What is Feature Engineering?
A number of things are often taken to be “essential” features of a person. Examples include a person’s height, complexion, voice, intellect, color, or some other attribute. Often though, essential characteristics aren’t even real features at all. In the same way that physical attributes are only part of a person’s total personality, only parts of their character definition are essential to a person’s being accepted or not in a social setting.
An essential characteristic is an attribute that isn’t a physical attribute. For example, beauty is not a physical attribute; it is an emotional, psychological quality. So beauty isn’t a feature in the proper sense of the word, and yet many women prize physical beauty so highly that they’ll pay any price to gain it – including risking death to get it.
Essential characteristics are very easy to find in a person’s history, because they are present in multiple people throughout history. But what about a non-essential or “nontestinal” feature? Non-essential characteristics are just that: things that aren’t essential to a person’s personality. When used in a context where a person would expect it to be a given characteristic, a non-essential feature can make one look foolish or otherwise unworthy.
One of the most common ways that non-essential features are introduced into product development processes is through the development of “user stories”. User stories (or “use cases”) are stories that illustrate how a user might use a product or feature. By describing how a particular feature could be used, product managers lay the foundation for building user stories that support that feature. They also give users an idea of how the product matches up with the services and expectations of their current usage models.
Most product managers will work with a team of engineers and a product design team during the life cycle of a project. These teams first draft product features on their own. Once they have finished writing a series of user stories detailing how each feature works, they send these out to their engineering team for review. The engineering team reviews the user story, makes any changes that are necessary, and passes them back to the product managers. Product managers will review these changes and approve or disapprove of them.
Product managers are always looking for new ways to support their customer needs. Because of this, they are always working on the edges of their business domains to find inventive ways to support their customer needs. Feature engineering, then, is but one element of innovation within these larger innovation processes. Feature engineering allows product managers to stay on top of emerging trends and to help them evolve their processes and their products into cutting-edge innovations that match up with their customer’s evolving needs.