Product management, Product Roadmap, Project Management

MoSCoW Technique- What it is & Insights on MoSCoW Prioritization

By on January 17, 2020

Collecting customer feedback is important. But not all feedback is created equal. There will be some that may not meet your product vision or the target market or does not make sense.

That is why building a thoughtful product roadmap is vital. But how to be ‘thoughtful’ about it? Well, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are handful of prioritisation techniques to save the day. MoSCoW is one such method that we will discuss in this article.

What Is MoSCoW?

MoSCoW is a prioritization technique. Businesses use it in business analysis, project management and software development. It enables stakeholders to arrive at a mutual understanding about the importance of tasks at hand. 

Dai Clegg, a software developer at Oracle, created MoSCoW. And later handed it over to Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM). Initially, he intended it to assist in creating a structure of priorities for time-bound projects. Especially so for initiatives within software product releases. Later, its use expanded, letting different functional teams adopt it.

Why Is Prioritization Necessary?

Priorities are a key to being productive for any team. Almost always teams have many competing tasks vying for attention. They are ‘competing tasks’ since the resources to complete them are finite. It is impossible to have all human and material resources to complete them at once. Thus, it’s essential to prioritize which projects need execution and when. Without prioritization your company will fail to achieve the goals it set out to meet.

Moreover, complex projects and releases need an elaborate thought process. Prioritization pools together different stakeholders who will implement the projects, as well as build consensus and a sense of ownership among them. So it not just impacts what to do next, but also how to do it.

How Does MoSCoW Prioritization Work?

This technique is simple and practical. However, do a bit of homework before getting started. To make the best out of this technique address the following:

  • Let all your stakeholders align to the organisational objectives and priorities 
  • Your team members need to agree on how they will iron out disagreements to avoid stagnating your projects’ advancement 
  • Agree on how much resources each category needs
  • Determine ideal categories for different initiatives 

The MoSCoW Hierarchy of Priorities   

This technique entails 4 categories

  • Must have
  • Should have
  • Could have
  • Won’t have

Must have

This level comprises non-negotiable priorities and needs for your projects, products and releases at hand. Therefore, you must complete all priorities that fall under this category. When creating this category, you ought to consider the following: 

  • The consequences of not implementing these priorities 
  • If your project, release or product can do without these initiatives
  • A simpler alternative to accomplishing your initiatives 

Should have

This level of priorities comprises critical initiatives. However your projects, products and releases can do without them. Although, they would lack a given level of significance and value. Moreover, you can postpone and include them in coming releases without negatively affecting the present one. Enhancement updates and bug fixing are examples of should-haves.

Could have

Could have priorities are not essential to your product’s existence. Instead, they are just nice to have and have no negative impact on your present or future projects, releases or products. They come into use should projects in the should-have and must-have categories end up larger than initially envisioned.

Won’t have

The last category includes those items that should not feature in current projects, releases and products. Such initiatives may or may not become future priorities. Specifically this category assists managers to decide shouldn’t feature in their current priorities.

When To Use MoSCoW Technique?

Use this method in your organization when you:

  • Have teams that comprise representatives from an entire enterprise in their processes 
  • Want to capture a wider perspective by incorporating stakeholders from different departments
  • Need your team to determine the  amount of effort different categories need
  • Want to prioritize time-sensitive projects

Strengths and Limitations 

MoSCoW is a great prioritization tool, but like everything else comes with Pros & Cons.


  • Is excellent for Agile projects with fixed timeframes because it allows for managing the requirements for a particular product release 
  • Is excellent tool for setting priorities at all stages
  • Is applicable to startups and ongoing projects
  • Is effective in resolving disputes and foster agreement among different stakeholders
  • Is easy to master and use


  • Poor in deciding between various requirements on a similar level
  • Lacking in ranking competing requirements
  • Ambiguous on timing, particularly in the Won’t-have category
  • Poor in producing accurate prioritization if some stakeholders are absent
  • Likely to produce subjective and deficient requirements if company decisions don’t include all leaders

The key lies in moulding the process to meet cultural & procedural needs of your organisation. Now, the ball is in your court!

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