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Ceterum censeo… » A Take On Priority

Ceterum censeo…


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  • Michael's Blog
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    10/24/2013 (4:28 pm)

    A Take On Priority

    Filed under: Business Analysis ::

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    Recently I’ve been back in the Business Analysis space, which has meant (among other things) that I’ve been making lists of features and assigning priorities. Here are some approaches.

    In general I’m not happy using a High/Medium/Low. What does medium mean? When something is not as important as a ‘High’, but are more important than a ‘Low’, do you use ‘High-Medium’ or ‘Medium-High’? (This is not so much a real question, but more a ridiculing of the lack of granularity.)

    Another approach is the MoSCoW method: describe the features as ‘Must’, ‘Should’, ‘Could’, and ‘Won’t’. This isn’t too bad, although I’m on record as having a problem with ’should’.

    I struggled a bit to make these fit with the high level requirements I’m covering. While it’s entirely reasonable to talk about a function like ‘Display Current News Items’ as having ‘High’ priority, or as being a ‘Could’ function, it kind of falls apart when assigned to a supporting function. Let’s say ‘Review News Request Log’ is a piece of housekeeping required to keep the system in good running. Is it ‘High’ priority? No, because you’re not building the system to view a log. Is it ‘Low’? No, because (by assumption) it’s needed to keep the system running, and Low Priority items get cut, which is not needed. As for MoSCoW… having too many MUSTs ends up getting confusing.

    (Sidenote: I notice that I’m making an assumption that a majority of functions fall into this category of not a direct goals but are needed anyway. I wonder if that’s a necessary consequence, or a matter of personal style? Could I frame requirements so that the problem goes away? Would that be a net positive?)

    Anyway, I ended up rating these like this:

    • Primary - this is for main business goals
    • Secondary - this is for optional business goals, which aren’t justified on their own, but which are worth doing if you’re already in the space.
    • Tertiary - actually, I’m not sure what would go int here, but it’s suggested by the jargon. Maybe another business unit imposing something? (say, new security standards)
    • Supporting - this is for the trouble functions I describe above… needed for a Primary or Secondary goal, but not worth doing in it’s own right. Each supporting function should map clearly back to a primary or secondary goal.
    • Optional - this is for alternative ways of achieving a goal.
    • …plus other things as seems helpful (e.g. Policy)

    I’m finding this approach makes it easy to keep the reasons for doing a function in line.

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