Is there a standard for what % of time a SW dev team works on features to satisfy existing users?

TommyGlicker Member
edited February 2023 in Technology & Services Strategy

Hello TSIA community!

I hope you are all doing well. I am hoping to get some insight from the community regarding on average, what percentage of time a software development team is working on different types of feature work for a given product. While I understand this is going to differ depending on what type of product they are working on or how long a given product has been released, I am just trying to look to see what others have experienced.

The different buckets of feature work I was think of were the following:

-New features/UX to expand market reach to bring in new users

-New features/UX to satisfy and provide value to existing user base

-Tech debt items 

-Customer issues/escalations and product bug fixes

I am also not sure if others view those top two buckets of feature work as different areas or just merged and prioritized as a single backlog. If you treat them as a single backlog, do others see potential for the new features to expand the market to starve out the development time from the features for existing users? If not, what metrics do you use to justify the existing user feature work over the feature work for new markets?

I appreciate any insight and look forward to the responses.


Best Answer

  • LauraFay
    LauraFay Member | Guru ✭✭✭✭✭
    Answer ✓

    Hi @Tommy Glicker . Great Question and one that many product teams grapple with. Thanks @Patrick Carmitchel for sharing your own roadmap capacity management methods. I conducted a survey on lifecycle management practice that addressed this very topic. We can see what the percentages are across the industry for each of the areas you call out.

    It's data that's available to members of the XaaS product management research practice, of which NI is a member. If you have a moment and can log the request through the 'Ask a Research Executive' button above right, that would be great. I'll get you that data.


  • JP Azurin
    JP Azurin Member | Enthusiast ✭

    Hi Tommy!

    Thanks for your question. @Denise Stokowski, @Joseph Reifel, or @Kim Metz would any of you have some insight to share around how your organizations have approached this?

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] | admin
    edited June 2021

    @Tommy Glicker this will depend on the metrics by which product success is measured. As far as the industry data goes, I would encourage you to participate in the XaaS Product Management benchmark to get the best insight specific to your company and industry comparisons. In our world, development team effort breaks down like this:

    1. 25% new feature (including testing)
    2. 25% current feature enhancements (including testing)
    3. 20% current feature issues (internal and customer)
    4. 10% continuous performance improvements (not including technical debt)
    5. 10% technical debt
    6. 10% process documentation and automation

    It's important for us to call out the time that is being spent on performance improvements, process and documentation because time is continuously spent during and between sprints—it takes more time than we like to think 😊. We use tags and epics to distinguish these buckets while keeping things centralized in a single product backlog.

    The blog below references XaaS Product Management benchmark:

    According to the XaaS Product Management benchmark, a median of 30% of the roadmap is spent on incremental feature functionality and 12% on managing down tech debt and just 4% on telemetry and analytics. - Laura Fay

    @Laura Fay anything else you would like to add? Are you seeing a distinction in development effort on features to capture new market over feature enhancements to grow current markets served?

  • TommyGlicker

    Thank you both @Laura Fay and @Patrick Carmitchel for your responses on the question. It was helpful to see your real-world example Patrick and Laura I will be sure to fill out the "Ask a Research Executive" to gain access to the additional data.

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    @Tommy Glicker Another way to think about this is how you plan to create and maintain differentiated value.

    You need to allocate your investment dollars into three buckets.

    1. What are the table stakes. What do I have to do to just stay in the game?
    2. What are the negative value drivers (unique costs of my solution or shortcomings relative to the alternatives) that I need to address?
    3. How am I going to increase my positive value differentiation and which of the six categories of economic differentiation do I need t invest in?

    The right answers to these questions depend on (i) industry maturity, (ii) current position and (iii) business strategy. There is no one right answer, but if any of these is zero there is likely some sort of problem.

    I do have some research on normal ranges for each bucket.

    One can also consider investments in emotional value (this can increase pricing power) and community value (which is important to many companies positioning).

    In some cases on also has to make investments that reduce cost to serve or that address security or scalability issues. Basic hygiene does require investment.

    The six categories of economic value are

    • Ways we increase our customer's revenue
    • Ways we reduce our customer's operating expenses
    • Ways we reduce our customer's operating capital requirements
    • Ways we reduce our customer's capital investment requirements
    • Ways we reduce our customer's business risk
    • Ways we increase our customer's business options (ioptions have an economic value)

  • TommyGlicker

    Hi @StevenForth ,

    Thank you for providing some additional perspective on this and you also have me thinking about it in a slightly different way. You mentioned you have some research on normal ranges for each of the buckets you described. Would you be will to walk through that research with me or share it?

  • StevenForth
    StevenForth Founding Partner | Expert ✭✭✭

    @Tommy Glicker

    Let me see if I can pull it into a slide that I can post here. Basically it depends on two things - where the category is in Moore's Technology Adoption Cycle and the strategy for positioning the product/service.

    Selling to Early Adopters

    • 70-90% of investment into creating positive differentiation

    Selling to Beachhead Markets?

    • 30-50% on creating differentiation
    • 30-50% on table stakes
    • 10-20% on eliminating negative value drivers

    Tornado (remembering that most categories never get to a tomado)

    • 20-30% on differentiation
    • 30-50& on table stakes
    • 30-50% on eliminating negative value drivers


    • 30-50% on vertical specific differentiation
    • 20-40% on table stakes (assuming that you have already covered most of the standard functionality, operations, security or you would not have made it this far
    • 20-40% on eliminating negative value drivers

    Which value drivers you invest in will depend on your strategy and positioning. They should be different from your competitors for positive value drivers.