Backlog Management

Six Prioritization Techniques

These techniques can be used to prioritize your Engineering Roadmap, support Product Owners/Managers, and even your own tasks.

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The MoSCoW Method

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  • Should have: This includes items that may be as important as the Must have but can be done after the items in the Must have, as they are not urgent. Not all of them may be delivered in the delivery cycle that is being planned.
  • Could have: This group will have items that are “nice to have,” items that will improve the results but are not mandatory. If there are enough resources (time, etc.), some of them might get done.
  • Won’t have: Items in this group are things that stakeholders agree are not critical, maybe not even needed at the time. They are considered out-of-scope for a certain delivery or period. They may be reprioritized later or dropped altogether.

Eisenhower Matrix

  • Important and Not Urgent: Schedule it for later. This way, you allocate the time needed to handle it and don’t let it become urgent, allowing you to find the appropriate time to do it.
  • Not important and Urgent: If something needs to be done but doesn’t require your attention, just delegate it to someone else. If it’s not done exactly how you would have done it, there shouldn’t be any significant impact.
  • Not important and not urgent: Don’t do it. This time is better applied to the other quadrants.

Impact/Effort Matrix (A.K.A Priority Matrix)

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  • High Effort and High Impact: These are the long-term projects and initiatives you want to get started on and potentially include other people in or find ways to reduce the effort.
  • Low Effort and Low Impact: There shouldn’t be any harm in doing items in this quadrant, provided that you have spare time. These are the kind of things you may also want to delegate. Make sure that what’s a low effort for you is also of low effort to whoever will execute it. ;-)
  • High Effort and Low Impact: This will just consume time. If you can, don’t do it at all, and don’t delegate it, either. Simply skip it if there is an option.


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  • Impact: how much will this impact each person? (Massive = 3x, High = 2x, Medium = 1x, Low = 0.5x, Minimal = 0.25x.)
  • Confidence: how confident are you in your estimates? (High = 100%, Medium = 80%, Low = 50%.)
  • Effort: how many “person-months” will this take? (Use whole numbers and a minimum of half a month — don’t get into the weeds of estimation.)
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  • Confidence: How sure am I that this test will prove my hypothesis?
  • Ease: How easily can I get launch this test?

Weighted Shortest Job First

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The total profit of a high ROI project may be less sensitive to a schedule delay than that of a low ROI. In such a case, the low ROI project should go first. Overall portfolio ROI adjusted for delay cost is more important than individual project ROI.

He also makes an analogy of a hospital emergency prioritizing patients by FIFO, which would be a disaster.



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Peter P. Lupo

Many management blogs focus on soft skills. This blog is about hard skills! Measurement, indicators, approaches, etc., for Software Engineering Management.