MoSCoW Analysis

MoSCoW Analysis Definition

Many templates try to solve the prioritization problem for teams, but few do it as efficiently as the MoSCoW analysis. When collaborating on shared priorities, the MoSCoW analysis is the best board to organize and plan your thoughts efficiently.

A MoSCoW analysis, also known as the MoSCoW prioritization, is an organizational framework that helps clarify and prioritize deliverables for a project. It’s incredibly helpful for creating aligned priorities and sharing your prerogatives outside your team. 

The MoSCoW analysis enables you to track priorities throughout a project and create a collaborative strategy to align your team. There are four priority categories within the MoSCoW analysis, and they each relate to a different level of importance. The name MoSCoW is an acronym for the categories Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have, and below, we’ll discuss each category in further detail.

This specific prioritization matrix is super helpful when highlighting project requirements. It makes it easy to see what you need to include, what you should probably include, and what will be purposefully omitted.

While the MoSCoW analysis is most often used to organize a project and its features, it can also be used in other scenarios. For example, MoSCoW prioritization can be applied to better align a team with its values and expectations, to prioritize takeaways and next steps from a meeting, or to collaborate with stakeholders. Its main goal is the help visualize the prioritization of the tasks at hand.

 

MoSCoW Analysis Template

By creating boundaries for the priorities, teams are able to narrow their focus and create direct and achievable goals. They do this by thoughtfully prioritizing their strategy in the four groups below.

Must Have

Questions to ask: What features are absolutely essential and cannot be replaced? If removed, would the project achieve the same purpose? Will the customer suffer without this feature? 

The Must Have section is where you diagram the features necessary for the project’s success. If removed, these items will completely change the vision and execution of the endeavor and, therefore, must be included in the final version. Try to think about things that would change the core functionality of the project and are critical to the value proposition.

Must Have features, while being the most important things to consider, should not account for every detail that will be present in the final version. The features in Must Have, Should Have, and Could Have should all be major considerations to be included in the project, so try and be very specific with the features you add in each section. Not every feature you want will be a Must Have; these are simply the essentials.

Should Have

Questions to ask: What is a helpful feature, but one that’s not required for this to function? What would the project look like without this? How would the project function if this element is omitted?

The Should Have section is where many of the important but technically non-essential features live. This list should contain many things that are supplemental to the Must Have features, things customers have vocalized interest in, and other features that would complete the project.

Things in the Should Have section should make a meaningful addition, but if removed, don’t completely alter the project.

Could Have

Questions to ask: What would be a useful element to add that isn’t a priority? What is something that you’d like to add in the future? How would this feature impact the overall product? 

The Could Have section is where you will place the things you want to add but might not make the final version. This section is often misunderstood because it’s a low priority, but the items here should still be valuable to the project. This section will probably include the most detailed additions that are probably too specific to make it in or will include features that are probably out of scope.

The features added here are usually things that would improve the existing offering but, subject to time and resources, might not be possible. While it would be nice to have them, it isn’t a requirement.

Won’t Have

Questions to ask: What features will be purposefully left out of this project? What is being avoided or postponed for a future release? What features fall outside of this release’s specific scope?

The Won’t Have section is an essential part of the prioritization process and is something that sets the MoSCoW analysis apart from other prioritization templates. This section specifies things that will be purposefully excluded from your project.

By adding a section for things you will intentionally omit, you can set a clear boundary at the maximum requirement for the project, eliminating scope creep. Formalizing the scope of your project is one of the most important details to communicate, and this template makes that process simple and clear.

It’s important to add things that would be helpful in the Won’t Have section rather than items that are irrelevant to the project’s structure. By adding relevant features, you can develop a clear idea of what the finished product should look like and what should be prioritized in the future.

Advantages of Using a MoSCoW Analysis

A MoSCoW analysis is extremely helpful for conducting team planning and collaborative prioritization, among other use cases. Here are some of the specific advantages of using a MoSCoW prioritization template.

Provides Direction

One of the best advantages of using a MoSCoW analysis is the direction it provides to the project at hand. When organizing tasks and features into various prioritized categories, the project as a whole begins to take shape. 

Especially with the inclusion of the “won’t have” section, the MoSCoW analysis eliminates scope creep, a common problem that occurs when planning projects. Scope creep is a term used to explain when new features and small additions get implemented into a project, and due to these additions, the project becomes a greater task than initially imagined. Having a won’t have section clearly identifies the features that won’t be included, which means there is no misunderstanding of what the final product should look like. 

Clear Resource Allocation

Another advantage of using a MoSCoW prioritization is a clear division of resource allocation during the project. Having each set of features clearly defined allows you to allocate resources to each section based on their importance to the overall project.

When managing a complex project, this division of resources is critical and helps the entire team understand their expectations and constraints.

Helps Build Consensus 

The MoSCoW analysis is super helpful to teams working together and helps clarify any misunderstandings about the scope and priorities of a project. It is a visual guide that stakeholders, managers, and other team members can all interact with to develop a comprehensive understanding of the project at hand and is a fantastic tool to align teams toward their shared goals.

 

MoSCoW Analysis Example

In the above example, we outline how a MoSCoW analysis might be utilized for a team creating an e-commerce shopping page. Here is a breakdown of each section and how the prioritization matrix unfolds.

 

Must Have: When creating the shopping page, some of the most important features revolve around the display and details of the specific product. This includes things like an image, description, title, sizes, and a purchasing flow. Because this takes up the majority of the vision behind creating an e-commerce page, these items are the highest priority.

 

Should Have: The Should Have features all add value to the page but aren’t fundamental to the purchasing process. These include things like a product story, wishlist addition, and similar item suggestions. When thinking about the core value of the page, you can see how these items supplement the central vision but aren’t fundamental to the project.

 

Could Have: The features in the third section are even more extraneous than those in the Should Have section but still add tangential value to the page. Some of the features in this section are the ability to share on social media, styling examples, external integrations, and a reminder system. While these would elevate the page, they aren’t crucial to its success.

 

Won’t Have: In this case, the items in the final section are things the team wants to avoid. Many of the items are distractions to the core functionality of the page, including ads, coupons, product videos, banners, and customer product colors. These items, for the most part, seem to be avoidances rather than postponements, making it clear what won’t be included on the final page.

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