Requirements prioritization is a recognized project management practice. It’s a decision-making process that enables project managers to focus on the deliverables that add the most value to a project’s outcome.
It is quite rare that projects are conducted without time, scope and budget constraints. Most projects will likely need requirements prioritization.
Sometimes the prioritization process can lead to conflicts between the project beneficiaries. You might have to scope in requirements that address one person’s needs, while de-scoping other requirements that address someone else’s needs.
This five-step approach can help a project manager master requirements prioritization without getting into conflicting situations:
1. Prioritize as a common practice
Make it clear from the beginning that requirements prioritization is a common and required practice for any project that deals with constraints. Without prioritization, a constrained project could fail to reach its objectives.
2. Involve stakeholders
Not everyone on the project team should be involved in prioritizing requirements, but not involving the right people in this decision-making process could lead to project conflicts or missed project objectives.
The project’s beneficiaries — such as product owners, end-users or business departments — should prioritize their own requirements. But project sponsors or organizations outside the project, such as legal departments, can be involved in your prioritization process.
3. Qualify requirements
Identify and apply key qualitative dimensions that support prioritization, such as priority, severity, urgency, complexity or mandatory requirements. Then identify and apply key quantitative dimensions, such as weight or grades.
Use numbers to reflect the possible grades for each qualitative dimension. For example:
- 0.1 = low
- 0.5 = medium
- 0.8 = high
- 1 = critical
Then, depending on the project’s nature and context, use factors that weigh the importance of a qualitative dimension as compared to the others. For example:
- Factor 0.2 for complexity
- Factor 0.4 for priority
- Factor 0.7 for urgency
- Factor 1 for severity
4. Use a prioritization formula
Based on the qualitative and quantitative values, define a formula or matrix to apply when prioritizing requirements.
For example, a requirement with high severity will get a 0.8 rating (0.8 x 1) and will be prioritized ahead of a requirement with a high urgency (0.8 x 0.7= 0.56)
5. Document the approach
Document the prioritization approach in the requirements management plan as part of the project management plan. This leaves no room for interpretations, doubts or subjective biases during the prioritization process.
How do you prioritize requirements on your projects?
The views expressed within the PMI Voices on Project Management blog are contributed from external sources and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of PMI.
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