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The MoSCoW prioritization method explained 9 min read
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When developing a new product or embarking on a new project, it can be difficult to decide which elements to include and which are more expendable. Prioritizing tasks is usually a team effort, requiring input from everyone involved in the project setup. Getting a clear idea of which elements should take the lead from the start can help you to avoid hiccups later on. For this reason, using the MoSCoW prioritization method to categorize project elements based on importance can be helpful for getting started.

The MoSCoW prioritization method is a tool that can be used to prioritize projects, initiatives, or tasks. It is especially useful when there are many competing demands and it is not possible to do everything at once. Using’s Work OS, you can quickly and easily break down projects into simple tasks and their priorities. Now, let’s discuss everything you need to know about using this method.

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What is the MoSCoW prioritization method?

]MoSCoW prioritization is a tool for creating a hierarchy of priorities before and during a project. It stems from the Agile project management method, which aims to establish elements like product cost, quality, and requirements as early as possible.

MoSCoW is an acronym for “must-have,” “should-have,” “could-have,” and “won’t-have (this time).” Each item in the acronym denotes a category of prioritization. The idea is that items are categorized at the beginning of a project to clarify what is strictly necessary, what is desirable, and what the project can do without. Before we get deeper into the categories, let’s take a look at where this method came from.

“MoSCoW prioritization method” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!

Where does the term MoSCoW come from?

The term MoSCoW comes originated with software developer Dai Clegg, who created the method when he was working at Oracle. To help his team prioritize tasks during development work on product releases, he devised the MoSCoW technique. The acronym includes lowercase Os between consonants to make it easier to pronounce.

You can now find a detailed account of how to use the MoSCoW method in the Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM) handbook. The MoSCoW method can be used to prioritize requirements, product features, or any other project elements. When using the MoSCoW method, each element is assigned to one of the four prioritization categories based on its importance to the project. Now, let’s take a closer look at the prioritization categories and how to use them.

What are the categories within the MoSCoW prioritization method?

As mentioned previously, the acronym “MoSCoW” stands for “must-have,” “should-have,” “could-have,” and “won’t-have (this time).”

  • Must-have: These items are essential for the success of the project. There can be no compromise on whether they are included, because without them, the entire project would be meaningless. In short, this is a top-priority MoSCoW requirement.
  • Should-have: These items are those that are important but not absolutely essential like those in the “must-have” category. Elements in this category are considered a secondary priority; that is, they are important, but not crucial to success.
  • Could-have: These  items would be nice to have but are not essential. Still less important than the two preceding categories, these elements are considered a third-level priority. If including them will have negative consequences on cost or meeting deadlines, they should be omitted. It is only when they don’t negatively affect other project elements that they should be included.
  • Won’t-have (this time): These  items are those that are not essential and can be excluded from the project without jeopardizing its success. Being the lowest priority category, omitting them won’t hurt the project and they can be included when project conditions are more favorable.

When should you use the MoSCoW prioritization method?

The advantage of the MoSCoW method is that it can be applied to a wide range of situations, both in personal and professional contexts. For instance, an individual might use the method to prioritize their workload for the week or a team might use it to identify which tasks need to be completed first to meet a looming deadline. In general, the MoSCoW method is most useful when an individual or team is facing a large number of tasks and needs help deciding which ones to focus on first. Additionally, if you’re starting a project and are unsure which elements should take priority, you can get your team together and use the MoSCoW method as a discussion tool.

However, it should be noted that the method does have some limitations. For instance, it doesn’t account for task dependencies or other factors that might impact the order in which tasks should be completed. As such, it should be used as one tool in a broader arsenal of task-management strategies.

MoSCoW method: the pros and cons

Because the framework makes it possible to manage the requirements for a given product release, it’s extremely common among Agile projects with set timeboxes. Within project management, this prioritization technique has demonstrated its effectiveness and dependability. Of course, it isn’t flawless — an objective look can help highlight shortcomings as well as benefits of the MoSCoW method. Let’s examine its pros and cons.


  • Easy to master: The method is based on very simple principles that are easy to understand, so you won’t need to do much background research before getting started.
  • Helps prioritize: It helps to clearly visualize priorities and sort them into a hierarchy. This way, you’ll never need to be confused about which elements are more or less important than others.
  • Useful for team discussions: Using the MoSCoW method in group discussions can be a great way to get team members to open up about their ideas. It can serve as a conversation starter, putting everyone on the same page.
  • Helps achieve stakeholder consensus: When used among stakeholders, it can be a good way to reach an agreement between stakeholders on which elements should take priority. When stakeholders are present during the categorization process, this improves their understanding of the project.
  • Can prevent scope creep: Scope creep is when unintentional changes occur during project execution. By setting clear and fixed priorities at the beginning, scope creep can be prevented.


  • Priority requirements can be subjective: Since the categorization procedure is not based on numerical data, it leaves room for subjective interpretation. This can manifest as conflicting ideas about which elements should take the lead and which are less important.
  • Items require background context: To accurately categorize each element, you’ll need to provide context for each of them. This may be time-consuming and tedious.
  • Doesn’t account for possible change: Putting items into a fixed category doesn’t allow you to account for possible changes that occur during project execution. For example, elements that are not necessary at the start may become crucial down the line based on extraneous changes in circumstance.

Examples of the MoSCoW prioritization method in practice 

Imagine that a software development product manager is developing a new cloud-based workspace for individuals and organizations to improve their workflow. They’re trying to decide which features are most important, which would be nice, and which probably won’t make it into this specific release. They decide that cloud storage is a must-have feature, otherwise, it wouldn’t be cloud-based, and they would be completely missing their target. Once the must-haves are identified, they are further broken down into smaller tasks, or “should-haves”. These should-haves are then prioritized according to their importance. Finally, the remaining tasks are classified as either “could-haves” or “won’t-haves.”

Another example involves a marketing team who are trying to prioritize tasks for their next marketing strategy. Seeing as the vast majority of their sales come from email marketing, they list this as a top priority. Their second biggest number of sales comes from Instagram marketing, so they categorize this as a secondary priority, and so on.

Executing task prioritization on is a great tool for managing tasks and priorities. With its sleek interface and simple task management system, it’s easy to see why so many people use it. However, one of its most important features is the ability to prioritize tasks using matrices and task prioritization templates. This is especially useful for professionals who need to make sure they’re focusing on what’s important. makes it easy to share tasks and priorities with others, so you can be sure that team members and stakeholders are on the same page. With its convenient features and simple task management system, is the perfect tool for anyone who needs to prioritize their tasks.

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Frequently asked questions

What does MoSCoW mean?

The MoSCoW prioritization method is a widely-used framework for setting priorities and managing trade-offs during product development. The acronym MoSCoW stands for “must-have,” “should-have,” “could-have,” and “won’t-have (this time).” The method is a helpful tool for organizations that need to prioritize product features. It can be used in different situations and can help to resolve conflicts between stakeholders.

How is a MoSCoW analysis conducted?

The method involves four steps. First, all the potential features are listed. Second, the features are evaluated according to three criteria: how much users will want the feature, how difficult it will be to implement, and how much the feature will improve the product. Third, the features are plotted on a graph according to these criteria. Finally, the features are prioritized based on where they fall on the graph.

Getting priorities straight

The MoSCoW prioritization method can be adapted to different situations and organizations, making it a versatile tool for decision-making. The advantages of using this method are that it’s simple to use, it can help spark discussions between team members, and it gets stakeholders on the same page. offers a range of prioritization matrices to help you hierarchically structure task importance and get work done in the most optimal way. Our feature-rich Work OS offers everything you and your team need to streamline your digital workflow and meet your business objectives.

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