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How should I track and manage feature requests?

Posted on February 26, 2008 · 10 Comments

Question: What software can help me manage feature requests?

I am currently trying to figure out what are some of the recommended feature request tracking software packages. How do folks manage and prioritize these list? It sounds like a lot of folks use bugzilla, are there any other open source tools to track feature requests?

Answer from Brian Lawley of The 280 Group: I’ve tried to use Bugzilla for tracking feature request and it just isn’t the right tool.

I’m also very familiar with all of the software for tracking requirements (see our Product Management Software Comparison), and I ran a panel comparing them all a year or two ago.

My opinion is that the current solutions all require a pretty heavy commitment (both financially and in terms of training and cultural change.) Unless your management and team are committed to this and your next review is based on learning the solution, entering the information and keeping it up to date it may prove to be a lot of additional work over and above your daily responsibilities.

I personally use Excel and have a free score card/prioritization matrix with instructions you can download. I’ve always been a “scrappy” PM (because there is SO much to get done) so a simple solution suits me fine.

10 other answers so far ↓

  • David Bermingham // Feb 26, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I am using Windows SharePoint Services with a custom list. It is similar to using Excel, except it has many more features such as alerts, custom views, multi-user support, attachments, etc. The only hurdle to overcome is what field to sort on. If you only have priority 1-5, you may have a whole bunch of 1’s, in no particular order. We decided to just start adding decimal places to the priority so that we could sort within the 1’s, 2’s, etc.

  • Liv Labate // Feb 26, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Link to free score card/prioritization matrix with instructions you can download seems to be wrong.

  • James V. Reagan // Feb 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I use a combination of wiki and excel. Wiki becomes the request queue – people enter their requests, details, source of request, their priority (always urgent of course).

    I then manage that list, consolidate requests, get clarification, etc. When I’m comfortable that I have enough detail on the request, including where I should prioritize, I move it to an excel spreadsheet where I manage the priority. I archive the wiki request in another wiki page (so I can always go back for historical purposes).

    On prioritization, I have two levels: level 1 is a high level t-shirt sizing – high / medium / low. I’ve seen a lot of people use scales of 1-5, and in my experience only three levels are needed. Nobody puts a request in at level 4-5, it’s always 1, 2, or 3 (1 being highest priority). So that’s what my high/medium/low map to –

    I then prioritize the highs based on a) forced ranking and b) time to market, and I then do the same for the mediums to come up with a “final deliver list”. I don’t bother with the lows but I do communicate those to the product development team.

    I build the “final delivery list” with our program managers to figure out what my optimal roadmap looks like – what useful things can I get out to my customers in the shortest time possible. And I manage that final list as a delivery plan. If tradeoffs are made, they are made from the final list.

    And wiki and Excel are all I need for this. Any more, and it creates more overhead for me without adding enough value.

  • Jeff Lash // Feb 27, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Sorry, Livia, that was my mistake. The link is now fixed in the original post above; the correct URL is http://www.280group.com/shareware/freerequirementsroadmapmatrix.htm

  • Hank Wallace // Feb 28, 2008 at 11:25 am

    We use SharePoint and a custom list with many different views. Requirements are broken down by functional area and are prioritized using the MoSCoW priority scheme. Having the list on SharePoint provides access by all stakeholders. Many thanks to our previous Product Manager, Tim Jarrett, for setting up the original list.

  • Gopal Shenoy // Feb 28, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    At my previous job, we used an enhancement web form on our website which users could fill out and that tied directly to a database with a front end that was developed in house. During release planning, we created an Excel spreadsheet that had the most popular enhancements.

    New ways of doing enhancement requests is having user community prioritize it themselves. Check out Dell’s ideastorm (www.ideastorm.com) – let the community help you to make a product they want.

  • Joca Torres // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:43 am

    We use Excel, with AutoFilter. Quite simple yet very effective. In order to keep track of the requirements, you can use any tool you like, Exchel, Word, a simple txt file, an SQL database (for the techies) or any free or licensed tool. Whatever suits you best.

    My perception is that it doesn’t matter the tool you use, if you don’t know how to prioritize. Check Jeff’s first question and answer in this blog:

    http://ask.goodproductmanager.com/2008/01/21/how-do-product-managers-prioritize-requirements/

    To prioritize requirements “There’s no magic formula, and in the end it might be that what makes a GOOD product manager vs. a BAD one is his/her ability to take these hundreds/thousands of inputs and make good decisions — and learn from bad ones.”

  • Edd Coulson // Apr 9, 2008 at 8:31 am

    I’ve used a variety of tools in the past – open source tools like RT (Request Tracker) which allows anyone to log requests and allowed Project Managers, Dev Leads and myself to prioritise features; XPlanner as an actual task planner and feature list. I like both RT and XPlanner and don’t think that XPlanner should be exclusive to an Xtreme Programming environment.
    I’ve also seen Borland Calibur in action but think it’s a bit unwieldy and requires user training to be able to understand how to use it. I’ve recently started a new PM role and am looking at different Product Management software solutions so if anyone has good and bad experience of PM software then I’d appreciate any feedback!

    Cheers

    Edd Coulson

  • Mike Suding // May 29, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I know this is an old thread but… I have developed a web app that allows several types of people (eg Customers, prospects, coworkers) to submit feature requests and they can also vote to determine ranking/priority. It’s very flexible in it’s configuration. It’s free for 1 year the first 50 customers willing to give me feedback. More info at http://www.votopia.com
    Thanks

  • Hannah Chaplin // Nov 6, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Hi everyone, our system isn’t open source but we built it specifically to address our pain points around feature request management. Would love to get your feedback if possible. Just go to https://receptive.io

    Main things Receptive covers:

    – Allowing customers to easily add, discuss and prioritise feature requests. The prioritisation is especially important…you get a very different view of feature requests when they are prioritised vs a method where you use votes

    – Segmentation of feature requests. In the reporting you can see which feature requests came from your big/medium/small customers as well as what free triallers and churned users want

    – Communication. When a feature changes status, all users that care about it are automatically notified so you’re no longer digging through spreadsheets and emails trying to remember who requested it

    – See which features will add the most value to your product. Easily dial in development effort to see where you should best use your scarce development resources

    – Get your internal team involved. Customers are only one stream of feature requests. Receptive gives your internal teams visibility of releases and roadmap and lets them add and prioritise features too.

    All the best,

    Hannah

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