The big idea
The MoSCoW technique is credited to Dai Clegg of Oracle Consulting and is a simple approach to determining priorities in time-limited projects. When you are working on projects, you need to be able to establish your priorities and levels of risk as the work proceeds. This approach also helps keep you focused on the needs of the beneficiaries or the stakeholders in the project. What distinguishes MoSCoW from other techniques is that you have to consider both what you want to include and what won’t be included.
The purpose of the tool is to help you prioritise the various elements of a project through using the acronym MoSCoW. (Ignore the Os; they are there to make the acronym work.) MoSCoW provides a basis for you to decide what will be done over the lifetime of a project. It considers those things that are essential and those which are nice to have but are less critical and can be omitted if necessary. The acronym stands for:
- Must haves – fundamental to project success
- Should haves – important but may not be critical to success
- Could have – can easily be left out without damaging the project
- Won’t have – can be left out for now but may be done later. This is really a ‘would like to have but won’t have during the timeframe of this project’
These categories can be reviewed throughout the project and it is important that not everything falls into the ‘must have’ category. It is the other levels of prioritisation that give you wiggle room if the project changes or things start to slip. MoSCoW gives you the mechanism for prioritisation but it can be enhanced by also considering the level of risk associated with project elements. Risk can be thought of in two ways:
- Functional: this is the level of risk to the project if a particular requirement is not met at the relevant time
- Business: this defines the level of risk to the overall business if a requirement is not met. An example of this might be staff not being adequately trained on a new box office system when it goes live, impacting on customer satisfaction and the organisation’s reputation
The combination of MoSCoW and the risk analysis can help you both prioritise project requirements and have an early overview of the relative risks of these elements.
The tool takes you through the steps to complete a MoSCoW prioritisation. You can do it on your own or in a group, depending on the project. It is suitable for any business that undertakes project work. The time needed will vary depending on the project, anything from 15 minutes to several hours.