Large switch

Requirements are more than just on or off!

The Kano Model is a tool to help categorize product requirements.  The model created by Professor Kano groups all requirements into five categories:

  1. Must-be Quality, also known as basic needs,
  2. One-dimensional Quality, also known as performance attributes,
  3. Attractive Quality, also known as delighters,
  4. Indifferent Quality (neither improve or detract from satisfaction), and
  5. Reverse Quality (reduce satisfaction when achieved).

Most typical implementations of the Kano model tend to focus on the first three areas.  

A version of the Kano model is pictured below.

Kano Model

CC BY-SA 3.0 Craigwbrown~commonswiki


Basic needs are needed to meet core user expectations.  If they are not met no one will be satisfied and will either not buy or not use the product.  When planning incremental releases many product owners will focus initially on basic needs (a form of minimum viable product).  Note, that just meeting basic needs will generate only a tenuously viable product. 

Performance attributes meet core business aspirations or strategies such as efficiency, cost performance, quality or innovation to name a few. More is better until the cost becomes an issue. Unlike basic needs, performance attributes can generate positive customer satisfaction.

Delighters, are the bright shiny functions that attract interest for a product. Over time a delighter tends to fade into the basic need category, therefore, it needs to be refreshed with new innovations periodically in order to attract attention. 

There is a prioritization tension between these three categories. Without basic needs, users will be unsatisfied, without performance attributes the product will not meet their organization’s business aspirations, and finally without delighters customers and users will not be happy. If the effort available to build or enhance a product is constrained (it almost always is) product owners and stakeholders need to:

  1. Categorize the requirements based on the Kano Model. A facilitated session using a variation of Affinity Diagramming is an effective method of crowdsourcing categorization.
  2. Map the requirements to the product’s roadmap.  Product roadmaps incorporate a time dimension that should factor into prioritization.  Features planned for the future should be prioritized lower than those projected for the near term.
  3. Satisfy basic needs. Without the basics, no amount of performance attributes or delighters will create long term satisfied customers and users.
  4. Balance performance and delighters and their position on the roadmap with the capacity of the teams available.

Note: Quality Function Deployment can be used as a categorization tool instead of affinity diagramming. 

Kano is most valuable when an organization takes a product focus. The product focus means that:

  • Functionality is continually added to a product until it loses economic viability. 
  • A product evolves as the business environment continuously changes.  
  • Longer time horizons and changing environments provide fertile pastures for discovery and innovation.

This approach will not be as effective if organizations take a more classic project approach where backlogs are generated periodically, worked on for a specific period of time, and then lay fallow until a new set of needs and budgets are devolved.