Can Everything be a Top Priority?

Doug Earl

At many points during your project, you'll need to answer some tough questions: We can’t implement all of these use cases, so which ones are top priority? Which of these UI wireframes is best? Which requirements can we defer until later? Our latest feature lets you poll your stakeholders to get their opinions on these questions and more.

Creating a Poll

Let’s dive right in to see how it works. From the Polls page, click the New Poll button and give it a name:

CreatePoll

Once you’ve created the poll, you’ll be be able to Add Items and Edit the poll:

EditPoll

Click the edit button to to set the question that voters should answer.  Phrase the question as if there were only two choices (you’ll understand why later on), and be specific.  For example, “Which use case is more important to have in release 1.0?”. Keep in mind that you can use polls to gather all sorts of project metrics, not just priority.  For example:

  • A poll for developers that asks, “Which use case would take longer to implement?”. You’ll get a rough estimate for complexity that can aid in project scheduling and estimation.
  • A poll for Business Analysts that asks, “Which use case is easier to understand?”.  It might be the case that the lower ranking use cases could use some rewriting or refactoring to aid comprehension when you present them to your developers or end users.
  • A poll for your QA team that asks, “Which requirement is more difficult to test?”.  You might want to set up test harnesses for those requirements right away.

After setting the question, click Add Items to select the items you want people to vote on. Choose a small subset of your items – this will make it easier on your voters (more on that later).

Starting the Poll

Now you’re ready to start the poll. The standard sharing mechanism is used to give voters access, even if they don’t have an account.  When you click Start, a private URL will be generated that you give to your voters. They just need to follow that link to start voting:

SharePoll

Voting

So now is a good time to step back for a minute to describe the voting technique. We wanted voting to be fun, easy to understand, and easy to use on a mobile device. We considered many approaches such as ranking, a points system, and grouping.  And in fact, we may eventually implement all of those ideas, but for our first technique, we chose a “duel” approach, or “dueling requirements” if you will (cue music).  Here’s how it works: two items will be shown side-by-side. The voter simply picks which one best answers the question.  Then another pair of items will be presented and so on, until all possible pairings have been voted upon:

PollPairing

Two great things about this approach…First, voters only need to consider two items at a time, greatly simplifying their decision. No time is spent trying to make nuanced decisions, for example if a particular use case is a medium or medium-high priority.  And second, voters are forced to make a decision – there’s no way to mark everything as high priority despite their desire to do so.

It’s probably clear now why I said it’s best to keep your polls small. The number of pairings grows quickly as you add items to the poll. For example, a 10 item poll will have 45 pairings. A lot to be sure, but keep in mind that voters don’t have to vote in one sitting, and they can use their mobile device to vote anywhere and anytime, such as during commutes on the train, or in the dentist’s waiting room.

Poll Results

Poll results are displayed in a graph that shows the percentage of duels each item has won:

PollResults

This data is most useful as guidance and to spur further discussion; it shouldn’t be used to make decisions for you.  For example, from the graph above it’s a pretty safe bet that creating a loan account is higher priority than evaluating a loan application, but it gets a little fuzzy in the middle.  And if all your items are closely ranked, then it’s a good indicator that your project stakeholders have a lot of competing interests and cutting a particular feature will surely disappoint someone!

Try it out!

Want to give it a try? Try our sample just-for-fun poll so you can see firsthand how it works. You can check the results any time if you’re curious to know how the poll turns out.

As I mentioned earlier, this is just the first polling approach that we have planned.  Does your organization have a favorite voting technique that you’d like to see us implement?  If so, let us know!

posted 1 Feb 2012 under Features

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