Applying the Kano Analysis Model to Requirements Identification & Prioritization

Because stakeholders make decisions both at conscious and unconscious levels, they are unable to express everything they want in a solution. The Kano Model is a technique that allows the analyst elicit and categorize requirements along two axes: How well requirements are executed and the level of customer satisfaction.

Kano Analysis is a technique for determining the ranking of different product requirements; it helps categorize, interpret and rank customer requirements. The technique recommends that product requirements be sorted into 3 categories:

1. Threshold Requirements – these are requirements that customers see as given and constitute the minimal acceptance criteria for the product. Customers expect to find these features in their products and most times, don’t explicitly ask for it. Since they are considered given, their fulfillment does not increase their satisfaction but they are certainly dissatisfied if these requirements are not fulfilled. For example, most folks expect word processing software to have different formatting styles and would be dissatisfied if they didn't have an in-built set of styles to draw on. By perusing the features of similar applications, the analyst can identify the minimum criteria that can make the solution acceptable to stakeholders. Threshold requirements can also be identified through FMEA, user complaints, industry standards, experience, tribal knowledge, etc. 

2. Performance Requirements – The inclusion of these requirements can produce a fairly linear increase in the customers' satisfaction in the product. Examples include speed and ease of use. Performance requirements when fulfilled, increase the acceptability of solutions and are explicitly demanded by customers. Avenues like interviews and focus groups provide a platform for eliciting performance requirements. Customers find it easier to discuss these requirements and usually, the higher the level of their fulfilment, the higher the customer satisfaction. An example could be customers requesting for a word processor, which in addition to local machine installations, is accessible online.

3. Excitement Requirements – These requirements are those that customers did not think of or even think was possible. As such, having a product with such requirements fulfilled can increase customer satisfaction to a large extent, but will not cause dissatisfaction if they’re absent. An example is a word processing application that allows importing stencils for drawing diagrams just like a modelling tool. Customers do not expect to be able to make sophisticated drawings with their word processors but if that feature is included, they would be delightfully surprised. Excitement requirements deliver the extra “buzz” around the solution and can be a source of unique competitive advantage to the business. The challenge often lies in understanding the customer’s latent needs. Due to their implicit nature, excitement requirements are elicited through methods like observation, pain storming, ideal visioning, etc.

So, what are the advantages of applying the Kano Model to your Business Analysis tasks?

  • Like the MosCow technique, it can be used to prioritise product requirements in agile environments. Focusing on delivering performance and excitement requirements will deliver more value to the business than threshold requirements
  • Product requirements are better understood through the Kano Model and can help the business decide which requirements to go with, especially in trade-off situations where a choice has to be made between one requirement and another due to technical, financial or schedule constraints
  • Discovering excitement requirements which are implementable can help differentiate the business in the market and set it aside from competition. Kano Analysis can also help companies determine which mix of product features or requirements can help them gain competitive advantage in the market
  • It provides an opportunity for the analyst to incorporate the "Voice-of-the-Customer" in identifying and prioritising requirements.

Since the market is such a dynamic place with changing interests and demands, requirement categorizations based on this model are never static and should be constantly re-evaluated and re-prioritized for accuracy. Today’s excitement requirements eventually become tomorrow’s performance requirements which eventually become the threshold requirements of the future.