Moscow Prioritization: The Super-Simple 4-Step Project Management Framework to Keep Your Next Project on Track

Moscow Prioritization is a project prioritization framework by which specific initiatives can have their relative importance clearly communicated among project stakeholders. In simpler terms, the Moscow technique helps manage project requirements.

  • Should-Have: Important features that support core value but aren’t critical to fundamental functionality
  • Could-Have: Initiatives and goals that would lend to overall value and user-experience but won’t alter basic features if left out.
  • Won’t-Have: Features and initiatives that have been deemed relevant but not a priority in the current timeframe.

Must-Have

Must-haves are those nearest to core functionality. Microsoft Word’s must-haves might include saving, printing, opening existing documents, entering and changing text, and authorizing product licenses.

  1. Can the product be delivered without this feature?
  2. Is this product safe without this feature?

Should Have

Should-have features include those that would benefit core user experience and value but not necessarily limit anything if excluded. For example, if Twitter didn’t support profile pictures the core features of the platform (tweeting, messaging, etc.) would still be in place. Another example might be a networked user messaging service for an online multiplayer game.

Could Have

Could-haves are a bit like a wish list — they stand to offer value but aren’t coupled with core project value. These may include extensions to existing features, peripheral features identified in similar products or suggested by users, or improvements on existing features.

Won’t Haves

Won’t-haves aren’t necessarily meant to be excluded indefinitely — just during the current development cycle. These are features that, for whatever reason, have been deemed as unjustifiable given the project budget or timeframe. These could include major feature additions, new versions of products, or entire refactorizations (because that gets prioritized so often.)

History

Moscow Prioritization (sometimes called MoSCoW method or analysis) was developed in the mid-1990s by Dai Clegg as Rapid Application Development (RAD) approach. This new newly-formalized method was meant to help tackle so-called fast track projects (R). It found great traction in early AGILE framework iterations and was a core aspect of the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM).

Issues

The Moscow prioritization method isn’t without its critics. This method has been poo-pooed for lacking more granular prioritization approaches for each level. The broadness of the system also leaves important specifics, such as how to evaluate feature priority, up to the teams, and management implementing them.

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