Bug Fixes vs. New Features
Nov. 20, 2017
Approaches to Prioritization
Project managers must take on the responsibility of complex decisions, and one of the most important is establishing what your team should work on next. How do you prioritize bug fixes vs. new product features, though?
It will come as no surprise that custom applications need ongoing maintenance and support, and bugs are a reality of the development process. However, fixing bugs and constant change requests from the business can be a serious distraction. The disruptions can keep your team from focusing on the tasks that move important items forward.
One approach is to help your team by dedicating a portion of their week to correcting issues, leaving the remainder for longer-term tasks. We’ve seen companies use the oft-mentioned 80/20 rule, with 80% of their team’s time spent on new features and 20% spent on addressing technical debt, including bugs. The justification for this approach is that new features are seen as adding more value.
Another approach is to see bugs and features as equal and prioritize them based on an established framework:
Establishing a Prioritization Framework
It’s easy to say everything is important, but a common framework for establishing priority is based on company business goals. At different points in your application’s lifecycle, your goals may shift from acquiring new users to maximizing value for existing ones. Regardless of your current goals, though, prioritization must be done regularly to be effective.
We recommend evaluating priorities with your team on a daily basis, but doing so weekly may suffice depending on the pace of your projects. Here are some questions to consider along the way:
- Are we working on tasks in priority order? Discussing priority loses its value if it’s not actively shifting the efforts of your team.
- Has our framework (e.g. based on company business goals) been helpful in establishing priorities, or do we need to reevaluate?
- What are important, but not urgent, tasks that we continue to delay?
- Where are we wasting the most time?
- What are our customers saying about our ability to deliver what they need, when they need it?
Having a consistent, effective means of evaluating priorities will make your job easier. You’ll be more decisive and confident you’re heading in the right direction. When it’s clear how priorities are established, your team will be happier and more productive, too.