Refining Requirements with Russian Rules

Many software projects have fixed deadlines and it is an essential part of the IT Project Manager’s job to help assess, at the outset, what can and cannot be delivered within the available time. A simple technique that can be used to help Clients take a cold, objective look at their requirements is the MoSCoW rule.

MoSCoW is a prioritisation technique for helping to understand and manage priorities. The letters stand for:

Must Have
Should Have
Could Have
Won’t Have (this time)

Working with the Client, we consider each requirement and put them in one of these categories.

‘Must Have’ requirements are those without which the project cannot be delivered, in other words, those that comprise the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). For example, in a recent eLearning ‘member induction’ course we developed for a volunteer-based charity, it was essential that the participants details were captured, so there was an audit trail of who had taken the course. In many courses, end-of-course assessments are essential if participants must obtain a minimum score to receive credit for taking the course. Other ‘Must Have’ examples include requirements that are legal in nature, or without which the end-product would not be safe.

‘Should Have’ requirements are those that are important but not essential. The aim is to deliver such requirements but it is not guaranteed. So, for example, in some courses the inclusion of a Workbook may be important for Participants to have as a post-course reference, but the course could still be delivered without it and notes could be taken manually.

‘Could Have’ are the ‘nice to have’ requirements. The Client would like them to be delivered, but agrees that the impact will not be as great as the ‘Musts’ and ‘Shoulds’ if they are left out. As such, these requirements provide contingency if a problem occurs, or the deadline is at risk. Animated characters in an Explainer Video may be deemed as nice to have by a Client, but to deliver to their timeframe, they may be prepared to leave them out.

Lastly, the ‘Won’t Haves’ have been deemed by the Client as out of scope at this particular time. They may be considered again as part of future phases or projects.

MoSCoW prioritisation is all about achieving an acceptable level of risk and predictability, in order to deliver a project effectively and efficiently.