How to prioritize a backlog’s items?
When looking into success in an Agile project, it is important to know about backlog grooming and especially the prioritization of backlog items. The idea is simple: it directs the team’s work by focusing them on the most important items while delaying decisions regarding lower priority items, thus leading to a better product. There are different methods, but we would recommend a straightforward approach: the simpler the rules, the better!
The MoSCoW method will classify the items into four categories:
M – MUST have this
S – SHOULD have, if possible
C – COULD have, if nothing else is affected
W – WON’T have this time, but would in the future.
Each requirement will be tagged M, S, C or W with “M” being the highest and “W” being the lowest priority.
The Walking Skeleton
Using this “Value”-based approach, the requirements with the highest business value are assigned the highest priority, so the product owner working with the business team should be able to easily assess the business value.
Because risk and uncertainty influence product success, uncertain items and items carrying potential risk should be high priority. Handling these items early relates to a risk-driven approach, which allows changing course in case of failure, while there is still the chance.
Each release should provide functionality, useful to customers as well as users and that generates the desired feedback. The ability to release product increments early and frequently should influence the product backlog prioritization.
Dependencies should be considered in the prioritization process. They influence the effort estimates: items that others depend on need to be implemented first. You should therefore try to resolve dependencies whenever possible.
Whichever technique used, prioritization becomes much simpler when the development team is competent with:
- Slicing stories into small, similarly sized chunks
- Coming up with acceptance criteria
- Predicting work competition timeframes