Top Agile Prioritization Techniques

The agile methodology has been gaining popularity for some time now. And it's no wonder why. The ability to respond quickly to change and deliver value to stakeholders faster are two major advantages that have made agile a go-to choice for many organizations. A recent study on agile development and testing reveals that the global Agile Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent, from 20 billion US dollars in 2020 to about 30 billion US dollars by 2026.

However, any agile project requires agile prioritization techniques to succeed. That's because, in order to be truly agile, a team must be able to quickly adapt its priorities based on changes in the market or other critical factors. Fortunately, there are a number of powerful techniques that can be used to prioritize an agile project.

Let’s explore agile prioritization, its importance, and some of the most popular agile prioritization techniques. 

What is agile prioritization?

Agile prioritization is a way of organizing and managing tasks so that they can be completed as efficiently as possible. It's often used in software development, but can be adapted to other fields as well.

The key to agile prioritization is flexibility. Tasks can be added, removed, or rearranged as needed, so that the team can always be working on the most important tasks. This allows for quick and efficient progress, while still ensuring that all tasks are completed.

It’s all about deciding what order the agile team will follow to complete tasks. Though prioritization is important for all projects, it becomes critical in agile development projects because they have limited resources and are extremely time-bound. 

Importance of agile prioritization

Agile prioritization is essential because it enables project managers to allocate resources to the main value-adding tasks. The prioritization process allows the team to accommodate time and budget constraints. Moreover, it helps the team to determine the bare minimum features that create customer value. 

However, agile product development requires the team to understand all the features a product owner needs before setting priorities. After completing the main tasks, the team can focus on lower priority tasks. Agile prioritization enables the team to:

  • Increase the success rate of agile projects.
  • Clear doubts for the development team when making decisions.
  • Increase the focus of top management around strategic goals.
  • Instill an execution mindset in all the team members.

The top agile prioritization techniques 

There are several agile prioritization techniques that project managers can use in product and software development. Here are the top ones:

1. Cost of delay

This agile prioritization technique determines the amount of money an organization would lose if a product lacked a certain feature. It is a proactive model that focuses on monetary value to understand the essential elements and prioritize them. The cost of delay prioritization model enables the project manager to prioritize and deal with tasks that would result in significant losses.

The organization determines the losses it would incur if a task or feature was delayed and uses this data to rank tasks based on urgency. Functions that would result in higher losses are considered more urgent. This model does not consider user experience. Furthermore, project managers can use this model to create a product backlog that cuts costs. 

Also read: Could you be underestimating the true cost of software development? 

2. Kano model

Professor Noriaki Kan introduced the Kano model in the 1980s. This agile prioritization technique is primarily applied in product development and customer satisfaction. The Kano model uses customer feedback to assess product features and determine the priority of tasks for product development. 

The Kano model has three primary levels based on user satisfaction, ranging from delighted to happiness to disappointment. Feature availability and implementation degree are the key determinants of user satisfaction during the agile prioritization process. More features and full implementation achieves the highest level of customer satisfaction. 

This model requires the development team to determine how each feature impacts the project. After assessing each feature's significance, task prioritization becomes easier.

3. Priority poker

Priority poker is based on the rules used in an actual poker game, as played with cards. A card poker game prioritizes big games using a calculative manner. Likewise, products and features that deliver the best results are prioritized. 

The project manager asks all the stakeholders, including end users, to assign priority to all the scheduled features and tasks. The manager will then moderate the stakeholder rankings and develop the final priority schedule. Big-ticket features and functions that generate the best returns in a specific target market receive the highest priority. This technique is not a single-person decision but involves multiple stakeholders and thus may be more effective.   

4. Relative weighting method

This agile prioritization technique uses the economies of lean product development to prioritize tasks and features. 

One of the major prioritization factors is a feature's value and the negative consequence that may arise if that feature is missing. This model uses the judgment of the product owner and the agile development team to rank the value of each component using a one-to-nine scoreboard. Each of the following factors is given a score between one and nine.   

  • The benefit of the feature.
  • The penalty of excluding the feature.
  • The cost of building the feature.
  •  Risks involved in producing the feature.

The final score is calculated using the formula: (Benefit + Penalty) / (Cost + Risk).

The relative weighting method provides a numeric value that makes it easier to prioritize features. 

5. Stack ranking

Stack ranking is a popular prioritization technique many agile software development companies use. It is an easy model that allows development teams to prioritize features and tasks based on user stories. Customer expectations are essential in determining the priority of features in this technique.  

This model takes into account each user story and ranks it in order of priority, placing the essential feature at the top of the stack and the least important at the bottom. It also helps to evaluate essential and non-essential product features. The final priority is determined by comparing different product features and identifying how they simplify or enhance user experience. 

6. Opportunity scoring model

This prioritization model uses market research data to identify user expectations for a product or service. Organizations use this model to develop agile products that prioritize features based on target users' needs. Companies can also adjust their priorities and budgets according to customer expectations. 

The opportunity scoring model enables the development team to identify customers' preferred features. They can then allocate resources to those features that customers find essential and do away with those elements that consume resources but are not crucial. This technique uses user research data and is thus highly effective.   

7. MoSCoW prioritization technique

This agile prioritization technique schedules features from the must-have to the won't-have. The abbreviation «MoSCoW» comes from the categorization of these tasks, which is as follows:

  • Mo — must-have: These features must be included in the product.
  • S — should-have: These should-have features are not critical but should be included.
  • Co — could-have: These features are not critical to the product's functionality or operation but improve user experience.
  • W — won't have: Stakeholders have ruled against these features, and they will not be part of the product.   

Product features under MoS should have the highest priorities and thus receive the highest resources. Elements under Co have low priority, while those under W won't appear in the product, completely.

8. 100 dollar test

This prioritization technique is also called cumulative voting. The prioritization process involves giving each stakeholder 100 dollars or points to assign to each product feature or task. The stakeholders divide their dollars and assign them depending on how they would spend on each task or feature. 

The task or feature with the most dollars is given the highest priority. The 100-dollar test is among the most effective and straightforward agile prioritization models because it involves all the stakeholders in determining the product backlog.   

9. RICE method

The Rice agile prioritization technique uses four factors to determine which features or tasks are essential in product and service development. These factors form RICE's acronym and include Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.

  • Reach: The first aspect of the RICE method is to approximate the reach. This involves determining the number of people the product will reach in a given time frame.
  • Impact: Impact depends on the number of people that encounter the product and their feedback. Its main aim is customer satisfaction.
  • Confidence: Confidence measures how the product or service scores in the market. It keeps the agile team going because a high confidence score makes them more optimistic.
  • Effort: This represents the effort and time all the team members need to put into the agile project. 

The RICE prioritization model emphasizes the importance of managing the entire project from the beginning to the end. That’s from reaching the target market, impacting and instilling confidence in the end user to the effort of each team member. 

10. Dynamic software development method (DSDM)

DSDM focuses on the entire project. Its main aim is to align the development process with project goals while at the same time ensuring the timely delivery of value to users. 

This method identifies the different stages of the product development process and provides significant benefits to all stakeholders. It provides guidance throughout the project life cycle and ensures the process adheres to the best practices that guarantee timely delivery within the budget.

The dynamic software development method encourages cohesiveness within a team. It enables the development team to move to the next stage after the previous step creates enough customer value. 

Conclusion

Agile prioritization should be an integral component of agile project planning and management. The prioritization allows teams to meet the expectations of both users and stakeholders while completing tasks on time without over- spending or compromising quality.  Projects that proceed without effective prioritization can turn out to be costly and fail to deliver value.  

You can adopt any of these techniques or combine a couple to ensure that your development team accomplishes projects in time without sacrificing value.

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