Prioritization: identifying primary and secondary cases

To be able to competently prioritize is one of the PM’s “superpowers”. At the same time, the identification of primary and secondary cases is a fundamental part of prioritization.

Primary cases are considered to be the “must have” parts of the product, without which the user simply would not be able to use the service. For example, in Uber, this is the option to call a taxi, and in WhatsApp, sending a message to a specific phone number. A service usually consists of 1–3 primary use cases.

Secondary or minor cases are the use cases that a user can do without. For example, the option to rate a driver in Uber or add Stories in WhatsApp are both secondary functions of their respective services.
A shift in focus from improving the primary cases to improving secondary ones can lead to a drop in user metrics and an outflow of the user base.

A separation of primary and secondary cases should be #2 in a PM’s to-do list — after diving into the product. → About this #1 you can read here.

Why you need it. You won’t succeed in covering the entire product all at once. Keeping an inventory of all the released features is a resource-consuming task. So first and foremost, you need to identify key scenarios and verify that they are operating correctly. This is an equally valid approach in either situation: both when a PM has just joined an existing project, and when he/she launches a brand new service.

Important. It is often the case that a service’s audience is heterogeneous — by behavior, habits, demography, desires, solvency (we will discuss user segmentation separately). As a result, there may be a different set of primary and secondary cases for each user segment.
Gathering users’ feedback will help a PM to better find out which features are more popular and which ones are not crucial. As a result, the cases will be arranged correctly.
For example, in a live-streaming service, there are 2 main user segments: streaming authors and viewers. For streaming authors, the main case will be “stream creation”, and for viewers, “stream search” and “stream viewing”.
If a PM’s “baby” has not yet been conceived, the PM should identify primary and secondary cases of competitors’ products in order to later apply them to his/her future creation.

First, research primary cases.
Analyze and compare primary cases from several competitors.
Don’t miss any crucial details.

Case samples:
  • Live-streaming service in social media.
The key case: video conference and sound.
The secondary case: stickers. But if a company creates and monetizes stickers, then it’ll become the main scenario.
  • Online shop.
The key case: purchase of goods.
The secondary case: purchase of an additional guarantee or newsletter subscription.
  • Voice and text chat Discord.
The key case: online communication of gamers.
The secondary case: developers’ professional interaction.
What you need to do:
  1. Create a list of the main user segments for your product.
  2. For each of the main segments, make a list of primary and secondary cases.
  3. Take ideas from your backlog and organize them into primary and secondary cases (see screenshot above).
  4. Check that there is no bias in your ideas towards improving secondary, rather than the primary cases.
  5. If necessary, brainstorm some additional product ideas aimed specifically at improving the primary cases.

P.S. Pinpointing the primary and secondary cases will help when working with the designer: when you are discussing a service screen, indicate which aspects are the primary cases and which are the secondary. Also identify the user segment that will be using that particular screen.

ProductStar team

with 🖤