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Author: Eileen Raycroft


Prioritizing Requirements: An Analogy

I work with “business sponsors” in my company.  Some of them are old hands at going through the process of requesting a new application, or a rewrite, or enhancing an existing application.  Others, though, may never have been involved in requesting software, whether it’s a custom-built application, or something offered by a third party vendor.  In any case, it can be daunting to make decisions about what to ask for, especially when they have to submit a request to get the money to proceed.

Most people I know enjoy engaging in “blue sky” conversations – if you had all the resources in the world at your fingertips, what would you like this new application to do, to support what you and your clients need?  And to be honest, I enjoy those conversations as well.  It’s fun, and liberating, to just let your imagination take flight and ask for the world!  At the end of those blue sky sessions though, it’s time to bring ourselves back to reality, look at the lineup of desired requirements, and put a priority on each of them.  And one of the prioritization methods I’ve had the most success with is the MoSCoW method.


MoSCoW Prioritization Categories:

M = Must Have.  Non-negotiable needs that are mandatory for the business.

S = Should Have.   Important features that are not critical but have much value.

C = Could Have.  Nice to have features that will not impact the usability of the application in a detrimental way if they are not included.

W – Will Not Have/Wish.  Features that should be placed in the product backlog for future consideration.


I often use analogies to drive home various concepts to my stakeholders, especially if it is something they aren’t familiar with.  Analogies help them grasp these concepts more quickly, rather than using a lot of “wordy” explanations.  I use this analogy about prioritization when appropriate.


How to Research buying a Refrigerator

Recently my husband and I purchased a new refrigerator.  Our old one was on its last legs, and we wanted to purchase a new one before the old one gave out at a most inconvenient time, as we had experienced several times in the past!  (If you’ve ever had a fridge give out on you when you had a great load of food in it, you know the stress I’m talking about!)

Since it had been quite a few years since our last purchase, we started looking around and were astonished at all of the new configurations and features that were available in new fridges.  The price tags too, had changed – wow, were they expensive!!  So, I said to my husband, “Why don’t we write down all of the features we think we would like in a new fridge, and then go shopping with that list?”




So we sat down at the kitchen table with our son, who lives at home (gathered all the stakeholders), and I started the list of “requirements” for our new fridge.  Did we want an ice/water dispenser, which our old fridge had?  What about extra room for vegetables, now that we had committed to eating more healthy?  How many cubic feet of space did we want?  How about a deli drawer?  Or a computer on the outside of the fridge?


Feature Prioritization
Ice maker/dispenser M
Maximum room to store vegetables M
Minimum cubic feet 26 cu ft M
French door style S
Deli drawer C
Energy efficiency M
Computer built in the front of the fridge W


Once we had our list written down, we used the MoSCoW technique of prioritization, and each requirement was given a must-have, should-have, could-have and won’t have/wish.  We also had to figure out what our budget was–not many people have infinite resources, and we are certainly not in that league, financially!

So, armed with our requirements and our budget number, we started shopping.  On-line, and in person, we spent many hours researching the available options.  Some of those could-haves and wishes dropped off the list pretty quickly, because although we had what we felt was a moderate budget, it certainly weeded out the more extravagant models.

We were able to find a refrigerator that had all of our M, S, and most of our C items in our list that was within our budget.  And because of all this work we did in advance, we actually felt good about our purchase—we were very satisfied we’d made the best choice for us.  That didn’t mean we got everything we wanted, but we didn’t feel disappointed.  We’re still loving this fridge three years later.



And that’s exactly the feeling I want my business sponsors and stakeholders to feel – very satisfied that they’ve made the best decisions for the application/enhancement or whatever the initiative is.  Do your research, prioritize your requirements and move forward with confidence.