While at the one end of the desk there is a long to-do list, on which everything ideally should have been completed yesterday, a very colorful display of possible product features is loading on the screen. How exactly are you supposed to get started?
Regardless of the specific context, we often find ourselves in situations like this in both our professional and private lives. And even if we are often aware that we can't do everything at once, prioritizing is difficult. This is where special methods can help us to sort through the multitude of tasks, information or factors and develop an efficient plan for the next steps.
A well-known and a rather unknown method are presented below. The starting point for both prioritization methods is the corresponding content that needs to be prioritized. This can be ideas, tasks, user stories, features or other variables. These should be as clear and differentiated as possible.
This method is based on a simple principle. The criteria and scaling for prioritization are defined on a horizontal and a vertical axis. The content is then prioritized according to the matrix. Content arranged in the middle is less meaningful and concrete than assignments in the outer areas of the axes.
The end result is an organized representation of the content, which can be used to derive the next steps. Depending on the application, this method offers the opportunity to discuss the positioning in a (group) discussion and come to a joint decision.
It can also be advantageous to create different versions of the matrix over time and compare them with each other in order to make the development in the work process visible.
Both the methodical approach and the end result offer advantages. Through collaboration and discussion within the team, a collective decision-making process is driven forward and results in a jointly developed action plan.
This method aims to sort content according to its importance for (project) success. There are four main categories, from which the acronym was also formed (whereby the lower-case letters only serve to improve readability): Must have, Should have, Could have and Won't have. The content is checked against these categories and then clearly assigned. There is room for discussion when making decisions and at the same time there is no confusion caused by overly vague or variable scales. There is a clear gradation of content:
Must have: Factors required for success and functionality
Should have: Content with significant added value, but not a necessity for functionality
Could have: Desirable features or content that adds some value
Won't have: Content with little value or too much effort
The first and last categories are the most important in this method, as they define the limits of the project scope, particularly in product development. On the one hand, this means the functional scope for an MVP and, on the other, the classification of unrealizable or irrelevant features.
Overall, the MoSCoW method is easy to understand and produces a clearly defined sorting of content. This allows key aspects to be focused on and clear project planning to be undertaken.
In many situations in which a prioritization method is used, it is primarily about making decisions. Methodical visualizations are particularly helpful when working in a team in order to better incorporate different opinions and come to a joint decision. The choice of the right method depends not only on content and time factors, but also heavily on the people involved and their individual preferences. Ideally, different methods should be tried out and evaluated in the team so that they can be used routinely over time.