Backlog Prioritization: OSR, MoSCoW, WSJF and So Much More

With the recent focus on market trends and making sure we get the most bang for our buck, the topic of priority comes up quite often. Now there have been many times we have dedicated previous blog posts, conference break-out sessions, podcast episodes and lots of other mediums to discuss this ever so important topic. With some renewed urgency, let’s cover how to get the best out of your prioritization technique as a company.

Pick a Method for Prioritization

When looking at the different methods to use within a company to help identify priority and thereby shine a light on what should be worked on in what order, there are many differing opinions. The most common prioritization techniques organize work by at least the following three categories:

  • Business / Company Value or Urgency

  • Customer Desires / Requests

  • Complexity / Size of the Work

backlog priority

With each of these factors it is common to see the first factor used very disproportionally to justify top priority as being synonymous with URGENT. As mentioned by Lee Henson in a recent podcast episode entitled “Backlog Prioritization – OSR”, it is important to not let this tyranny of the urgent become what dictates priority for your product or company. Some balance of the factors above is usually best to utilize as it gives a more complete look at priority through the lens of company value, customer desire and technological feasibility and lift. It is for this exact reason that an “Objective Stack Ranked” method gets used by so many different companies professing an Agile approach to their backlog management. Even when looking at scaling frameworks such as SAFe, a similar approach referred to as Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) considers these factors where cost of delay is divided by job size to get an accurate idea of what may generate the greatest value for the effort expended. The greatest advice to give would be to choose a method that balances these factors and use it to help make decisions on what your products and solutions will develop first, next and not at all.