Prioritization is one of the major concepts of agile practices and an essential topic for PMI-ACP certification exam preparation towards achieving an agile certification. Prioritization in literary terms means the decision of arranging things in order of their importance. Prioritization in agile is the act of deciding in what order the agile team will work on the requirements in a project. Understanding prioritization is essential for all projects, but it becomes specifically critical in agile as an agile project is time-boxed with a fixed set of resources which requires prioritization in order to accommodate the time and budget constraints. Further prioritization process helps the agile team to consider the bare minimum features necessary to create customer value. In order to process agile prioritization, it is essential to understand the factors that a product owner needs to consider before determining the priorities.

Read more: What is Agile: Understanding Agile Methodologies and Principles

Here is the list of popular prioritization techniques:

  • MoSCoW prioritization 
  • Kano model 
  • Relative weighting method
  • Opportunity Scoring
  • Stack Ranking
  • Priority Poker
  • Cost of Delay
  • 100 Dollar Test

Below are a few of the most important factors.

Agile Prioritization Factors

  • The financial value of the requirements is a major factor to be considered in prioritizing requirements. The value could be expressed as new revenue, incremental revenue, or as operational efficiency.
  • The cost of developing the requirements is another essential factor to be considered by the product owner. Value and cost together indicate the RoI for the requirements.
  • The next factor to be considered in prioritization is the amount and significance of knowledge and capabilities that the team will gain while working on the requirements.
  • Understanding the level of risks involved in introducing the new features is essential in the process of prioritization.

  • MoSCoW prioritization – popularized by the DSDM methodology.
  • Kano model – introduced by Prof. Noriaki Kano
  • The relative weighting method – by Karl Wiegers
  1. MoSCoW prioritization – popularized by the DSDM methodology.
  2. Kano model – introduced by Prof. Noriaki Kano
  3. The relative weighting method – by Karl Wiegers
  4. Opportunity Scoring
  5. Stack Ranking
  6. Priority Poker
  7. Cost of Delay
  8. 100 Dollar Test

MoSCoW Agile Prioritization Technique

MoSCoW Prioritization in Agile: In the DSDM methodology, the priorities are expressed as per the MoSCoW model:

  • Must– The must requirements is given the topmost priority
  • Should– Next priority is given to the requirements that are highly desirable, though not mandatory
  • Could– The next priority is given to the requirement that is nice to have
  • Won't– And the final consideration is given to the requirements which will not work in the process at that point of time.

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Kano Model of Prioritization in Agile

Professor Noriaki Kano propagated Kano Model of Prioritization. This prioritization technique involves three levels that include considering customer satisfaction from disappointment to not happy to immediate happiness to get delighted. Two important factors that create an impact on the satisfaction level during this prioritization are the existence of features and the degree of implementation. The level of satisfaction is achieved along with full implementation. Some features lead to a basic level of satisfaction while others create more – the higher the implementation, the greater the level of satisfaction.

Relative Weighting Prioritization Technique

The relative weighting scheme is a simple model where prioritization is done based upon all the factors mentioned above. The major factors considered in relative weighing prioritization technique are:

  • The value of a feature and the negative impact that might be caused by the absence of the feature
  • Based on the expert judgment made by the product owner and supported by the agile team in ranking the score of features in the following way (a scoreboard from 1 to 9 is usually used)
    • Benefit from having the feature
    • Penalty for not having the feature
    • Cost of producing the feature
    • The risk incurred in producing the feature
  • The priority and rank are then determined by dividing the value score as below:
    • (Benefit score + Penalty score) / (Cost score + Risk score)

In relative weighting prioritization, if the results come out in numerical value, it becomes easier for the product owner to arrive at a faster prioritizing decision.

Opportunity Scoring

Opportunity Scoring is a beneficial prioritization method used by organizations to develop agile products. This prioritization model uses data from market research to help determine what the users expect from your product or service. It allows organizations to create the schedule according to their target audience’s wants and needs.

The model also helps companies modify or readjust their schedules and budgets to accommodate their customer’s expectations. They can also highlight priority features that their customers are interested in, and weed out features that they would have instead spent money and time on. 

Stack Ranking

Stack Ranking is one of the most popular forms of prioritization techniques that is currently used by a lot of software companies. It is also one of the easiest techniques that allow prioritization based on the user story. 

The technique considers each user story and then places it in an order of priority, ranking each task from the most important placed on the top of the tack to the least important placed on the bottom. This gives the company a setlist of priorities focusing on the most important feature to the least.

Priority Poker

This agile priority technique is based on similar rules as actual poker played with cards. When playing poker, prioritization is done in a calculative manner, with big wins being the ultimate goal. Similarly, in agile priority poker, items that will yield the highest results in specific target markets are given priority.

How are high priority items determined? Well, the project manager gathers all stakeholders of the project, which can also sometimes include end-users. The stakeholders are then asked to assign priority to each task or feature that is scheduled. The answers and then moderated and the list of priorities are compiled based on the rankings of the stakeholders.

Cost of Delay

The objective of this prioritization technique is to understand how much money would the organization lose if a certain feature is not available. This prioritization focuses on monetary loss to understand which features are the most important and the list is created accordingly. It is a proactive approach to ensure the manager fight fires and deal with emergencies that can result in losses.

By determining how much money the company loses each day by delaying a feature or task, the manager can determine the urgency of the task. This can easily help create the schedule and budget for each feature. This technique is financially motivated and does not account for user experience or customer satisfaction.

100 Dollar Test

This technique is also known as Cumulative Voting and is a straightforward process. It is similar to the poker technique but each stakeholder is given 100 points or dollars to assign to each feature or task.

The stakeholders divide their 100 dollars by assigning a spending amount to each feature. Once all the 100 dollars are spent, the moderator then tallies all the points and the feature with the most dollars assigned is given the highest priority, followed by tasks with the next highest amounts.

This is one of the easiest and the most effective techniques to ensure that all the stakeholders are in agreement with the priority list. 

Using all these three techniques, a product owner performs the prioritization exercise towards achieving customer satisfaction and customer value. The whole process of prioritization in agile is followed in order to create customer value, which is possible with innovation, focused execution, and lean delivery. You can learn more about agile prioritization and project management in our extensive Post Graduate Program in Project Management.

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