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How to Prioritize Requirements

June 1, 2016
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business analytics

As a business analyst , you will interact with different stakeholders in the project and each of them will have their own business requirements. As a result, there will be numerous business requirements . Some of the business requirements may conflict with one another. On the other hand, the project team will have to manage the project within the constraints of time, cost, quality and risk. You will be pulled in different directions as regards to how many requirements can be fulfilled by the team within the constraints and the client wanting everything and more! Moreover, in many systems, there are features that are rarely used. You will have to bring the right balance so that the business objectives can be met.

In the best interest of the success of the project it is imperative for you to prioritize requirements. Prioritization of requirements will -

  • Reduce development costs
  • Shorten the project duration
  • Ensure that the most important requirements are taken care of
  • Manage project better
  • Help in trade-offs

Prioritization helps in streamlining work and bring everyone to the same plane regarding the business objectives. There are different techniques of prioritizing requirements -

1) MoSCoW

It is a technique where the requirements are categorized as -

'Must' Mandatory Requirements critical to the system
'Should'  Important Requirements and are valuable to the customer
'Could' Desirable Requirements but not the most important functionalities
'Won't' Not required for now. They can be planned for in future releases.

The MoSCoW matrix will help to understand what are the key requirements of the customer for successful completion of the project. It helps in trade-offs as the project team is aware of what is more important and what is less important. It also helps in managing scope later on in the project if there is risk to schedule and cost.

The different terms should be clearly explained to all stakeholders else there can be confusion.

Let us look at some requirements for an e-commerce site and prioritize them using the MoSCoW method -

Requirements Priority
User should be able to sign up and log in Must
Payment Integration Gateway Must
Track Order Must
Show Purchase History Should
Print Order Could
Post Review of Products bought Could
Share your purchase on Facebook Won't

2) Objective Alignment

This is a technique where the requirements are mapped to key business objectives. If a requirement cannot be mapped to a business objective, it is considered out of scope. Here the key business objectives are defined. It is then assessed if implementation of each requirement can be aligned to the business objective. The requirements that cannot be aligned are omitted.

In the e-commerce website example, the key business objectives could be -

1) Increase customer visits and increase number of registered customers

2) Increase sales on the website

In this case, the following requirements will be of higher priority -

  • Customer Sign Up
  • Features such as Deals and Freebies to be regularly updated
  • Search and Showcase of latest products
  • Multiple Payment Mechanisms like electronic payment, Cash on Delivery with a good payment gateway integrated

The following requirements may not be of high priority as they are not directly related to the business objectives and can be developed in future releases -

  • Provision of blog functionality
  • Detailed 'About Us' page

3) 100 Dollar or 100 Points Method

In this method all client representatives are given an imaginary sum of 100 dollars or 100 points. These are to be distributed among the listed requirements. The client representatives assign points or dollars to each requirement. The requirements that have been allocated a higher amount on a ratio basis are considered within the application scope. The other requirements are postponed for future releases. This technique is good if there are limited number of requirements. If the list of requirements is long, 100 units are not enough.  A higher amount should be considered or requirements should be grouped and the the groups should be allocated dollars/points.

100 dollor or 100 points method

There are some other ways of prioritizing requirements such as ranking the requirements on criticality or assigning weightage to requirements.

There are some challenges to prioritization of requirements that a BA has to handle. Some customers may want all requirements incorporated. Others might feel if they give some requirements a lower priority, they would not be implemented. Project leads or BAs try to avoid conversations in which they have to reject requirements of clients. But it is important to rank requirements. Requirements prioritization finalizes project scope and ensures the most important functionality is implemented.

Let us know, what techniques do you use for prioritizing requirements.


About the Author

Vidya Kumar is a management graduate with 14 years of experience in the IT industry managing complex Software Projects across various industry verticals. She has around 6 years experience in content development. She has co-authored two eBooks and writes regularly on personal finance, IT, travel and other business topics.


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