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MoSCoW prioritisation - Methods Project Management

MoSCoW prioritisation

MoSCoW is priorisation technique developped by Dai Clegg and used in many Agile frameworks like DSDM, SCRUM, DSDM and PRINCE2

Perfectly integrated with PRINCE2, MoSCoW prioritization technics enables you and your client to target the key features to deliver and protect the level of quality

The technique is devided in 4 priorisation categories:

  • M (must have) Critical, mandatory features that make the solution useless, unsafe if not present. without it the solution is considered as failed (ex: product compliant to local law)
  • S (should have)  Important features but if not present a workaround is possible (ex: not time critical, the delivery can be postponed)
  • C (Could have) Nice desirable feature. Could improve user experience, will be developped if time and resources are available
  • W (Won’t have this time) Features not required for this time or with the lowest priorities or could be considered as an issue if delivered to early (ex: supply chain projects that deliver products too early and there is no place to store them)

MoSCoW is an acronym derivate from the first letter of each category


How it works

A traditional approach will put the features (Scope) as the mandatory variable of the project

Supported by a contract that says the project to be a success if all features are delivered, the client and project management team will put a great effort to deliver all or most of them.

The importance of the Quality (fit to purpose) could be put aside for the features to deliver

Time and Costs could be exceeded with potential dissatisfaction from the customers, waiting for the contract to be respected, and the provider facing over cost and time


The figure below shows the project variables in a traditional approach
In red the mandatory features to deliver
Orange the Quality (Fit to purpose) not always delivered
Green Time and Costs, flexible (could be exceeded)

Standard project priorisation approach


Using MoSCoW technique enables to protect the level of quality, prioritising features with the customers

The key Mandatory features are delivered to match the customer’s needs (quality variable fixed)

The Time and Cost variables can be almost fixed too, at least for the Mandatory features

And the remaining features are delivered according to time and budget remaining (Could have, Should have)

The Scope variable is flexible


The figure below shows the project variables with MoSCow technique used
Red: Quality protected
Orange: Time, Cost could be fixed
Green features with MoSCoW prioritisation

MoSCoW project priorisation approach


When to use MoSCoW with PRINCE2

Theme Quality

During the process Starting up; while defining the Acceptance criteria of the Project Product Description

You will agree with your customer upon what measurable criteria the overall project obligations are fulfilled. This reduces end project disputes


Theme Change

When you establish the controls in the Configuration Management Strategy, MoSCoW can be used to define priority for issues

If running short of Change Management budget, it is easy to reduce the scope of the deliverables with the Should have or Could have


Theme Progress

It is possible to set up Scope tolerances at the Project level (set of products to deliver). Same for the Stage plan level and Work package level

At the Work Package level performing the process Managing Product delivery, the team Manager could use timebox or SCRUM delivered using MoSCoW




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