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.

Here is the list of popular prioritization techniques:

  • MoSCoW prioritization 
  • Kano model 
  • Relative weighting method

Below are a few of the most important factors.

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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.

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Popular Prioritization Techniques

  • MoSCoW prioritization – popularized by the DSDM methodology.
  • Kano model – introduced by Prof. Noriaki Kano
  • The relative weighting method – by Karl Wiegers

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.

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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. 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.

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