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Prioritisation: The action or process of deciding the relative importance or urgency of a thing or things.

As organisations grapple with the enormity of delivering to the ever-demanding market, the need for getting the right things done becomes vital to succeed. Organisations must ensure they deliver the right outcomes to carry out the organisation’s strategy.

To do this, they must choose the right priority model that will enable them to deliver the intended outcome. Prioritisation helps to decide what to do now, what should be delayed, and what not to do.

In this blog, we will look at the key factors you need to know, which will help you identify the priority model and a few of the widely used prioritisation models that you can experiment with.

Understanding the key factors before selecting a prioritisation model

There are several prioritisation models, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s look at the three key factors that you need to know which will help you to choose the right prioritisation model for your organisation.

Context: What is the level that you are going to apply the priority mode? i.e. are you prioritising the initiatives at the strategic level or for a product release? The model you choose to prioritise might differ based on the context you are applying it.

Prioritisation Diagram

Constraints:  What are your organisation constraints? i.e. what are the fixed and variable constraints you must deal with to deliver the outcome? Is the scope, cost or time negotiable? How do you get the data, and how accurate is your data? Do you have the right people and process to gather insights from your customer if you are using customer-centric priority model?

Culture: What is your organisation culture for decision making? i.e. do you make decision-based on data/evidence or is it based on people’s opinions.? How often are the priorities changed by the senior management or the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person's Opinion)? How many priority one projects/programme exist simultaneously in your organisation?

Below are a few models which will help once you have defined your outcomes, to ensure you are objectively working on the highest priority first:

Prioritisation Model

Weighted shortest job first (WSFJ): SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) uses this model to prioritise at the large solution and program level backlog.

Context: Can be used at a program & release level.

Constraints:  When you have limited capacity and multiple initiatives. Ability to manage the dependencies through dedicated cross-functional teams/tribes. Relatively mature DevOps practices

Cost of Delay Divided by Duration (CD3): This technique is well suited when you have limited capacity and want to maximise the value delivered in each period. CD3 is variance on how SAFe calculates the cost of delay (Joshua Arnold’s has many insights on the cost of delay)

Context: Strategic and Program level

Constraints: When you are dealing with a limited capacity of people or other scarce resources.

Kano Model: Professor Noriaki Kano developed this model for product development; this model helps to classify the features as basic needs, satisfiers and delighters of your customer.

Context: Building new products & releases

Constraints: You are developing a new product or adding new features and have access to real customers to validate the model.

RICE: Simple and yet effective model from Intercom. This model uses the reach, impact, confidence and effort for calculating the priority for the product.

Context: Building new products & releases

Constraints: You have measurable and tangible metrics for reach, impact and confidence.

$100: This fun and simple exercise where the stakeholders are given imaginary $100 to buy the features. It’s a collaborative team-based exercise that draws insights from people’s experience through conversations.

Context: Team & product feature level

Constraints:  Best used when you don’t have enough information or actual data but have experienced & knowledge people.

Value vs effort: This technique focuses on considering the effort when prioritising the work

Context: Can be used at varying levels

Constraints: You have a good understanding of the value and effort need with some level of confidence.

MoSCoW: Simple, effective technique to reach a common understanding among multiple stakeholders by categorising the work to must-have, should have and could have.

Context: Can be used at varying levels

Constraints: Have good insights and data to determine which category the work belongs.

Alternatively, start by creating a simple model by identifying a set of criteria that is relevant to your work and assign the corresponding weightage to calculate the priority order.

A gentle reminder of the 1st principle from Agile manifesto:

"Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software."

Whatever model you choose should enable you to deliver value to your customers early and often, so you can validate your ideas and opportunities with real data.

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