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Agile Prioritization Techniques

What is Prioritization and why is it required?

Agile enables building and delivering high-quality products/solutions faster, catering to customer demands which may keep changing very often. Scrum is a framework under the umbrella of Agile. There are different events or Agile ceremonies that are held in Scrum to deliver a high-quality product to the customer.

Scrum teams pick the items to be developed from the team backlog/sprint backlog, which is a subset of the Product Backlog. Product Backlog can be the collection of requirements by the customer or solutions to be built to cater to market demands. Product Backlog can have features, enhancements, bug fixes, maintenance works, retrospective items, etc. The product backlog is very dynamic.

It keeps evolving along with the product. Changes may be due to market conditions or enhancements in the technology or may be due to modified Business Requirements. Hence it becomes very important to understand and select which items to pick up first to implement. Prioritization helps in ordering the backlog as per Customer needs/market demands.

The Product Owner(PO) as the name suggests, is the owner of the backlog items in the Product Backlog. PO prioritizes the list of items in the backlog as per the conversation with the stakeholder.

product backlog

Factors influencing Backlog Prioritization:

  1. Business Value
  2. Cost of Delay
  3. Risk involved
  4. Customer Satisfaction
  5. Impact analysis
backlog prioritization

Business Value: This helps in understanding what is the value that the Customer or Business is achieving by delivering the considered backlog item. Need to analyze if the backlog item is impacting the revenue / Market reach/cost savings/customer retention/ prospective customers/ future opportunities/branding etc

Cost of Delay: Analysing what is the impact on revenue/compliance/functionality if a backlog item is delivered late. The cost of delay also gives an idea to understand the correlation between time and value.

The risk involved: What are the risks involved in implementing the backlog item? Analyzing the risks and any related dependencies would help the team to plan their work in a better way.

Customer Satisfaction: Would the Customer be happy if a particular backlog is delivered? Or which is the backlog item Customer would prefer to receive first? Or which is the preferred order of delivery for the backlog items?

Impact analysis: A thorough impact analysis should be done on the existing systems, any dependent systems, Current users, Market, Revenue, etc. This is also a key factor in deciding which item to be considered first to deliver.

Let’s have a look at the widely used Agile Prioritisation techniques:

  1. Moscow Model
  2. Kano Model
  3. Cost of Delay
  4. 100 Dollar Test
  5. Stack Ranking
  6. Priority Poker

Moscow Model

One of the popular models used for Prioritisation.
This prioritization method was built by Dai Clegg in 1994 for use in rapid application development (RAD). It was first used extensively with the dynamic systems development method (DSDM) in 2002.

Moscow acronym represents :
Must-Have –
Backlog items that are critical for the release. The release cannot happen Without these backlog items. In case, if there is an alternative way that the Release can be done without this backlog item, then the backlog item would be considered as either a ‘Could Have’or ‘Should Have
Should Have – Backlog items that are important for a release, however, they do not impact the product.
Could Have – Items that are desired by the customer, however of less importance when compared to ‘Should Have’ items.
Won’t Have – Backlog Items that are not considered for the immediate sprints/release. However, they are still in the Product Backlog and may be considered in the future.

Moscow Analysis

Kano Model

Kano Model has been developed by Professor Noriaki Kano in the 1980s, which emphasizes customer preferences into 5 categories:
a. Must-be
b. One-dimensional
c. Attractive
d. Indifferent
e. Reverse

Must-be: These are the features that are very much expected by the customer and are considered to be in by default. For eg: Making a Call is the basic functionality in the mobile.
One-dimensional: These are the features when delivered to customers, bring satisfaction. And if not delivered, the Customer gets dissatisfied.
Attractive: Features when delivered, makes the Customer Satisfied, however, the Customer does not get dissatisfied, if not delivered.
Indifferent: These features make Customers neither happy about successful delivery nor dissatisfy if not delivered. Basically, the Customer is not impacted by these features.
Reverse: Features that dissatisfy the Customer on implementing and happy on not implementing.
For eg: Multiple authentication steps for a simple transaction.

The Kano model is usually used when there is limited time to implement features, however right set of features needs to be considered for implementation. Kano model gives the idea that all features over a period of time, turn from Attractive to Must be.


Cost of Delay

This is one of the widely used Prioritization Techniques. Analyzing the impact on the business if there is a delay in the release of a feature is a key thing in this technique.

100-Dollar Test

This prioritization method is more suitable when the required features would be built in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. Hence, the prioritization meetings would be long as multiple stakeholders are involved in discussions. In this method, each stakeholder is given 100 dollars or points and asked to invest in the required features.
It’s up to the stakeholder to invest in a single feature/requirement or to invest in multiple features. Once all the stakeholders invest their respective 100 dollars or points, the sum of all expenditures is calculated. Ever the requirement gets the highest amount assigned by stakeholders, that would get the highest priority.

Stack Ranking

Stack ranking prioritization is a process where the most important items are assigned the highest rank and the least important items are assigned the lowest ranks/numbers.

stack ranking

Priority Poker

This is also a very popular method observed to carry out prioritization and is also more democratic.
A deck of cards numbered 0,1,2,3,5,8,13,20, and 40,100 is given to all the stakeholders.
Each of the features would be discussed and stakeholders would be asked to select a number from the deck of cards given to them.

Once everybody selects the value, they would be asked to show the card chosen. In case of variation in the number selected, stakeholders would further discuss the items that were given the same weightage. Through a collaborative discussion, stakeholders agree to the number that can be assigned to a requirement/feature.

Priority Poker


Different prioritization techniques are being used based on the necessity and nature of work considered for prioritization. These techniques surely enable the Product Owners and stakeholders to make a wise choice about which item has to be selected first for implementation and finally delivered to the customer.

Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Krishna