March 5, 2018

How to prioritize projects when everything is important? Recap of ProductCamp Vancouver 2018

agile42 was proud to sponsor ProductCamp Vancouver 2018 - an unconference where the agenda is determined by the attendees who are able to suggest and choose discussion topics. The goal is to prioritize conversation over presentation.

This year we were chosen by the audience to present the session “Defeat the HiPPOs: How to get my feature in the backlog?”. If you had missed our discussion, here is a quick recap:


More often than not, projects are prioritized based on subjective opinions. This method is known internally as HiPPO: Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. When decisions are made based on one person’s opinion, this can be extremely dangerous.

So how can you add extra dimensions to your prioritization methods which allows you to order your work objectively? 

How to get my feature in the backlog?

The question we hear repeatedly is “How can I create a rational and objective process for prioritizing projects?”. In order to defeat the HiPPos in the room and avoid opinion-driven product design, there are 4 golden steps you can take:


1. Create a shared vision.

It is hard to to reach consensus on priorities without a common understanding among stakeholders across the enterprise. As a result, it is essential to have a shared vision that answers two basic questions: “Where are we going?” and “Why?”. A vision provides guidance when you need to make trade-off and project prioritization decisions. However, it is imperative for everyone to align on and buy into this vision; this includes the Team, Stakeholders, Product Owners, and End Users.

2. Define your success indicators.

How do you know if you are making progress in achieving your vision? Success indicators allow you to measure progress towards the vision. By making them transparent, you can then steer conversations towards identifying and selecting projects that move the needles on these success indicators.

3. Have all your stakeholders represented.

Great benefits can be gained by bringing stakeholders to the table together (rather than speaking to them individually). By making sure all the stakeholders are represented, any assumptions such as the costs and benefits of requested projects can be openly discussed. This also offers the opportunity for stakeholders with different interests to find synergies and alignment. Finally, when priorities are openly discussed, commitment to the final decision of everyone present at the discussion would be heightened .

4. Establish a mechanism to make decisions.

The final step is making a decision on which projects to work on next. You must remember that this is an investment in itself - time, money, and effort are finite. Correspondingly, decisions must be justified on the basis of business value

During ProductCamp, we demonstrated a voting technique called Business Value Poker.  A baseline was selected by choosing a project or feature that everyone present at the meeting was familiar with; all the other items were ranked relative to this baseline.

How the Business Value Game works

Let’s say the Baseline Feature has a business value of 1200 points. If a Stakeholder considers Feature A as having a higher value than the Baseline Feature, then she can vote 2000 or 3000 points for Feature A. On the other hand, if someone considers Feature A as having a lower value, then he can assign 800 points or less to Feature A. The ranking takes place over multiple rounds until the Stakeholders reach an agreement on the business value of Feature A. In between voting rounds, the Stakeholders discuss the various aspects of why they attributed a certain value to Feature A. This discussion provides invaluable insights, conversation and alignment between the stakeholders in the room. As you can see, this works very much like story size poker; however, you are discussing how valuable an item is in terms of how much it can move the “success indicators”.

To find out more about business value poker, check it out in more detail at

For a chance to play the Business Value Game, follow us on LinkedIn North America -and- leave a comment on our post “Play the Business Value Game”. Please indicate how you have heard of agile42. The winner will be chosen on Monday, March 26 - 5PM PST, and will win the following:

Contest Rules: One entry per person. Restricted to participants residing in North America.

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Hazel Wong

Marketing Assistant at agile42. Passionate about gaining insights from data in order to create content that resonates with the audience. Eager to help teams and companies open their mindset about the application of agile methods to address their challenges.
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Hazel Wong

Marketing Assistant at agile42. Passionate about gaining insights from data in order to create content that resonates with the audience. Eager to help teams and companies open their mindset about the application of agile methods to address their challenges.

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