading provider of product roadmap software. For over 15 years he has helped launch new products now generating hundreds of millions in revenue. He was part of the founding team at AppFolio, a vertical SaaS company. Prior to AppFolio, Jim validated and helped launch GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting (acquired by Citrix). Jim is a frequent speaker on product management and the process of discovering successful business models. He contributes at www.productplan.com/blog. Follow Jim at @JimSemick.


10 Responses to Product Roadmap Prioritization: Weighted Scoring or the Kano Model?

  1. Steve McInnes May 18, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    Very interesting article Jim. Are you able to shed some more light on how the Kano model is used to determine a priority order as is the case with the weighted priority model? Would initiatives be scored against each of the three categories (basic, performance, excitement) with a corresponding multiplier (logarithmic, linear and exponential) and therefore enable a more rational prioritisation approach accounting for the diminishing or explosive value of each category?

    • Charles Myers May 19, 2016 at 10:41 am #

      The Kano model is a different axis than priority but informs it. My experience has been that a release that is just basic/performance, keeping up with competitors, will fall flat in the market. You need a balanced portfolio that has some delighters/ excitement for a product release to be attractive and viable.

      Often, just the fact that you are looking for delighters causes the product team to think a bit harder to be innovative.

    • Jim Semick May 19, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks Steve! I think of the Kano model as more of a framework for positioning potential features, rather than an objective scoring model. It’s a great way to position features during a discussion with stakeholders – helping them understand why you might want to continuously improve performance for example, or helping justify a needle-moving feature that customers may not even know they want. Trying to assign a multiplier or score is difficult in these contexts. I’d be interested in hearing if others have used the Kano model in an objective scoring model.

  2. Phil Burton May 19, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    After pricing, prioritization is probably the most difficult task facing the product manager, because different stakeholders have different priorities. In addition, the available market research is usually insufficient. So an effective and accepted prioritization comes down to incorporating everyone’s subjective views in a process that is transparent and everyone can participate in.

    The Kano model is an excellent way to understand if a planned product has MVP and some differentiators.

    • Jim Semick May 19, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      Thanks for your comment Phil. I agree that the Kano model is a great way to incorporate subjective views and help stakeholders wrap their heads around the prioritization process. The conversation product managers have with executives and stakeholders is often more productive if you can give them a framework for discussion (whether that’s an objective scoring model, the Kano model, or another framework).

  3. Roger L. Cauvin May 20, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Both scorecard and Kano approaches to prioritizing have a severe shortcoming: they distract from the unique value proposition, the core of the product strategy that should drive all product decisions.

    When you choose a unique value proposition and associated product strategy, you’re already making decisions about what will maximize revenue, what will surprise and delight, which segments you’re targeting, and what is valuable to them.

    Rating individual feature ideas on these criteria – whether using a scorecard or using the Kano model – ignores and distracts from the product strategy decisions you’ve already made. I delved into this topic in detail on my blog entry on why spreadsheets suck for prioritizing: http://blog.cauvin.org/2015/08/why-spreadsheets-suck-for-prioritizing.html.

    In the blog entry, I also explained why the temptation to use scoring methods for prioritizing individual items often indicates organizational dysfunction or a product strategy void.

  4. Dr.Deepak Pandey Jun 29, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Hi Jim, thanks for this article. To me, Kano model is more useful in a new product launch when market is crowded & very hard to have a differentiated product for winning market share. Scorecard makes more sense to established brands with significant market share but are facing new competition. Prioritising value propositions & messaging them to loyal customers can be the strategy arrived at by using scorecard method.
    Many thanks!

    • Jim Semick Jul 7, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughts! Interesting to think of Kano for new product launches – that makes sense to me as a way of working through ways to differentiate a product competitively.

      • G White Sep 28, 2016 at 12:44 am #

        Most of the methodologies I have read assume you are sat there with all the changes and new ideas in front of you and want to rank them against certain criteria. In reality, in large organisations, new ideas and change requests come along all through the year from many different directions and you have to decide where they sit in the list of priorities as they come in. So, scoring one small change and deciding if to park it, or add it to a future release, is more difficult in isolation.

        • main280website Sep 28, 2016 at 7:57 am #

          My approach has always been that when new requests come in I capture them and then every few weeks evaluate them using the prioritization criteria against the previous requests. If you are doing Agile then you can do this when you do the next backlog prioritization, and with waterfall or stage/gate when you are updating the roadmap or planning the next larger release.

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