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The purpose of User Story prioritization in Scrum is to determine which user stories deliver the greatest amount of value to the customer. The items that are selected for the Prioritized Product Backlog undergo specific techniques to determine their levels of value. A discussion within the Scrum Team (Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team) of the techniques used for User Story prioritization in Scrum follows. The purpose of using prioritization methods is to quickly reach a consensus on the priority of each user story or requirement.

User Story Prioritization: MoSCoW Prioritization Scheme

This prioritization method’s name means the following:

  • M – Must Have (1st priority)
    • Essential user stories that “must be” included as high priority items in the Product Backlog.
  • S – Should Have (2nd priority)
    • Important user stories but these are not required for a release.
  • C – Could Have (3rd priority)
    • Desirable user stories but not required. This category is enhancement user stories.
  • W – Won’t Have (4th priority)
    • This category is for very low priority user stories that can be dropped and added in a later release.

The letter “o” is not used for anything with this method. Each letter above has a decreased level of importance starting with “Must Have”.  The lowest priority level “Won’t Have” is not required to be included. This prioritization method is best for internal Agile projects rather than utilization with large groups of customers. A small group is better suited, rather than numerous customers.

User Story Prioritization: Kano Analysis

This prioritization model is based on determining the customer’s satisfaction with product features. The customer’s satisfaction level is based on the level of functionality that will be provided. Features are categorized into four categories and a questionnaire is used to capture how customers feel about a feature. Table 1 below represents an example of the Kano Analysis.

Exciters/DelightersNew features of high customer value
SatisfiersFeatures that provided customer value  
DissatisfiersFeatures that cannot be left out because the customer would then dislike the product. If these features are present, they would not impact the level of customer satisfaction
IndifferentFeatures that can be eliminated because they don’t affect the customer in any way

Table 1. Kano Analysis Categories

Buy A Feature Prioritization

This prioritization method is an innovation game that is played either by single or multiple players. The steps are:

  1. A group of features are selected for prioritization and is given to a group of customers.
  2. Each customer receives “play money” to spend on desired features.
  3. Features are priced based on an agreed upon cost method that is consistent for all customers. The cost method is based on criteria such as complexity, development cost, or effort, etc.
  4. Each customer’s play money budget should be in the range of 1/3 to ½ of the total cost for all of features
  5. The game can be played either:
    1. Individually – Customers can use their play money budget to purchase feature with high importance
    2. Collaboratively – Features that are too costly for individual players use a different pricing scale that requires collaboration and negotiation between customers to purchase features that are valued by multiple game players.
  6. Customers are asked to explain the reasons for buying certain features
  7. The end of the game occurs when the money runs out or when players have bought all the features that they want. It’s perfectly fine for money to be left over with this game.

By playing this game, insight is automatically provided on the features that have the most interest and value for customers. Information is revealed on which features were purchased the most, the reasons why certain features were purchased and which group bids were made for the expensive features.

Our Favourite Agile Books

We found these books great for finding out more information on Agile Scrum:

User Story Prioritization: Story Mapping

Story Mapping represents a different way to structure and organize the work that need to be developed. Story maps are laid out in the following order:

  • A horizontal axis is referred to as the usage sequence
    • User stories or tasks are placed on this axis based on the sequence that they will be performed by a user
  • The vertical axis represents criticality
    • User stories or tasks are laid out vertically based on their level of importance (from top to bottom)
    • User stories that have the identical levels of importance are placed at the same height
    • Related user stories are grouped as Activities
      • A vertical line is used to separate each group of user stories
      • An activity is placed above the vertical axis and has no usage sequence because they aren’t prioritized

The advantages of using a Story Map are as follows:

  • It visually allows customers, stakeholders and the developers to share the same understanding of what the product will do.
  • It distinctly outlines how to release product iterations that deliver entire working releases. This is referred to as a walking skeleton, a concept developed by Alistair Cockburn.
  • Releases are defined by the creating horizontal lines along the story map and selecting user stories with equal importance
  • The result leads to end-to-end versions of the product and faster market delivery and validation for the minimally valuable product (MVP).
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Speed Boat Prioritization

This game starts with drawing a boat on a whiteboard or a large poster board. The game steps are as follows;

  1. Create a drawing of a “speed boat” on a whiteboard or a large poster board or equivalent.
  2. The speed boat is fast.
  3. The problem with the speed boat is that anchors are holding it back.
  4. The boat is the product and the anchors are the features that customers are not happy with
  5. Customers are asked to use Post-It notes for the features that are unhappy with and to write down how much faster the boat can move without those anchors
  6. Every anchor and speed estimation provides a measure of “pain” that each be prioritized for improvements

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