Value vs. Complexity Framework

The Value vs. Complexity framework is a prioritization model. It allows product teams to evaluate ideas based on how much value they add and how difficult they are to implement. The Value vs. Complexity framework helps businesses prioritize product feature lists during development.

Understanding the Value vs. Complexity framework

In an ideal world, features that provide the most value to the business and customer are rolled out first. But this process ignores their inherent complexity. In other words, how much time, effort, or cost is associated with rolling out each feature?

The Value vs. Complexity framework helps product managers objectively allocate resources to a product initiative based on its perceived benefit. Indeed, the framework offers a standardized decision-making process for many parameters, including product enhancements and fixes.

Completing a Value vs. Complexity analysis

To determine which initiatives to shelve and which to move ahead with, the product team must create a matrix of four equal squares. On the y-axis, value is represented from low to high. On the x-axis, complexity (of implementation) is represented from low to high.

For each feature being considered, the team must then consider the:

  • Anticipated value. For example, will the initiative reduce user pain or improve efficiency? Does it add value to the business through customer acquisition or retention? Will the initiative enhance brand image? Will it impact a large enough audience to make it viable? Value can also be assessed by considering how urgently the market wants it.
  • The effort required to realize this value. Complexity may include operational costs, developer hours, customer or employee training, and risk.

For both axes, the business must determine a consistent and weighted scoring system according to how important it deems each feature attribute. 

Then, each feature is plotted on the matrix in one of four quadrants:

  1. High value/low complexity – initiatives falling into this quadrant are the top priority. Though it is worth noting that most of the tasks occupying this category have likely been completed already.
  2. High value/high complexity – initiatives in the second quadrant have the potential to deliver high value, but their complexity prohibits their implementation. On occasion, these initiatives may be broad, strategic initiatives that require a long-term investment of time and money.
  3. Low value/low complexity – these initiatives are low value, but they may still represent desirable features, nonetheless. Their low complexity makes them attractive to product teams, particularly during transitional periods between projects.
  4. Low value/high complexity – or initiatives that should be avoided completely. This is one of the core strengths of the Value vs. Complexity framework, helping businesses identify initiatives that are likely to represent low ROI.

Key takeaways:

  1. The Value vs. Complexity framework is a feature prioritization model based on the likely value and complexity of implementation of each feature.
  2. The Value vs. Complexity framework allows product managers to implement a standardized, objective decision-making process for new initiatives.
  3. The Value vs. Complexity framework is represented on a matrix of four quadrants. Using a weighted, customized scoring system, a business determines which initiatives are worthy of further exploration.

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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