• Jonathan Bullock

A guide to prioritising your development using the MoSCoW Matrix

Deciding on the next priorities for your development team can be a contentious topic. Many stakeholders will likely have an opinion on what should be worked on next, but it is unlikely that they are all going to agree.

The MoSCoW Matrix is a framework designed to assist in prioritising the work that needs to be completed. The matrix consists of 4 quadrants, must have, should have, could have, and won’t have. The contents of each of these quadrants are self-explanatory.

Put it into practice

Using the matrix though can be a little more challenging. The matrix should be populated during a meeting with stakeholders involved in the prioritisation. The first meeting will likely be the most challenging, but it will get easier over time once everyone adjusts to the MoSCoW concept.

Begin populating the matrix by going through all of the pieces of work one by one and assigning them to a quadrant. For any items that there is no clear agreement on where they belong, put them in a quadrant and highlight them in some way so you can come back to them.

Once you have gone through all the items to prioritise look at the number of items in dispute and determine if you have a weak or strong alignment.

Weak Alignment

If you have a lot of items in dispute and therefore a weak alignment on priorities, then go back through the matrix in the following order. 1. Could have, 2. Should have, 3. Must have, 4. Won’t have. As people start to see the larger picture and talk it through you will find a compromise and reach an agreement much faster.

Strong Alignment

You have a strong alignment if there is very little disagreement in the must-have and won’t have quadrants. In this situation review the quadrants with the team in the following order. 1. Must have, 2. Won’t have, 3. Should have, 4. Could have. By the end, you should have overwhelming agreement on the priorities to be tackled.

TAKEAWAY: The MoSCow matrix is very effective at creating free-flowing discussion in your prioritisation meeting. When this happens let it happen. This discussion is great at getting people onside and compromising about priorities. If you haven’t tried this matrix before to prioritise your development work, then you need to.


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