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  1. Service manual
  2. Agile delivery
  3. Deciding on priorities

There’s always a long list of things you could work on when developing a product or service. But you’ll usually have a limited amount of time, materials or skills available.

Prioritising what you should work on and in what order is an important part of delivering good products and services.

Decisions about what to prioritise should be made regularly - for example, weekly to prioritise the sprint backlog, or quarterly to organise the service roadmap.

The person leading the exercise should use a clear prioritisation method and involve the delivery team and stakeholders.

Prioritisation methods

There are lots of prioritisation methods. Choosing the right method will depend on the capacity of your team and what stage your product or service is at in the delivery lifecycle.

You’ll probably need to try out a few methods before deciding which one best suits the needs of the thing you’re working on.

MoSCoW is a widely used method, often chosen for its simplicity. It helps you break down your backlog and roadmap into:

  • ‘must haves’ - essential things that your product can’t function without
  • ‘should haves’ - things that can greatly improve the product, but aren’t crucial to making it function
  • ‘could haves’ - things that can improve the service, but won’t have too negative an impact if left out at this stage
  • ‘won’t haves’ - low priority things that the team has agreed not to do

Ranking tasks in this way helps you decide what to work on first and what not to include in the backlog if you only have the time and skills to do a certain number of tasks.

MoSCoW and other prioritisation techniques provide a way to work out and present prioritisation. They need to be informed by performance analysis, user research and input from stakeholders. Using this information helps you work out what the needs are, how they relate to one another and how you might work through them.

Prioritising tasks during the different development phases

What you consider high priority should change as your service develops.

For example, during the beta phase you’ll be able to prioritise improvements as you test and iterate the service.

During the live phase, users will be using your service so you’ll need to prioritise support work alongside continuous improvements.

Involve the team in decisions

Your team needs to understand how prioritisation decisions are made and be able to challenge them. They will have thought of things you haven’t. Using a clear method that your team understands will help them do this.

Involve your team in discussing how to iterate on the method you are using or deciding to change to another method. Give yourself and your team sufficient time to use and learn each prioritisation method - consistency is important.

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Product and service community
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Guidance first published