MoSCoW is a well loved prioritisation technique of Agile Practitioners and Product Managers worldwide.

Why? Its simplicity and transparency allows you to categorise features or ideas into four main buckets:

  1. M -Must have
  2. S – Should have
  3. C – Could have
  4. W – Won’t have (or want to have, but will come later)

But have you ever tried to prioritise all the things you want in your startup app using this?

I have! It’s hard.

First time round, almost everything falls into the “MUST HAVE” column!
When you’re that close to the vision of what you want to build – and you’ve sold people on the concept, this is much akin to discussing whether a house really needs a door, or windows. Of course it needs a door, and windows!!!

The situation changes completely when challenged to stack rank all your items into one, prioritised, long list.

No longer can you consider doors alongside windows and everything else – you need to choose which is more important. It’s like a tiny little battle royale between each thing you could do:

  • Doors vs windows?
  • Doorstep vs Curtains?
  • Lawn vs Garden Shed?
  • Netflix vs Fetch TV?

And so on, thus forming your prioritised list of requirements.

Sure, no one wants to live without a doorstep, but I sure as hell need a door before the doorstep is needed.

Going through this stack-ranking prioritisation process is extremely valuable. Step back after prioritising items into one trailing list of importance. You’ll re-assess whether everything on your list was must-have after all. Now that the things at the bottom of the list have been outranked by every other item above it, they’re feeling pretty “Could-have” aren’t they?

Running a MoSCoW session is a lightweight technique you can use anytime you have a number of things to choose between. It’s also incredibly useful as a collaborative exercise between Co-Founders, or the business and the Product Manager. Time spent discussing and prioritising at a whiteboard helps to understand expectations and set alignment in a much more engaging way than any documentation could.

Read more about MoSCoW here and tell us about how you use MoSCoW to prioritise in your business!

Filed under:   agile   moscow   prioritisation   product   product management