Prioritize a product backlog into 4 levels of criticality with MoSCoW

Prioritizing a Product Backlog with MoSCoW is very easy. This prioritization method is widely used by Scrum teams (or in an Agile organization on the SAFe scale).

In Scrum and SAFe, the main role of the
Product Owner
is to build, maintain and prioritize the Product Backlog. As you’ll see in this article, this method is quick and easy for Product Owners to implement.

The Product Owner always relies on the Scrum Master to ensure that this method is properly applied and understood by all Scrum Team members.

The MoSCoW Method is based on the criticality of the elements in the Product Backlog. So, the more critical a feature is (vital to the product’s survival), the more it will be highlighted in the Backlog with a higher priority.

Task prioritization using the MoSCoW method consists of 4 levels of criticality:

Must

Must be done
(Vital)

Should

Should be done
(Essential)

Could

Could be made
(Comfort)

Won't

We'll come back to this later
(Luxury)

Why prioritize tasks with MoSCoW?

This method is used to prioritize an Agile Product Backlog. It is used to prioritize all backlog elements, i.e.:

priorite moscow backlog scrum agile Prioritize a product backlog into 4 levels of criticality with MoSCoW
The 4 levels of priority: Must, Should, Could and Won't.

Advantages

The advantages of this prioritization method :

The downside: Pitfalls to avoid!

The Scrum Master must ensure that his teams do not fall into these traps:

How can you put MoSCoW into practice in your Scrum team?

If you use Excel to list, organize, prioritize and present your Agile Product Backlog, I offer this Excel file as a free download.

This will enable you to adopt this method right away!

Agile MoSCoW prioritization on Excel

In this file, you'll find a template for quickly prioritizing your product backlog in Excel using this method.

Free

Prioritizing a Jira or Trello backlog with MoSCoW

If you’re part of an Agile team using Trello or  Jira, you can easily set up these fields in your online visual management tools(Jira and Trello).

In fact, there are many prioritization fields on these two Athlasian tools. If you can’t find these fields, ask your Jira admin to activate them on your instance.

Using MoSCoW in a phyic array

For your physical visual management charts, use a color code to materialize MUST, SHOULD, COULD and WON’T subjects! Either different Post-It colors, or different-colored arrows for each priority level.

post it notes moscow priorisation Prioritize a product backlog into 4 levels of criticality with MoSCoW
Post-it pour prioriser vos tâches avec MoSCoW par couleur

Reading tips

We end this article with our usual reading tips:


  1. Our article on prioritization with the WSJF
    which will give you a more precise prioritization based on business value and development workload.
  2. A full article on MoSCoW prioritization on the AgileBusiness website.
  3. Our article on the RICE prioritization method.
  4. Last but not least, Claude Aubry’s long-awaited book on the Scrum methodology: Scrum – 6th ed. – A user-friendly tool for radical agility.

This post is also available in: French

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Ahmed BEN SALEM

Ahmed BEN SALEM

Strongly involved in Agile methodologies, I have held the roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Release Train Engineer for SAFe, Scrum and DevOps projects. My approach focuses on people and stakeholder collaboration, creating environments conducive to innovation and performance.

Since 2016, I have successfully led several Agile software development projects for companies of all sizes, including Odigo, Orange and PSA. My solid experience in Agile methodologies, in particular Scrum and SAFe, has enabled me to work with multicultural teams from countries such as the USA, India, Vietnam and Morocco.

Télécharger le Template Excel de priorisation MoSCoW

Priorisez, estimez et triez un backlog sur Excel avec ce modèle de fichier Excel gratuit

Download the MoSCoW prioritization Excel template

Prioritize, estimate and sort a backlog on Excel with this free Excel file template

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