Exploring the Musts of Prioritisation: MoSCoW

Exploring the Musts of Prioritisation: MoSCoW

Insights | 05 June 2018

Prioritisation is often a necessity in daily life – few of us have the money, time or resources to do ‘everything’.

Yet somehow as representatives of the business, customer or users on a project, we tend to often want everything – or at least believe that we need everything we have asked a project to deliver. Are all requirements really Must Haves?

Value and Time

The basic absolute for many projects is that time and money are key constraints.  Yet in a more ‘traditional’ environment we try to deliver all the agreed scope so yes, consequently, either (or both) cost and time are compromised. This then leads to project budget and schedule ‘blowouts’.

Agile approaches focus on delivering the greatest value in the shortest amount of time and as such, require prioritisation. This focus on value means that the customer can start realising benefits sooner rather than later. So, if time is fixed, prioritisation is vital to ensure the highest value requirements are addressed and delivered first.

Prioritisation Techniques

Prioritisation facilitates informed decision making. Techniques include ordering (e.g. priority 1,2,3), Monopoly Money, 100 Point Method, Kano Analysis, but probably the most well-known is MoSCoW Prioritisation.

Tell me more about MoSCoW….

For many, MoSCoW is becoming the default approach to prioritisation as it addresses situations where work is time-bound and finite (think sprint, timebox, stage, release or even project). MoSCoW stands for:

  • M = Must Have. Essential and guaranteed. Without which the product/project could not work. (e.g. not legal without it, unsafe without it, cannot deliver a viable solution without it)
  • S = Should Have. Highly desirable or very important but a workaround is available. Workarounds typically difficult and costly.
  • C = Could Have. Desirable or important and an easy/cheap workaround is available.
  • W = Won’t Have for now. Maybe next time. Won’t be satisfied before the deadline.

The key to applying MoSCoW is agreeing clear definitions and rules on what makes a Must versus Should versus Could.

But they are all MUSTS!

This is the most common statement and concern – as I am a customer, I must have everything… or maybe not?

A good ‘acid test’ in terms of determining if something is really a must for the project is to ask: Can you put the product into use without this? A car without wheels or an engine is not going to be viable – both are essential. But do you really need the cup holders or seat warmers? A car without these is still functional.

What can be ‘MoSCoW-ed’ in a project?

Everything (almost). MoSCoW can be used in a variety of prioritisation contexts including requirements (user stories), acceptance criteria, benefits, even issues and changes. Remember only those items identified as Must Have are guaranteed to be delivered by the project. Tweet: MoSCoW can be used in a variety of prioritisation contexts including requirements, acceptance criteria, benefits, even issues and changes. Remember only those items identified as Must Have are guaranteed to be delivered by the project. https://ctt.ac/xkJgS+

“Believing everything is a Must Have is often symptomatic of insufficient decomposition of requirements”.

Agile Project Management Handbook v2, Agile Business Consortium, 2017

For more information on our Agile Project Management (AgilePM®) certificate course or Agile Implementation in your business, call us on 1300 70 13 14.

About The Author

Tracey Copland, Head of Best Practice at PM-Partners group

Tracey has been involved in management, finance and business consulting including Portfolio, Programme & Project management for 20+ years. Together with her skills and experience, Tracey is a flexible professional seeking to achieve a high work standard, focussing on value-add.

Having been with PM-Partners group for 15 years, Tracey has held roles including Consultant/Trainer, Head of Training and currently, Head of Best Practice. Tracey has provided training and consultation services to clients in both the public and private sectors, across various disciplines and at all levels including Project, Programme, Portfolio and Change Management, and Agile practices.

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