The 10 Best Prioritization Techniques for Agile
In today’s fast-paced business world, effective prioritization techniques are critical to the success of any agile team. With so many competing demands and limited resources, prioritizing tasks can often be a daunting and complex process. However, by implementing the right prioritization techniques, teams can make informed decisions, maximize efficiency, and ultimately achieve their goals. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best agile prioritization techniques and provide you with the tools and insights needed to streamline your team’s workflow and increase productivity.
You’ll get to know the concept behind these techniques and the best selection to see what meets your needs. You’ll also discover when and how to use it, as well as its benefits and its common mistakes.
What is Agile?
Agile methodologies offer a flexible and iterative approach to project management that can help businesses achieve their goals while responding to changing circumstances. At its core, agile is a mindset that values collaboration, customer feedback, and continuous improvement. By breaking down complex projects into smaller, more manageable chunks, agile teams can deliver value faster, reduce risk, and increase customer satisfaction. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of agile methodologies and how they can help organizations stay competitive in today’s fast-paced marketplace.
What are prioritization techniques?
Prioritization techniques for agile are tools that help you prioritize a list of tasks or actions in very different manners.
The idea behind these techniques is to increase your productivity by helping you define and manage priorities. Why? For you to stay ten steps ahead of the unpredictable events of your personal and work life.
If you think that prioritizing methods aren’t the right fit, you haven’t gone through them all. There are a lot of models that present unique features that could be useful for your specific case.
The only thing you need to do is the evaluation of each method and work with the one that’s right for you. If you follow the chosen technique step by step, you’ll be able to succeed in your tasks with distinction.
Time tracking helps prioritization in agile
According to the Atlassian community,
Time-tracking in the Agile framework is a highly debated topic, especially with developers in Scrum Teams stating that it goes against Scrum Principles.Atlassian community
As the adage recites, A Tool in the Hands of a Fool is just a Tool. Tracking time can harm a Scrum team when it’s used for micromanagement and when the team is slowed down by cumbersome time-tracking activities like manually filling timesheets in Excel.
The Scrum methodology can benefit from the correct use of time tracking. Team time entries reveal bottlenecks and bring mathematical evidence of why specific deadlines weren’t met. Also, the proof of time-tracking enriches story refinement and planning.
The more details are known about the task, the less uncertainty there is in the estimation. But sometimes uncertainty can only be eliminated by actually starting work on the issue.Kacper Szewczyk, Frontend Developer
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The best prioritization techniques in Agile
RICE it’s a scoring system that sets your priorities and helps you consider each element of a project that you’re working on. RICE is an acronym that stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort and is very popular among agile teams.
To assess the priority level, you have to take into account the following factors:
For each task, you and your team will agree on a score for each criterion.
- Reach – An estimate how many people or events will be affected by the activity.
- Impact – Quantify the contribution of the activity to the end goal.
- 3 for massive impact
- 2 for high
- 1 for medium
- 0.5 for low
- 0.25 for minimal
- Confidence – Estimate how confident you are about the impact
- 100 for high confidence
- 80 for medium
- 50 for low
- Effort – An estimate of time and workforce (N people) needed to complete the task. The higher the effort, the higher the number we assign to it. For example:
- Months: 5 x N of people involved
- Few weeks: 4 x N of people
- One week: 3 x N of people
- Few days: 2 x N of people
- One workday or less: 1 x N of people
After assigning the scores to each of the categories, apply this formula:
RICE= (Reach * Impact * Confidence) Effort
The benefits of this model stand on being more agile and informed in making decisions as a project manager and what’s more advantageous to do first to have the most impact.
On the other hand, this method is very time-consuming, and there isn’t always that much data for every product.
Did you know the average worker spends 51% of every workday on low to no value tasks?
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2. Eisenhower Matrix: 4 Quadrants time management
This method helps to be more productive and to focus on the important tasks ahead during agile sprints. It separates priorities into four quadrants to achieve a long-term success project. There’s a chart divided into urgency and importance, which is identified as the following:
- Urgent and important: tasks such as deadlines and meetings;
- Urgent but not important: tasks such as long-term projects;
- Not urgent but important: tasks such as e-mails or calls;
- Not urgent and not important: tasks that are not directly related to your projects.
This technique faces multiple benefits, such as better life/work balance, relieving stress, and increased productivity. Since you have to be extremely focused, it’s easy to fall on any distractions that may appear, so you must resist that feeling.
3. ABCDE method
Through this method, you can control and prioritize your tasks in your daily life. In order to use this technique, you must list all the personal and professional tasks you must follow up on. With that, you must assign each one to the following categories:
- A stands for “Very important tasks”: it’s imperative that you take care of these, or you’ll suffer consequences;
- B stands for “Less important tasks”: you need to take care of these tasks but not in an urgent manner;
- C stands for “Nice tasks to do”: these are tasks that should give you pleasure to do;
- D stands for “Tasks to delegate”: these tasks can be passed to someone else, so you don’t get overwhelmed;
- E stands for “Tasks you can eliminate”: these tasks should make part of your list, and you can eliminate them.
Through this agile method, you can complete the most difficult tasks first and spend your time on valuable activities. The challenge behind the ABCDE Method stands on your failure to see the big picture or your failure to invest the needed time in this method.
4. MoSCoW prioritization
MoSCoW agile Prioritization determines which priority you should give to each feature from a given project. It’s processed through the assignment of a list of requirements to four categories:
- Must have: requirements that are absolutely important to your project;
- Should have: requirements that are important but not urgent to deliver on a deadline;
- Could have: you can benefit from getting these requirements done, but it won’t damage either;
- Won’t Have: you don’t need to worry about these requirements, it’s possible to implement them later.
The advantageous aspect of this agile method is that you can give the ultimate focus to your project, you’re able to make hard decisions, and save time.
This is an effective way to motivate your team and control the direction that your project will take. Although it can happen that the requirements are placed in the wrong category and that you can get too personal to your own opinions.
Did you know that quick-decision making is critical to succeed? Find why in our article.
5. ICE score model for agile
The ICE scoring model is perfect for prioritizing features and ideas by multiplying three values that belong to each project: Impact, Confidence, and Ease. On the evaluation of each element, there’s a ranking from one to ten for each of the three values that are multiplied. The result is the ICE Score.
- Impact: how much will the project move to achieve its goal;
- Confidence: the certainty that the project will have the desired result;
- Ease: level of effort to complete the project.
One of the benefits of this agile model is quick to prioritize actions due to your thought process, which becomes much clearer. The problem is that it’s very subjective sometimes, and the results may vary frequently.
6. Value versus Complexity/Effort matrix
Value versus complexity is a method for a product team manager to analyze the value of new ideas against the complexity and effort to execute them. Similar to the Eisenhower Matrix, you also have 4 quadrants, but with different variables:
- Value: the team analyzes the value of the feature in the long run;
- Complexity: the team estimates the total cost to understand if the effort is worth the trouble to execute it.
Although you can run this model flexibly and without resorting to calculations, it’s also quite subjective. This means that personal opinions can interfere greatly.
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7. Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF)
Best used on medium-to-big companies, the agile method estimates the score of each feature by dividing the cost of delay by job duration.
Cost of delay: the company defines how much it can lose if the feature isn’t established by its user-business value, time criticality, and risk reduction;
Job duration: defines the time needed for implementation through points in these features:
- Non-comprehensive features with high-added value;
- Complex features with high-added value;
- Non-comprehensive features of lesser-added value;
- Complex features with lesser-added value.
8. Kano model
The Kano Model concept sits on a different perspective and approach to the prioritization of customer’s satisfaction through a series of categories.
This agile technique is perfect for understanding the clients’ emotions towards your products, for you to analyze its impact and prioritization of actions. You place these requirements into five categories:
- Must-be Quality: what customers expect automatically from a product;
- One-dimensional Quality: what makes a difference between the customer’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction;
- Attractive Quality: what ensures that the customer is satisfied;
- Indifferent Quality: what doesn’t increase or decrease the client’s satisfaction;
- Reverse Quality: what causes a major level of dissatisfaction among the customer.
The Kano model is the perfect tool for prioritizing features to improve the client’s satisfaction. Although it also protects your time, the challenge remains in the time investment you must have to understand and run this model.
9. Weighted scoring model
This agile prioritization method is used to weigh decisions by attributing a numerical score to each one of the actions and/or features.
Once you list the initiatives, you need to give them a score, comparing effort versus value. This way, you’ll be able to make objective decisions.
Analyzing this model, you find benefits such as the ability to compare different project types, a less biased ranking, and an easy capacity to compare at a glance.
The difficult part is to assign numerical values to abstract elements, especially since it’s difficult to weigh criteria against each other to evaluate a business.
Besides being a rigid model, it doesn’t always show the reality of the impact of the business.
10. Walking skeleton
This method defines what’s indispensable for the product to work. Different from other models, this model focuses on important features:
- Essential features are first;
- You must have a functional system;
- It’s important to demonstrate the business value;
- Contemplate testing when completing the model’s execution.
An important pro of this method is the fast prioritization of actions and fast market validation.
On the other hand, it lacks important functionality, and the product’s first release can be late.
None of these techniques work for you? So, you might be interested in Warren Buffet’s 5/25 rule and the Rapid Planning Method.
When and how should you use these prioritization techniques?
For your professional life
Your professional life combines the elements described above to some extent. You have to have a balance daily to maintain your different roles throughout the day.
To that end, every one of the prioritization methods demonstrated in this article serves its purpose of helping guide you through it.
As a team leader/ Project manager
As a good team leader and project manager, your role is to ensure that everything is up to speed so that the result can achieve ultimate success.
These are the best to ensure the project or company’s success: RICE, the ABCDE method, the Eisenhower matrix, the ICE score model, and the weighted scoring model.
Are you looking for some guidance on how to lead and manage a team? Read our guide and become an expert!
For agile development, the MoSCoW and the Kano Model are presented as the best choice available. This happens because these techniques prioritize certain features and requirements from given products and/or services.
For your personal life
To enhance your personal life through the restructuring of your own prioritizations, the ABCDE Method is a perfect choice. When you need a clear view of the tasks ahead, this method makes you draw a list to assign the level of priority that you should give.
Benefits of the prioritization techniques
- No need to rework: these prioritization methods will help to manage your workload better and will give you a clearer view of the analysis of any given project, instead of working on them nonstop;
- Higher quality of products/services: with high-quality requirements and attention to detail through these methods, you’ll ensure that it exceeds expectations;
- Eliminate unnecessary functions: through these techniques, you’ll be able to establish the right list of requirements you need to meet;
- Faster development: after following the steps to structure your projects, you’ll be able to focus uniquely on the development itself;
- Higher customer satisfaction: through the change of mindset with these models, you’ll be able to achieve the goal you wanted: general satisfaction;
- Reducing the expectation gap: by involving the customers in your project’s prioritization process, you’re automatically minimizing their expectations.
Common mistakes in the usage of the prioritization techniques
- If you don’t keep a To-Do list;
- If you don’t set personal goals;
- If you don’t invest in the prioritization of tasks;
- If you can’t distance yourself from distractions (aka time wasters) and procrastinate;
- If you try to multitask everything and get overwhelmed;
- If you don’t pause occasionally;
- If you don’t schedule your tasks according to energy levels.
What are time wasters? Find what they’re, how they decrease your productivity and how to avoid them in our blog.
Is prioritization a skill?
Yes, it’s a soft skill. Prioritization enters the top tier of the soft skill category. You must prioritize your tasks and actions, especially while leading a team or a project.
Important for the accuracy of time management, this decision-making aspect defines the who, the when, the where, and the how.
What are the four levels of prioritizing tasks?
There are four levels on the prioritization scale: low, medium, high, and critical.
What are the 4 D’s of prioritization?
The 4 D’s of time management stand for Do, Defer (Delay), Delegate, and Delete. With your list of tasks, you must assign each one to the selected D, in order to stay focused on your main goal effectively.
A common saying goes “We have all the time in the world”, but the truth is that’s not entirely accurate.
Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to balance your daily life due to many factors that greatly impact you.
Reflect on this complete guide about prioritization techniques, and choose the one that’s the right fit. If none of them work for you, you might be interested in Eat the Frog technique, RPM or Warren Buffet’s 5/25 rule.
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