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The MoSCoW Approach = Prioritizing for the Future

By Leigh Howe

MoSCoW is a process for planning and prioritizing a large project. This dynamic planning method got its start in the Software and IT industry to meet the need of developing systems quickly.  It was originally called “Rapid Application Development”.  However, it is applicable to many types of business environments.

At Whittaker Associates, we have been using a simplified version of the MoSCoW in our project planning with clients. Using the MoSCoW framework, we plan and prioritize the steps and phases of a project in collaboration with clients using the following rules: 

º    MUST be a part of the project – fundamental to success;

º    SHOULD be a part of the project – important but the success does not rely on it;

º    COULD be a part of the project – can be left out without impacting the project;

º    WILL NOT be a part of the project – left out at this time but could become important at a later date.

Our primary focus in using the MoSCoW is to define the “what” of the project and clearly communicate that with our client.  Our team develops an outline for the project, the team, and the requirements for completion, and then works with the client to prioritize the outline.  This planning and prioritization allows our client to get a “big picture” view of the project and those phases and tasks that are critical, desirable, or extra.  It also allows our client to determine which phases or tasks are more suited to be done internally, versus externally by consultants, researchers or other entities. 

Some benefits of using this approach include more active involvement in the project by all parties, final project results more likely to meet the intended objectives, and the smooth implementation of the project is likely to go smoothly.  MoSCoW is not a silver bullet in project planning, but can help in completing a project more efficiently and effectively.

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