How to Aligning your Product Development with Business Goals. The Ways Gainsight Fills its Backlog

In this episode, we will explain how to evolve a digital product that aligns with business goals and show you how to determine the key tasks to prioritize during development.

#About the co-author – Paweł Papliński 

Dr. Paweł Papliński is a distinguished marketing and product management executive with over two decades of international experience. Currently serving as the Head of Product for Gainsight, Digital Hub, he has held pivotal roles in renowned organisations such as Albert Heijn,, VEON, and Orange Business Services. A strategic visionary and data-driven leader, Paweł specialises in product development, digital marketing, and advanced data analytics. He holds a PhD in technical sciences from Warsaw University of Technology. His expertise in agile software development, AI, and SaaS makes him a thought leader in the field.

#So, what is a backlog?

In simple words, a backlog is a list of things that need to be done in the context of a project. It's like a to-do list but for a team working together on a bigger goal. The backlog helps keep what needs to be done and in what order, so everyone can stay organized and focused on one task at a time, which can be absolutely different, such as adding new features, fixing problems, or changing things already there.

Github Kanban Board Illustration

#Why is backlog important?

A product backlog is a bucket list of suggestions and brainwaves from various sources, like your product development colleagues, sales team, and biz dev wizards. But the feedback that matters most comes from your users – those who actually use the product. So your job is to sift through all this feedback, pick out the most crucial bits, and make sure your team tackles them in the proper order.

Without a solid system for managing this influx of feedback, things can quickly get out of hand, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and buried in a sea of suggestions. But if you settle your process, it can help your team stay more organised and focused, which means your product will ultimately be much better – and customers will be way more likely to buy it, too.

#What are specific points to fill the backlog and prioritise features?

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

In the product teams I was working in, we always employed a strategic approach to fill our product backlog and prioritise features, ensuring that our efforts aligned with our overarching business goals and customer needs. Our process includes several key steps:

Gathering Input from Multiple Sources: We actively collect ideas, suggestions, and feedback from various sources, including customers, team members, and stakeholders. This helps us create a diverse and comprehensive backlog.

Aligning with Business Objectives: Each potential backlog item is evaluated against our company's strategic goals. This ensures that the features we develop contribute directly to our business growth and align with our long-term vision.

Customer-Centric Prioritization: Customer feedback and market research play a crucial role. We prioritise features that address customer pain points, enhance user experience, and meet market demands.

Data-Driven Decision Making: We leverage data analytics to understand user behaviour and market trends. This data informs our decisions, helping us prioritise features that will have the most significant impact.

Feasibility and Resource Assessment: We assess the technical feasibility and resource requirements for each item. This helps us identify what’s achievable in our current context, balancing innovation with practicality.

Regular Backlog Refinement: Our backlog is a living entity. We regularly review and refine it to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with our evolving business needs and market conditions.

Transparent Communication: We maintain open lines of communication across departments. This transparency ensures everyone understands the rationale behind the prioritisation decisions.

Using Agile M

ethodologies: We employ agile methodologies, such as Scrum or Kanban, to keep our development process flexible and responsive to change.

Risk Assessment: We evaluate the risks associated with each backlog item, considering factors like market uncertainty and technical challenges.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation: We learn from each development cycle, applying insights to refine our prioritisation process continually.

By following these steps, the product teams I was working with ensure that our product backlog is a dynamic, strategic tool that drives our product development in a direction that maximises value for our customers and our business.

#How to fill the backlog?

Before we get into the details, everything I will tell you is vital if your role involves thinking about big-picture impact. You're not just trying to improve one specific thing, like a number or metric; you're considering taking the whole product or company to the next level.

#Company strategy

First, you need to look at your company's overall plan – it will give you a good sense of where your product should be headed. If the company is trying to expand or break into new markets, it could give you ideas for adding some fresh features to help make that happen.

On the contrary, if your company's already off the ground, you should streamline workflows and save money. But remember to talk to your managers to see if they have any exciting ideas to improve your product. Once you have solid ideas, test them and see if they work!

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

Our approach begins with a clear definition of the product vision and product strategy, grounded in the company's strategic goals. This foundational step ensures that every aspect of our work, including backlog prioritization, is directly aligned with these overarching objectives. We then establish specific product goals, which act as targeted milestones towards achieving our strategic vision. During the backlog prioritization process, each item is meticulously mapped to these defined product goals. This mapping is critical as it guarantees that our focus remains on tasks and features that directly contribute to our strategic objectives, ensuring a coherent and goal-oriented development process.

#Job Story

The Job Stories method is a great way to determine what users want from your product. This is especially useful if you're working in an agile environment and need to change things quickly.

Job Stories help the product team better understand the user's situation and create a solution that works for them. A good example is Uber, which uses Job Stories for taxis and ordering food and groceries. This is part of their overall strategy to be a global company that provides many services. It's not just a little feature. It's a significant change in the market. 


Dr. Paweł Papliński:

In my experience with various product teams, we have employed specific methods to understand and cater to user requirements effectively. Primarily, we utilise user stories and job stories, particularly in agile development environments. User stories allow us to frame functionality from the perspective of the end user, ensuring our development efforts are user-centric. Job stories, on the other hand, delve deeper into the context and motivations of users, providing a more nuanced understanding of their needs. Both methods are instrumental in guiding our design and development processes, ensuring that the solutions we create are not only technically sound but also resonant with our users' actual requirements and scenarios. This approach leads to more relevant and impactful product features, enhancing overall user satisfaction and product success.

#Insights from the C-level and founders of the company

The third tool you can use is getting insights from the founder or head of the company. Usually, these people have a lot of knowledge about the market, pay attention to what's happening, and understand what the audience wants. Of course, you shouldn't just blindly follow one person's opinion, but it's imperative to listen to everyone's ideas, especially those at the highest level of the company.

#Market Insights

The fourth tool you can use is getting insights from the market. It's crucial to stay up-to-date with what's happening in your industry, such as new technologies similar to your product or what your competitors are doing, whether based in Europe, the US, China, or anywhere else.

Speaking of China and South Korea in particular, those are great examples to look at if you're building a new product, testing a feature, or just want to see how a user's needs are met. There are a lot of exciting products and resources there, and the products often have unconventional solutions. It makes other countries' markets an excellent source for filling your backlog with new ideas. 

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

In my past experience with product teams, addressing question 4, we've always emphasized the importance of understanding local specifics when working with different markets. Recognizing that user experience can vary significantly across regions, we prioritize gaining a deep understanding of local cultures, behaviors, and preferences. This local insight is crucial because what constitutes an ideal user experience in one market may not translate directly to another due to varying cultural norms, technological infrastructures, and user expectations. By tailoring our products to reflect these local nuances, we ensure that they resonate more effectively with users in each market. This approach not only enhances user satisfaction but also positions our products as sensitive and adaptable to diverse user bases, ultimately contributing to broader market acceptance and success.

#Insights from the sales department and technical support

The fifth point is all about gathering insights from the sales department and technical support. It's important for any product to periodically listen to calls from the sales department and read technical support chats. Doing so will help you develop your ability to empathize with users and understand their needs, which will, in turn, help you make more accurate guesses about what features will be successful.

Listening to just a few calls can yield several interesting hypotheses worth testing. The same is true for reading tech support chats – this is just as important as custom development because it allows you to see and feel the problems that users are facing.

It's worth noting that if you have a marketing department, several people from that team should also listen to calls from the sales department. For example, if a user asks a question during the sales process, the information they were looking for wasn't provided earlier, perhaps on your website or elsewhere. By identifying these gaps, you can improve your product and the user experience.

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

My experience has highlighted the critical role of Customer Success and Sales departments in effective backlog management. Their insights are invaluable in understanding customer needs and market demands. We ensure their active participation in regular meetings dedicated to capturing feedback. This collaborative approach enables us to directly integrate customer and market insights into our development process. Moreover, involving these departments in the prioritisation process is essential. Their firsthand experience with customer interactions and market trends provides a practical perspective, helping us prioritise features and tasks that truly resonate with our users and address real market needs. This integrative approach ensures that our product development is not only technically robust but also closely aligned with customer satisfaction and market success.


Another way to generate fresh ideas for your product backlog is to analyze your data. This involves delving into your analytics system and working with your data analyst to uncover any unusual fluctuations in your metrics.

For instance, suppose one of your marketing channels experiences a sudden increase in a particular metric, but you're not sure why. In that case, you need to investigate what's driving the surge and replicate it across all other channels. Alternatively, if you notice a slight decline in metrics on a specific track, you should pinpoint the root cause and implement a solution to rectify it. Doing so will help boost your overall metrics and prevent similar issues from recurring down the line.

UX Solutions

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

Product analytics has fundamental importance of product analytics in backlog prioritisation. The process begins with the careful definition of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), including a North Star KPI, which are aligned with our product goals. These KPIs serve as critical benchmarks to measure the success and impact of our product features. Following this, we engage in continuous monitoring of product module adoption and usage patterns. This constant analysis allows us to gain real-time insights into how users interact with different aspects of our product, guiding us in identifying areas for improvement or expansion. By grounding our backlog prioritisation in this data-driven approach, we ensure that our development efforts are not only aligned with our strategic goals but are also responsive to actual user engagement and behaviour. This approach enables us to make informed, objective decisions about what features to develop next, maximising the impact and relevance of our product updates.

#Customer Development

The seventh tool is conducting customer development, which has been mentioned several times. It's important to remember a few things:

Firstly, customer development provides not just specific insights and hypotheses but also helps develop empathy. Working in IT, people can become disconnected from the everyday struggles of the average person. By conducting customer development and talking to users, you can better understand who your product is for and their needs. It's also helpful to take any opportunity to speak to people from different areas.

Secondly, customer development is a good tool for testing a strategy or Job Story. You can take a hypothesis that logically follows the development of your company and test it in customer development to see if it resonates with the user's needs. If there's no connection, it could indicate a problem higher up in the company. Even if your company has a dedicated research team, conducting customer development calls a few times a week is essential to stay connected with the user.

Dr. Paweł Papliński:

In my experience, the customer development process is a pivotal aspect of shaping a product that truly meets user needs and expectations. This process starts with engaging directly with potential and existing customers to gather insights about their experiences, challenges, and desires. We conduct interviews, surveys, and use beta testing groups to collect feedback on various aspects of the product.

The key here is not just to collect data, but to actively listen and interpret what customers are saying, and sometimes, what they're not saying. This involves identifying patterns and underlying problems that our product can solve. We then use these insights to formulate hypotheses about product improvements or new features.

Next, we test these hypotheses through iterative cycles, constantly refining our understanding based on customer feedback. This might involve releasing minimum viable products (MVPs) or prototypes to a subset of users and gauging their response. This iterative process is crucial as it allows us to pivot or make adjustments based on real user feedback before rolling out changes on a larger scale.

Ultimately, the goal of the customer development process is to ensure that we are building a product that aligns with the actual needs and wants of our users, rather than assumptions. This approach not only enhances user satisfaction and engagement but also drives the product’s overall success in the market.


The last but not least way to fill the backlog is through research. This means more than just talking to users; it also includes market research.

For example, at Company, there's a whole department dedicated to market research that provides insights into how users behave, as opposed to just one or a few users. The behavior of a hundred users can be very different from just one user selected for a particular study. Market research considers the effects of mass character, market statistics, and purchasing power.

For instance, during a crisis, it's essential to consider that purchasing power will likely decrease, so products with a lower average cost or subscription models may be more suitable. People also tend to plan their spending for only a few months ahead during unstable times, so products with a shorter review cycle may be more effective.


To sum up the rules for prioritising an online product:

  1. Agree with the company's management on priorities and their weights at the start, or create them yourself based on the company's characteristics.

  2. Keep a buffer for unexpected tasks and avoid too tightly planning the team's time.

  3. Consider the company's priorities and strategy, the state of the economy and the market, and the company's resources when setting priorities.

It is crucial to think and follow frameworks more than just automatically. Take time to evaluate your company and its condition before making decisions.

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