Why I think MoSCoW Sucks

Why I think MoSCoW Sucks

I’m at the Agile 2010 Conference in Orlando. There are many excellent presenters here. Naturally, there is a lot of talk about Agile artefacts, including Product Backlogs.

I was surprised to hear advocacy of MoSCoW for prioritisation as opposed to the purer “Essential Yes/No” flag and sorting the backlog by value/ feasibility/ cost etc.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, MoSCoW is a prioritisation method:

M – MUST have this.
S – SHOULD have this if at all possible.
C – COULD have this if it does not affect anything else.
W – WON’T have this time but WOULD like in the future.

A few years ago, I was at a client introducing SCRUM. It was a new client, so I was there to push the door open a little more and hopefully set a good impression to get new work. We were engaged to build a tool from scratch for the client to resell. The Product Owner reported to a “Product Director”. The difficulty was that I could negotiate with the Product Owner, but the real authority and accountability for the product and its value lay with the Product Director.

The Product Owner was excellent. He saw the day-to-day difficulties in getting the software built and compromised features to ensure that what we delivered was what was really needed to make the end client happy. The “Product Director” was still thinking about us a little too contractually. He also wanted every last possible drop of functionality (he was getting it) in order to impress his own clients.

I think we did a fantastic job. The Product Owner did too. I think the Product Director also did. However, he decided that MoSCoW really meant:

M – MUST have this.
S – Bloody well SHOULD have this!!
C – We COULD have had this if you had worked faster!!
W – I suppose we WON’T have this now and it’s all your fault.

Asking your Product Owner if something is essential and forcing them to answer “Yes” or “No” avoids this problem.

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