Buy a Feature Prioritization

Product Discovery

What is Buy A Feature Prioritization?

Buy-a-Feature is a prioritization framework that puts the decision of feature prioritization in the hands of the customer. Typically feature prioritization falls on the Product Manager and their team. This framework, introduced by Luke Hohmann’s book Innovation Games, takes the guesswork out by going directly to the customer for the answers. 

Organizations and customers usually want all of the features to be created, without accounting for the resources available to develop those features. The Buy-a-Feature game gives a limited amount of “money” to potential customers, places prices on features, and asks that they purchase features with the “money” they are given. By putting the decision making power in the hands of the customer, you can see what features are ‘make it or break’ it features and which they are willing to forgo.

Preparing to prioritize with Buy A Feature

Once you’ve invited your customers to play the Buy A Feature game you’ll want to make sure you’re fully prepared with the following:

  • Decide on Potential Features – Itemize a list of features that you and your team are considering for development. Don’t include the features that you’ve already confirmed for development or features that are must-have features. Only include the features that are potential features that need prioritization.
  • Price out features – This exercise is intended to encourage customer interaction and negotiation. Determine a price for each feature that represents the true cost of development; time and resources. Since negotiation is encouraged, it’s a good idea to price at least one desirable feature higher than the amount of “money” given to each customer to see if they will pool together their resources for this feature. Equally as good of an idea is to give enough “money” for the customers to buy a total of about ⅔ of the features. This will force each customer to decide on the ⅓ that they can live without.
  • Identify your players/customers – Group together your customers based on the types of features that your prioritizing. For example, if you have a feature that’s geared towards kids you’ll want parents in that group. While grouping your customers it’s important to keep in mind what percentage of the market this group will make up for your product. If the kids market is only about twenty percent of your expected customer base, then group about twenty percent of your players in this category.
  • Create your money – You’ll need to have some form of “money” for the game enabling customers to buy and negotiate for the features. Consider making your own money with your products’ logo on it. This can be a fun souvenir for the players. You can also create the money to have odd denominations that coincide with your features prices. If you don’t create your own money you can use things like poker chips, or candy. The idea is to get creative, have fun with it and make it enjoyable for the players in the game.

Playing the Buy A Feature game

With all of your players gathered together to play Buy A Feature, it’s a good idea to have a disclaimer and inform the players that this is a game and does not guarantee or promise the development of the chosen features from this game.

  • List Features and Prices – Start the game by listing the features that are potential features, and the prices that are associated with each feature.
  • Give players money – Give your participants a fixed amount of  “money” to go shopping with, and encourage the players to negotiate.
  • Customers “buy” Features – It’s now time for the players to buy the available features. This is the most important part of the game. You’ll want to have team facilitators with each group to answer any questions they have about the features and to take note of their discussions, collaborations, and debates. The discussions amongst the players about why they do or do not want to buy a specific feature are incredibly valuable insights that you’ll want the team facilitators to document or take mental note of for later internal discussion.
  • Review player’s purchases – Once the players have run out of money, have them explain why they purchased the features that they did and why they chose to forgo the other features. This can be valuable learning for the customers, as they will learn to prioritize their own needs for your product.


The Buy a Feature game is an ideal prioritization framework to apply when your organization wants to build more features than the resources that they  have available. By putting the prioritization in the hands of potential customers, you can quickly gain clarity on the must-have features according to the market.

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