Mastering MoSCoW: A Guide to Prioritizing Requirements in Agile Methodologies

ByPrince Ghosh
April 19th . 7 min read
Mastering MoSCoW: Prioritizing Requirements in Agile Methodologies

MoSCoW is a prioritization technique. It's commonly used in Agile and Scrum methodologies. It puts requirements into four categories: Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have.

It helps teams prioritize and manage requirements based on their importance and urgency.

Here's a guide to mastering MoSCoW for prioritizing requirements:

  • Must have: These are the requirements that are crucial for the success of the project or product. They are considered as the highest priority and must be delivered to meet project goals and objectives. "Must have" requirements are usually aligned with business goals. They are also aligned with customer needs or rules. These requirements cannot be negotiated. They should be prioritized and addressed first to ensure project success.
  • Should have: These are important requirements but they may not be critical for the immediate success of the project. They are the second-highest priority. They should be addressed after the Must have requirements. They are key for customer happiness, product usability, or competitive advantage. You can address these requirements after you meet the Must have ones. But, they are still very important.
  • Could have: These are the requirements that are desirable but not critical for the success of the project. They are considered as the third-highest priority and can be addressed after Must have and Should have requirements are fulfilled. Could have requirements are typically nice-to-have features, enhancements, or optimizations that can add value to the project but are not essential for its success. These requirements can be prioritized and addressed based on available resources and timelines.
  • Won't have: These are the requirements that are explicitly determined not to be included in the current scope of the project. They are considered as the lowest priority and will not be addressed in the current release or iteration. Won't have requirements are typically out of scope, not feasible, or not aligned with the project goals. These requirements are explicitly communicated and agreed upon with stakeholders, and they should not be considered for immediate prioritization or implementation.


Here are some tips for effectively using the MoSCoW prioritization technique:

  • Involve stakeholders: Collaborate with key stakeholders, including business owners, users, and team members, to collectively assign MoSCoW categories to requirements.This ensures that priorities are aligned with the needs and expectations of stakeholders. Their insights and feedback can provide valuable inputs on the importance and urgency of requirements.
  • Regularly review and update: Periodically review and update the MoSCoW categories for requirements as the project progresses, priorities evolve, and new information becomes available. Priorities may change over time, so it's important to revisit and reassess them regularly.
  • Focus on Must have and Should have: Prioritize the Must have and Should have requirements first, as they are critical and important for the solution's functionality and success. This ensures that the minimum set of requirements is addressed before considering the less critical Could have and Won't have requirements.
  • Communicate and document: Clearly communicate the MoSCoW categories assigned to requirements to all relevant stakeholders, and document the prioritization decisions and rationale behind them for future reference and transparency.
  • Keep it flexible: MoSCoW is a flexible prioritization technique that allows for adjustments based on changing circumstances, feedback from users, and evolving project needs. Be open to re-prioritizing requirements as needed to ensure that the project stays aligned with business objectives.

Optimizing Product Backlogs and Project Scope

By using MoSCoW prioritization, teams can optimize their product backlogs and project scope by:

  • Ensuring focus on the most critical items: By prioritizing Must have items first, teams can ensure that the core functionality and primary objectives of the solution are addressed as a priority, leading to a viable product or project. -** Managing secondary functionality effectively:** Should have items provide an opportunity to address important but not critical requirements or features, enhancing the value of the solution without compromising the core functionality.
  • Managing resources efficiently: Could have items allow teams to allocate resources to higher priority items first, and address desirable but not necessary requirements or features if time and resources permit.
  • Managing scope effectively: Won't have items help teams explicitly exclude certain requirements or features from the current release or sprint, preventing scope creep and ensuring that the project stays aligned with its intended scope.
  • Providing transparency and alignment: MoSCoW prioritization allows teams to clearly communicate the priorities of requirements or features to all relevant stakeholders, ensuring transparency and alignment on what will be addressed in the current release or sprint.
  • Enabling flexibility: MoSCoW prioritization is a flexible technique that allows for adjustments as the project progresses, priorities change, and new information becomes available, providing teams with the flexibility to adapt and optimize their product backlog or project scope based on evolving needs.

MoSCoW Prioritization :Pros and Cons

The MoSCoW prioritization technique, which stands for Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have, has several pros and cons:

Pros of MoSCoW prioritization:

  • Clear prioritization: MoSCoW provides a simple and intuitive framework for categorizing requirements based on their priority levels. It helps project teams to clearly identify and communicate which requirements are most critical for the success of the project, and which are less urgent or optional.
  • Focus on critical requirements: MoSCoW allows teams to prioritize and focus on the Must have requirements, which are essential for meeting project goals and objectives. This ensures that the most important requirements are addressed first and reduces the risk of scope creep or delays in delivering critical functionality.
  • Flexibility in prioritization: MoSCoW provides flexibility in prioritizing Should have and Could have requirements based on available resources, timelines, and project constraints. It allows teams to adapt and adjust priorities based on changing project dynamics or stakeholder feedback.
  • Stakeholder alignment: MoSCoW facilitates discussions and negotiations with stakeholders to align on the priority levels of requirements. It helps in managing stakeholder expectations and building consensus on the most critical requirements that need to be addressed first.


Cons of MoSCoW prioritization:

  • Subjectivity in prioritization: MoSCoW relies on subjective judgment and interpretation of priority levels by project team members and stakeholders. This can sometimes result in differing opinions or biases in prioritizing requirements, leading to potential conflicts or misalignment.
  • Lack of granularity: MoSCoW categorizes requirements into broad priority levels, which may not provide enough granularity for complex projects or products. It may not capture nuances or dependencies between requirements, resulting in potential gaps or overlaps in prioritization.
  • Potential neglect of Could have requirements: Could have requirements, which are desirable but not critical, may be overlooked or deprioritized in favor of Must have and Should have requirements. This can result in potential missed opportunities for adding value to the project or product.
  • Limited focus on long-term vision: MoSCoW prioritizes requirements based on immediate project needs, which may not always align with long-term strategic vision or business goals. This can result in potential misalignment between short-term and long-term priorities, leading to suboptimal outcomes in the long run.


By using the MoSCoW rule, project teams can prioritize requirements effectively, focus on delivering the most critical and valuable requirements, and ensure project success by aligning with business goals, customer needs, and project constraints.

It helps in optimizing the project scope, managing stakeholder expectations, and delivering value incrementally, leading to a successful project outcome. However, it also has limitations in terms of subjectivity, lack of granularity, and potential neglect of non-critical requirements.

Project teams should carefully consider the pros and cons and adapt the MoSCoW technique to suit their specific project context and requirements.

Keep ion touch with us for new update insights.