MoSCoW Prioritization

MoSCoW – A Simple Technique for Prioritizing

Prioritization is crucial when looking to make the most out of your time and other resources. It can be hard to get right as well. Thankfully, there are diverse techniques to help. One of these is the MoSCoW Method.

This simple technique can help you to ensure that you spend your time strictly on work that delivers real value. Learn more about it, including why it’s popularly used for managing requirements.

What is the MoSCoW Method?

Developed by Oracle software expert Dai Clegg, the MoSCoW Method is a prioritization technique that is commonly used in project management as well as business analysis and management. It gives you a clearer understanding of priorities or initiatives to enable effective management.

Other names by which this technique is known include MoSCoW Prioritization and MoSCoW Analysis. The name has nothing to do with the Russian city. It is an acronym that derives from:

  • Must-haves
  • Should-haves
  • Could-haves
  • Won’t-haves

The above form the four categories of initiatives or requirements covered in this method. As for the two “Os” in the name, they only help to make it pronounceable.

Clegg originally intended MoSCoW Prioritization for time-boxed projects, but it now has broader applications. The framework would be added to the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) later on. It offers one of the simplest ways to know what’s worth working on, which explains why it has found usefulness outside the software industry as well.

MoSCoW Method Categories

The categories of requirements in this method are pretty self-explanatory. But let’s quickly explain them all the same.


This category contains initiatives that you cannot afford to ignore if you must succeed. The requirements here are those that will certainly result in the failure of a project if they are not met. To know what goes here, you should try to figure out what the outcome would be if a requirement were to be left out.


Here go those initiatives that add huge value to a project or release but without which the latter still works fine. They need to be implemented but the time for them might not be now. Fixes for minor bug issues that don’t hinder usability, for example, would fall here.


Certain requirements would be good to have but are not central to the function of a product. You are to put such in this category. The impact of could-haves is not enough for users to miss them if left out. You usually work on them only if you have enough to execute them.


This category includes initiatives that do not have enough to justify working on them, especially at the moment. The requirements here are sometimes also described as “wishes” or “would-haves.” You may work on them in future releases or ignore them altogether if they are impossible or would use too many resources.

How to Make MoSCoW Prioritization to Work for You

The first thing you obviously want to do when looking to use this technique would be to identify requirements. Find out what all key stakeholders consider as essential. There needs to be an agreement on initiatives that deliver the most value to both your company and customers.

For effective prioritization, it helps to reach a decision beforehand on how to resolve possible disagreements on what is more important. This will help you to move faster as you progress.

Work together to determine which of the MoSCoW Method categories requirements belong to. Also, decide what amount of resources you need to allocate to each group.

When Should You Consider Using the MoSCoW Method?

This framework has particular situations in which it is most effective. One of such is when you are working with a deadline in focus. It makes clear to everyone what should get the most attention and makes requirements more manageable, thereby boosting your ability to meet deadlines.

You may find this technique quite useful if you’re working with teams that are representative of every section of your organization. It makes it easier to prioritize initiatives from diverse individuals and manage them effectively in a simple way.

Owing to its simplicity, the MoSCoW Method will be better suited to small products with limited technical limitations and dependencies, as Lazaro Ibanez noted in a Medium post. It is, perhaps, the most popular prioritization technique for such products.

You can use it for both small and large projects, however. What you just need to note is that you may need to use it alongside other techniques when working on complicated projects.

The MoSCoW Method offers a clear-cut way of assessing the relative importance of initiatives. It reduces bias and time wasted on unnecessary arguments. The framework enables you to see quickly where you need to focus. With it, you can know more clearly how much you are committing to each category of requirements.

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