How to Create a Product Features Matrix

product-features-matrix

Need a product features matrix?

If you have one product and one feature only, you probably don’t.

If you can’t remember every feature, and the different benefits each offers, and the use cases, and the business rules, then you may need a feature matrix.

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Not convinced?

Ever heard of Backrub?

Well, grasshopper…

Once upon a time there was a search engine and the search engine’s name was Backrub… [true, btw]

That’s all it did. Search.

Then it changed its name to Google. A-ha!

Then it added Gmail, Maps, Reader, Wave, and other products. Some worked. Others didn’t and were closed down.

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Definition

A quick one line definition:

A Product Features Matrix combines two or more related products into a single composite product.

Products Grow Up

What started as one simple product (search) became very difficult to manage (maps, email, documents, reader, photos).

The mix of features across the product suite didn’t work in harmony.

Purpose

You can use feature matrices to help your development and/or QA teams understand proposed changes to the product, the business case, and identify any potential issues.

The product features matrix has several purposes:

  • Product owners can see the mix of features across the product set. This helps define the Product Roadmap.
  • Business Analysts can see which products complement each other. Understanding this allows them to write accurate requirements and business rules.
  • Developers can see what features have been implemented into different products.
  • Marketers can use the features matrix to setup the pricing pages. Products can be structured by feature, importance, platform, among others.
  • Customers can identify the feature they need most. Knowing this allows them to buy the product that matches their needs.

Benefits

The big ones are:

  • Controls scope/feature creep.
  • Improves the product development plan.
  • Ensures a consistent message to customers.
  • Help customers choose the correct product.

Risks

If you don’t create a product matrix, you run the risk of:

  • Developing features customers don’t want
  • Confusing the marketing message
  • Wasting development time
  • Removing conflicting features
  • Unbundling features

A matrix is a map is disguise

If you’ve ever driven around Rome without a map, you’ll know the feeling.

You’re going somewhere — and you keep seeing the Coliseum in the distance — but you never quite get there.

You need a map.

A matrix is a two or three dimensional map. What’s not to love?

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How to create

At some point, someone at Google drew a box on a whiteboard. Trust me on this. Smart people love white boards.

  • Then they added some columns and rows.
  • Into each row they added a product name.
  • Into each row they added a feature.
  • They identified each attribute.
  • They identified where each attribute fitted into each product.
  • If a product had a feature, they’d highlight it.

This simple exercise shows you, at a glance:

  • Every feature
  • Its attributes
  • Their relative importance (High/Medium/Low)
  • Platform
  • Operating System
  • And so on.

Without this, you might have an idea of what’s in the product, but not how they all link together.

The global resistance to matrices

So, why don’t we create product matrices?

  • It takes effort.
  • It’s hard.
  • It can also be unflattering.

No one wants to admit they’ve been running at high speed for several months… in the wrong direction.

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Product Features Matrix: What to include

A bare-bones matrix should include the following for each feature:

  • Iteration number
  • Priority
  • Feature Name
  • Description
  • Estimation Iteration Date #1
  • Estimation Iteration Date #2
  • Estimation Iteration Date N
  • Date Completed

Tracking Feature Change Requests

When tracking your features, create a spreadsheet with the following:

  • Date
  • Who
  • Feature
  • Update
  • Reason
  • Requested By
  • Feature ID
  • Reason for change

Remember to update the features list continuously to ensure that priority features are developed first, so you can benefit as quickly as possible from project implementation.

Software Product Features Matrix

For software projects, you need to capture the following:

  • ID
  • Feature name
  • Required
  • Field values
  • Field validation display text
  • Field validation
  • Data model type
  • Data model field name
  • Business rules
  • Phase
  • User access

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My Favorite Product Features Matrix Ever

Here are some examples of product features matrices we like:

https://www.visualstudio.com/

https://www.teamplatform.com/features-table/

http://answers.squarespace.com/

http://www.usingmyhead.com/

http://www.rasmusschuebel.com/

https://static1.squarespace.com/ PNG

https://docs.google.com/

Product Features Matrix Template

You can download a product features matrix template here:

Features elements matrix template

Summary

Having a product matrix doesn’t guarantee your product will be better.

But it does mean you can see your product set.

You now have a blueprint, a starting point.

You have a living map.

Why do you use a Product Features Matrix? Or why not?

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