Kano analysis, originally developed by professor Noriaki Kano as a tool for discovering the features that product users consider important to drive investment decisions, is a great tool for prioritizing the capabilities that you build into your product.
Kano analysis also provides a great framework for competitive analysis, comparing products in the context of what actually matters to users and not just a list of checked and unchecked boxes.
For a quick overview of the concepts of Kano, check out this article from the University of Calgary. Then in the October 9, 2012, issue of UX Magazine, check out the fantastic article by Jan Moorman, principal design researcher at projekt202, on leveraging insights gained with Kano, which provides a great background, too.
The novel insight that Moorman presents is a tool to avoid one of the classic problems of developing a minimum viable product—the risk of underwhelming your customers before you have created the product they truly want.
When releasing a product early and often, you are by definition releasing a product that is incomplete but getting better regularly—a great approach for getting something valuable into the market as quickly as possible but with the explicit risk of putting out something unacceptable. Remember—You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Folks in the lean community generally don’t address this risk (adequately) and just sort of wave their hands at it. You can do things to minimize the risk, including limiting availability (as you would with an invitation-only trial period); managing customer expectations (historically, with the “beta” tag although that is less effective than it used to be); and targeting specific user personas (such as early adopters who have the expectation that the product will be incomplete on first-use).
These approaches all mitigate risk effectively—and you should use them all—but you could do even better, as Moorman shows us. After building the foundation needed to appreciate the insight, as well as collect the data, Moorman shares the Satisfaction Potentials graph. It visually depicts the negative impact of not including something combined with the positive impact of including something. It gives you a framework for comparing important to have as well as important to not forget.
When you’re concerned about the negative impact of underdelivering, you can increase the relative priority of adding features or capabilities that dissatisfy when not present, relative to the inclusion of capabilities that provide greater satisfaction when they are present.
Scott Sehlhorst is an agile product manager, product owner, and business analyst and architect. He helps teams achieve software product success by helping them build "the right stuff" and "build the right stuff right." Scott started Tyner Blain in 2005 to focus on helping companies translate strategy and market insights into great products and solutions. Read more at tynerblain.com/blog.