Prioritization and organization are two essential elements in creating a successful project and are also things that are inherently harder to achieve online. While prioritizing elements can be hard online, it doesn’t have to be. The Moscow analysis is a great tool for teams to collaborate on through online whiteboards and has takeaways that are applicable to a variety of different projects and teams.

In this article, we will define the Moscow analysis and talk about what makes it so helpful to teams everywhere. If you are interested in reading some of our other template guides, you can check out our most recent guides on design thinking and using a business model canvas here.

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Moscow Analysis Definition

What is a Moscow Analysis?

A Moscow analysis, also known as the Moscow prioritization, is an organizational framework that helps clarify and prioritize features or requirements for a given project. By creating boundaries for the priorities, teams are able to narrow their focus and create direct and achievable goals.

Moscow is an acronym that stands for the four categories that various features can be sorted into. These categories are: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have These four categories determine the prioritization of the corresponding features and are a marker of their importance to the overall success and continuity of the project.

While the Moscow analysis is most often used to organize a project and its required elements, 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. It can also be used to prioritize takeaways and next steps from an important meeting. Its main goal is the help visualize the prioritization of the tasks at hand.

These use cases demonstrate the flexibility of the Moscow prioritization to break down important requirements into simple prioritized areas, whether it be for team expectations or a project sprint.

Moscow Analysis Use Guide

As previously stated, the Moscow analysis consists of four major elements. These categories are explained below alongside some questions to guide what should be included in each category. For the sake of simplicity, we will use a project prioritization for reference.

How online whiteboard help achieve the goals of a moscow analysis

Must Have

This section is where you think about the core features that are necessary to the success of the project. Must have features are things that, if absent, would compromise the project as a whole. Without these features, the project would have an entirely different function and wouldn’t serve the intended purpose.

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.

Some prompting questions to ask in this section could be:

  • What features are absolutely essential and cannot be replaced?
  • If removed, would the project achieve the same purpose?
  • Will the delivery of the project be a success without this feature?

Should Have

Should have is where the project begins to become more nuanced in its prioritization. Should have features include those that are supplemental to the must have features, things customers have vocalized interest in, and other features that would make meaningful additions to the project.

Should have features should be thought of as just a step below must have. These features, while important, could be pushed to a later release while the must have features are absolutely essential. Without these things, the project will still work, but it will be better with them.

Some prompting questions to ask in this section could be;

  • How does this feature compare to the must have features? What about the could have features?
  • What is a helpful but not required feature?
  • How would the project function if this feature is omitted?

Could Have

Could have features are often misunderstood and get lumped with random possible additions. This section is meant to highlight features that you want to include but aren’t sure if they will be possible.

Could have features are even a step lower on the prioritization of should have features due to either time or substantive restraints. These are features that would be nice additions, but might not directly impact the core function of the product.

Some prompting questions to ask in this section could be:

  • What would be a useful tool 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?
Shortened Moscow analysis description.

Won’t Have

Won’t have is one of the most important sections in the analysis. It defines all of the features and points that specifically will not be included in the project release. This section is critical because it narrows the scope of the project greatly and helps define the boundaries that must be followed to achieve a successful project.

In order to have a helpful won’t have section, you need to plan not only the project you’re working on but future projects and parallel endeavors as well. By thinking about what comes in the future and what exists outside of the current release, you are able to narrow the scope of the current project.

Some prompting questions to ask in this section could be:

  • 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 releases specific scope?

Moscow Analysis Advantages

Now that we’ve established a solid understanding of how to use the Moscow prioritization, let’s quickly discuss some of its advantages.

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 on the bigger picture of what to include. 

Resource Division

Another advantage of using a Moscow prioritization is a clear division of resource allocation during the project. Having must have features separate from other should have and could have features means your team can clearly allocate resources to the features that are required additions and can allocate resources to the other possible features after delegating to the required sections.

This division of resources is critical when managing a complex project and helps the entire team understand their expectations and how to allocate their time.

Helps build consensus within projects

The Moscow analysis is super helpful to teams working together and helps clarify any misunderstandings about the scope and priorities of the 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 an amazing tool to align teams towards their shared goals.

Conclusion

Using a Moscow analysis is one of the best ways to improve the alignment of a team and understand the prioritization of the project at hand. While these templates are mainly used for product management, they are extremely versatile and can be applied to many different scenarios. 

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful, and if so make sure to check out our other posts around online whiteboards and visual collaboration if you want to learn more about how to interact and collaborate online.


2 Comments

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