It’s vital that any project delivers the outcome the customer is looking for, and project managers are accountable for control of the project scope. In many cases, new requirements add complexity and delay without adding value, so it’s vital that project managers can apply a robust method to prioritise these requests.
MoSCoW is a popular way to prioritise requirements based on the importance each item has for the end customer. Find out how to use MoSCow effectively, and learn how this tool allows project managers to keep a project on track.
Definition of MoSCoW
The MoSCoW model gets its name from the way it categorises new requirements based on the importance of the expected outcome. For each request, the project team should decide if the customer or end user:
- Must have this requirement
- Should have this requirement (but the project can launch without it)
- Could have this requirement (but the project has no dependency on this work)
- Would like to have this requirement (but the work is a low priority)
WIth MoSCoW, project managers can prioritise single or multiple requirements.
The benefits of MoSCoW
MoSCoW is effective because this method of prioritisation is simple. Even if a discussion goes off-track or becomes confused, it’s easy for the project manager to focus everyone’s attention back on the four states. A group discussion makes it easy to challenge decisions. For example, if somebody decides that a requirement is essential, it’s easy for the group to challenge the statement, and to ask people to explain or describe why a requirement is essential.
Other prioritisation methods are often more complex. For example, project team members may need to apply a score or weighting, or find a way to rank the various items in a list. MoSCoW essentially puts the requirements in simple categories. The project team can then decide if they available time and budget to deliver those categories, and, if necessary, focus solely on the essential requirements.
How MoSCoW can go wrong
New project managers should understand that MoSCoW is a simple approach, but it’s still easy to make mistakes.
It’s important to ask the right people to define the status of each requirement. A conversation with the wrong people will quickly derail the conversation. For example, when you develop a new customer service process, you need to consider the user and the customer because they each have different perspectives. Without the right input, you may end up with the wrong MoSCoW definitions.
Some stakeholders may not agree on the definition of essential. For example, a new business process may yield unexpected IT development work. A manual, interim process may help you avoid those IT costs, but some people may argue that the system solution is essential. Project managers need to help project team members consider other ways of working that can help you meet time, quality and cost targets. The MoSCoW outcome is unlikely to make everyone happy.
Some requirements are automatically essential. For example, if you work in a heavily regulated business environment, some work is always essential because your client is breaking the law without it. Many requirements that focus on the law or regulatory compliance will fit into the ‘must’ category, so don’t waste time debating things outside the project team’s control.
MoSCow is a simple, effective prioritisation method that can avoid unnecessary delay and cost. Project managers must carefully steer project teams through the process, to help people focus on the truly critical requirements. Learn more about this process and how to apply it by talking to professional consultants such as Plenty Training.Read More