Prioritization of the backlog
May 10, 2010
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All items in a backlog MUST be prioritized. They cannot be of equal value 🙂 The items at the top are seen as highest priority and those at the bottom, lowest. Once an item (story) is completed – it MUST be removed from the backlog (please see this post on keeping your backlog clean and relevant).
Everyone has their own way of prioritizing (not all are relevant to everyone) here are some factors to keep in mind:
- Minimum Marketable Feature Set – the first pass to narrow the list of stories
- Business Value First – Focus on High Value Functions
- Bang For the Buck – Go for easy wins
- Technical Risk First – Do the hard things first
- Defer Risk – Do the hard things later (or never)
- Vote – Ask your users
Many POs only prioritize at a very high level (think larger than epic – items that would take 1 month or more). And once those are broken down – everything within that ‘larger’ topic is given the same priority. This is a mistake. Not everything you think of for a large topic will be relevant to a release – some stories might be completely unimportant and thus left off the release totally. Remember to prioritise all stories according to value.
If you are struggling, I like using a block diagram. Classify your story into one of the 4 blocks and then use the values in the cloud for priority order.
Another trick is to use MoSCoW:
M – MUST have this feature – the product will fail to meet needs without this
S – SHOULD have this feature – an important feature that has an acceptable work around
C – COULD have this feature – wish list item
W – WON’T have this feature at this time – might move to Must, Could or Should in the future.