Product vs. feature vs. Capability

Product vs. feature vs. Capability

In Product Management, the words Product, Feature, and Capability come up often, and it is essential to differentiate them and identify the role they play in the overall Product Development. In this review, we seek to do precisely that.

Product

This refers to something created to address a shared need or desire that is offered to consumers in the market to benefit them through economies of scale. It is a solution provider and can be acquired at a low cost by customers. Products are rooted in the market strategy.

Products can be physical or virtual. The physical class of products includes goods such as furniture, cars, computers, etc. It can also include non-durable goods such as beverages and food. 

Virtual products include experiences or defined (productized) services. For example, you can offer software as a product or education as a product, if it can be produced at scale and thus offered at a lower cost (ex: pre-recorded educational lectures). There are many other classifications of products, and it depends on what the company is willing to exchange for money.

In a Product-centered company, there must be someone responsible for planning and maintaining the Product in all stages of its lifecycle. This person is most often the Product Manager, and the role they play in Product Management is to holistically think of how the Product will enhance the Customer’s experience.

This is because the end-user in each lifecycle is the Customer, and they must decide how they feel about the Product.

Features

A feature can be defined as a service whose purpose is to fulfill the needs of a stakeholder. It is just one of the many things a product can do. Each feature in Product Development comes with an acceptance criterion as well as a benefit hypothesis and a great product management roadmap. It is also sized and split as per its necessity of deliverance. 

How to Discover and Describe Features

Design thinking is one of the best approaches towards identifying customer-centric features. There are many design tools such as empathy maps, personas, and customer journeys geared towards providing a deeper understanding of the customers, who are the product users. 

They give a deeper context and a better understanding of features, including their benefits. 

How to Create and Manage Features

Product Managers should collaborate with key stakeholders and the Product Owners to define features in the proper context. 

This is because some features may arise as a result of splitting the epics in the cycle. Typically, System Architects are required to create the enabler features in a product. The Program Backlog also enables business features to be created.

The enablers will pave the way for support exploration and architectural runway, which provides the infrastructure you need to test, develop and integrate the features.

The enabler features are likely to originate from epics that locally emerge at the ART level. There are many models in Product Management, such as the WSJF model that enables Product Managers to sequence the different features based on their economics in the Product Development Flow. 

Implementing the right features in the right sequence consequently produces the maximum economic benefit to the overall business. This is a critical process in development. The Solution and Product Management departments have the right to prioritize different features over others.

Capabilities

A capability can be defined as something technical that’s possible at the platform level of Product Development and enables customer-facing features to be created.

It is typically something at a technical platform level that underlies the product and its features. For example, a mobile app (product) might have a feature to recognize a song when it listens.  

The feature is the user experience and the capability is the technical algorithms and data model underneath – it’s like an iceberg, the feature is the part you see above the waterline.

Capabilities have the same practices and characteristics as features in the following ways;

  • They are described by the use of the benefit hypothesis and a phrase.
  • They are sized to fit in the PI and often take more than one ARTs to implement.
  • They are approved and reasoned about by the use of the Solution Kanban. Also, the solution Backlog usually holds the approved ones.
  • They have associated enablers who describe and also bring visibility to the technical work when necessary to support their efficiency in the development and the delivery of the Product.
  • They are generally accepted by the Solution Managers, whose acceptance criteria are usually determined by their functionality to fit their purpose.
  • They originate in the context of the solution and occur as a result of splitting epics. They may also cut across many Value Streams. Another source for capabilities is in the Solution Context, in which some aspects of the environment end up requiring the solution functionality.

How to Split Features and Capabilities

Capabilities usually must first be decomposed into features to be implemented in the Product Development. In turn, they are also split into stories that the teams in iteration can consume. 

Conclusion

In Product Management, the Product is usually the first to be identified, and it must be able to fulfill the need outlined to give the Owners a return on their investment. Additionally, the Product Manager must identify the most critical features and capabilities to prioritize in the development process. These are some of the essential steps in Product Development.

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