MoSCoW Method | Overview of the Simple and Powerful Prioritization Technique

What Is the MoSCoW Method?

The MoSCoW method, otherwise known as MoSCoW analysis, is a popular prioritization framework geared towards managing the requirements of a project by helping all key stakeholders understand the importance of the various aspects of a specific release of a product.  Often, the MoSCoW method is the best prioritization framework when working on a DSDM project as the time you have is fixed and you need to make as much progress as possible.

MoSCoW is an acronym that stands for 4 different categories that various feature or initiatives can be placed in: must have, should have, could have, and won’t have.  Depending on the organization using the MoSCoW method, the “W” in MoSCoW can also stand for “wishes” for the future. 

Must Have:

This category of features and initiatives is comprised of essential parts of the product, project, or a specific release that is being rolled out  For example if you are trying to create a file transfer application, the ability to upload various files and download them again later is a critical feature that must be implemented in order for the application to work at all.  Everything in the must-have category needs to be implemented in order to ensure the success of whatever is being worked on.

If you are unsure about whether a specific feature or initiative is a must-have there are a few questions you can try to answer in order to make a more informed decision.

  • What will the product/project/release be like without this specific feature/initiative?
  • Will the product/project/release work without this feature/initiative?
  • Are there any other ways to accomplish the goals of this feature/initiative without implementing it?

If the answer to the aforementioned questions implies that the feature/initiative is needed then it is a must-have.

Should Have:

This category of features and initiatives are just below the must-haves in terms of importance.  They are often things that would greatly benefit both the functionality and usability of the product/project/release but are not necessarily required in order to launch it.  

A good example would be if you were creating a file transfer application, the ability to add and share what you have uploaded would be very important, but not required in order to fulfill the core user experience of storing files on a remote server and downloading them later.  

Other examples of should have features would be things like bug fixes and performance improvements since everything functions without them.

Could Have:

This category of features and initiatives could also be thought of as nice to haves.  

They are not critical to the core functionality of the product and would have a comparatively smaller impact on the final product if they were left out entirely.  

These features are the first to be cut or pushed to a later release if there is not enough time to finish the must have and should have components

Won’t Have:

This category of features and initiatives will never be implemented either because the benefit for implementing them is marginal at best or because they are just not pertinent to the goals of a specific release or timeframe that a product is being released in.

The primary benefit of this category is that it helps prevent scope creep in the long term.  

Often teams designing and implementing a product/project/release can come up with very creative features and those placed in this category can be prioritized higher in a future release.

When to Use the MoSCoW Method?

The MoSCoW method is useful as it allows for collaboration between large organizations without the need for unnecessary jargon as the various categories are self-explanatory making features easy to evaluate.  

As a result, when faced with a vast number of stakeholders, using the MoSCoW method can be incredibly valuable.

Crafting great product requires great tools. Try Chisel today, it's free forever.