A Detailed Introductory Guide to the Kano Model

Oct 4, 2021

Presenting new features frequently is expected from modern-day software products. Long gone are the days when software updates happened once a year or even every two years. Technology has made significant advancements, and now companies can release new features a lot faster. Many companies update their products once (or more) during the day. 

The ease of deploying updates, along with the necessity to present new features to stay ahead of your competition, has led to another problem. Companies might have many ideas for new features. But they often don't have enough time to thoroughly think about which new features they should add. As a result, occasionally, they end up making rushed decisions, and in the highly competitive technology sector, a rushed decision could harm your business. 

Fortunately, there are tools like the Kano model that'll help you decide which new features you need to include to make your product more competitive. 

In this article, you'll understand the ins and outs of the Kano model and why it would be a great asset for your product team. 

Let's begin! 

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What Is the Kano Model?

At its core, the Kano model is a prioritization model. It helps you decide what features are more valuable for your business, and you can use it for prioritizing their development. The Kano model can assist you in determining what your needs are, what will improve your product, and what your end users will enjoy the most. In other words, with the Kano model, you can optimize your product roadmap

Noriaki Kano, a professor at Tokyo University, was the model's creator back in 1984, and it was named after him. Kano aimed to develop a model that could help determine which features a product should build next, especially under time, financial, and general resource limitations. The Kano model prioritizes features based on the potential satisfaction or excitement a feature may bring to users. You can weigh this against the overall cost, the difficulty, and the risk there is to develop the product. 

Categories of the Kano Model

The Kano model categorizes features based on how customers feel about them and how they satisfy their needs. There are three positive categories. It would be best if you considered including the features that fall in these categories in your plan. On the other side, there are two negative categories with features you should avoid. The five categories are as follows. 


The features of this category are the bare minimum of what an application should provide, and they don't increase customer satisfaction. But users won't even consider adopting a product if it lacks these features. For example, if a code editor doesn't offer syntax highlighting, users won't use it. 


The second category is performance, which is also known as the one-dimensional quality. The relationship here between the feature attributes and user satisfaction is simple; the more a user gets, the more their level of satisfaction increases. 


The third category is about attractive features, also known as excitement factors or delighters. Here, there's no proportional relationship between feature attributes and user satisfaction. An attractive feature could be something unexpected, something that provides the wow factor to a product that will result in disproportionate customer satisfaction. Many times, features initially considered to be attractive at the beginning can later fall into the expected or in different categories. Consider the example with the code editor. When syntax highlighting was first introduced, users were satisfied with this new feature. Nowadays, it's expected. 


Users are indifferent to features that fall into this category. It doesn't matter to them whether a product has these features or not. Therefore, it would be a waste of resources to invest in them. 


The final category is about features that dissatisfy your users, and having them can devalue your product. It's called reverse because these features bring the opposite results from what you would expect or want to have. 

How to Use the Kano Model

The Kano model application process consists of three steps. 

Match features and users: In the first step, you match the features you want to examine to users who represent your real-life target group most accurately. Choosing suitable users for each feature will add consistency to the data they provide, and your results will be reliable. 

Collect user data: During the second step, and after choosing your users carefully, you provide them with a questionnaire. Then they have to answer both a functional and a dysfunctional question for each feature under examination. A functional question examines how the user feels about a feature when it's available. On the other side, the dysfunctional question examines how the absence of the feature makes them react. Users can answer these questions by selecting an option from a predefined list. 

One of the most challenging parts of using the Kano model is to phrase your questions clearly to avoid user confusion and eventually blurry results. 

Evaluate user data and grade features: After analyzing the results, you can categorize your features in one of the five categories we saw earlier, plus a questionable category when the result is not decisive. Kano's evaluation map will help you determine the final grade of your features. Afterward, you'll have a clear view of how to prioritize them. 

Kano Model Benefits and Weaknesses

The Kano model offers a deep analysis that will help you see your product from your users' eyes. It can shed light on what feature attributes they find satisfying, which features can make you stand out from your competition, and which you should avoid. It allows you to experiment with new features as you can measure their level of acceptance from your customer base proactively. Generally, the Kano model can help you understand your users and efficiently address their needs. 

On the other side, the Kano model certainly has weaknesses. The process can take a long time to provide results. You have to collect all the ideas you want to test at first. Then you have to create a functional and dysfunctional version for each and, finally, analyze the responses. Also, because a Kano model questionnaire, in most cases, is longer than standard questionnaires, it might tire participants, and ultimately they may provide inaccurate answers. Overall, the process is challenging, time-consuming, and requires specialized knowledge to do it properly and gain value. The benefits surpass the weaknesses, but you definitely should keep these in mind before you start. 

Value Stream Management With Plutora

To sum things up, the Kano model is a great tool to help you make product decisions. It provides valuable insights about which features your users like or dislike, and you can prioritize them accordingly. 

Still, creating a great product will require making some difficult decisions and a lot of back and forth. 

Plutora is a full-featured value stream management platform (VSMP) that sits on top of existing best-of-breed tools to implement value stream management. Value stream management enables you to create sustainable product value streams and to use that information to guide continuous improvement. With Plutora, you have a holistic view of your software development process, from the initial idea to the final feature delivery. The Plutora platform is designed to help your business provide more value to your users by converting data into insights. For more information on Plutora, take a look at our approach to business intelligence for product managers
And if you want to learn more about value stream management, take a look at our white paper: Value Stream Management: the missing piece that makes value flow through SAFe + DevOps.

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