MoSCoW Method In A Nutshell

Prioritization plays a crucial role in every business. In an ideal world, businesses have enough time and resources to complete every task within a project satisfactorily.  The MoSCoW method is a task prioritization framework. It is most effective in situations where many tasks must be prioritized into an actionable to-do list. The framework is based on four main categories that give it the name: Must have (M), Should have (S), Could have (C), and Won’t have (W).

Concept OverviewThe MoSCoW Method is a prioritization technique used in project management, product development, and requirements gathering. It helps stakeholders categorize project or product requirements into four priority levels: Must-haves, Should-haves, Could-haves, and Won’t-haves, enabling clear focus on essential elements.
Key ElementsKey elements of the MoSCoW Method include:
1. Must-Haves (M): Critical requirements that are non-negotiable and must be included for project success.
2. Should-Haves (S): Important but not critical requirements that enhance the project’s value.
3. Could-Haves (C): Desirable but optional requirements that may be implemented if resources allow.
4. Won’t-Haves (W): Requirements explicitly excluded from the project scope.
Must-Haves (M)Must-Have requirements are fundamental to the project’s success and must be delivered for the project to be considered complete. These requirements are typically essential for achieving project objectives and meeting stakeholder expectations. Failing to deliver Must-Have requirements can lead to project failure or dissatisfaction among stakeholders.
Should-Haves (S)Should-Have requirements are important but not critical for the project’s core functionality. These requirements enhance the project’s value and may improve user experience or functionality. While they are not indispensable, they contribute significantly to stakeholder satisfaction and project success. Prioritizing Should-Have requirements ensures they receive appropriate attention during development.
Could-Haves (C)Could-Have requirements are desirable but optional. They represent features or enhancements that would be nice to include if resources, time, or budget permits. These requirements provide flexibility for project teams to explore additional features or improvements that can enhance the project’s appeal or utility. While valuable, Could-Have requirements are not prioritized as high as Must-Have or Should-Have requirements.
Won’t-Haves (W)Won’t-Have requirements are explicitly excluded from the project scope. These are features or elements that stakeholders have agreed should not be part of the current project. Identifying and documenting Won’t-Have requirements helps manage stakeholder expectations and avoids scope creep by clarifying what is not included in the project.
Benefits– Clear prioritization: The MoSCoW Method provides a straightforward way to prioritize requirements and focus on critical elements.- Alignment with objectives: It ensures that project teams work on the most essential features that align with project goals.- Scope control: Identifying Won’t-Have requirements helps manage scope and prevents unnecessary additions.- Efficient resource allocation: Resources are allocated based on priority, optimizing project efforts.- Stakeholder communication: It facilitates transparent communication about what to expect from the project.
Drawbacks– Subjectivity: Determining the priority of requirements can be subjective and influenced by stakeholder perspectives.- Rigidity: The method may not accommodate changes in priority as the project progresses, requiring periodic reassessment.- Complexity: Managing a large number of requirements with this method can become complex and time-consuming.- Conflicting interests: Stakeholders may have differing views on priority, leading to disputes or challenges in reaching consensus.
Use Cases1. Software development: Project managers use the MoSCoW Method to prioritize software features based on criticality and user needs.2. Product development: Product teams employ the method to decide which product features to include in each release.3. Agile project management: Agile teams integrate the MoSCoW Method into their iterative processes to prioritize work for each sprint or iteration.4. Requirements gathering: Business analysts use the method to categorize and prioritize business requirements from stakeholders.
Examples1. A software development project classifies user requirements as Must-Have (e.g., login functionality), Should-Have (e.g., user profile customization), Could-Have (e.g., advanced search filters), and Won’t-Have (e.g., integration with legacy systems).
2. An e-commerce platform prioritizes product features for an upcoming release, with Must-Have features including online shopping and Should-Have features like wishlist functionality.
3. An agile development team identifies Must-Have user stories for an upcoming sprint and categorizes others as Should-Have or Could-Have for future sprints.

Understanding the MoSCoW method

Since unforeseen setbacks are inevitable, task prioritization ensures that the most relevant and important tasks are completed first. Projects lacking in task prioritization quickly become disorganized and chaotic. 

Instead of a systematic process, resources are typically assigned to tasks by those that simply have the most influence in the room. Invariably, this comes at the expense of the success of the project and of the organization itself.

The MoSCoW method categorizes requirements based on their intrinsic value to the business. Requirements most commonly take the form of tasks but change processes and objectives can also be analyzed.

The method is based on an acronym from the first letter of four prioritization categories.

In the next section, we will look at each category in more detail.

The four prioritization categories of the MoSCoW method

All requirements are important to MoSCoW method principles, but they need to be categorized according to priority to deliver maximum benefit to the business

Here are the four categories in descending order of priority:

  • Must have (M) – or requirements that must be satisfied for the project or solution to be a success. These requirements play a vital role in meeting deadlines and satisfying legal or safety standards. If the result of a requirement not being met is project cancellation, then it occupies this category.
  • Should have (S) – or important (but not vital) requirements such as a lack of efficiency or unfavorable stakeholder expectations. These so-called “secondary requirements” usually have a workaround and do not significantly impact the project being delivered. In any case, they should only be rectified once “must-have” requirements have been satisfied.
  • Could have (C) – this includes requirements that would be nice to incorporate on the proviso that they do not affect anything else. However, leaving them out of the project scope must result in little impact when compared with a “should have” requirement. This category sometimes includes low-cost refinements that are carried out provided there is sufficient time to do so.
  • Won’t have (W) – these requirements are either beyond the scope of the project or add little value. They may be feasible for a future project update and should be stored away for later reference. For example, a new rideshare company may shelve plans for a premium car option until usability issues with its app have been resolved.

Advantages and disadvantages of the MoSCoW method


  • Ease of use. The method is easy to learn and implement because it is based on basic principles of task prioritization.
  • Accuracy. Accurate task prioritization is reliant on group consensus lead by an impartial moderator. It does not rely on biased prioritization where big personalities can influence others.
  • Versatility. The MoSCoW method can be used for any project and any sized company.


  • Lack of category sorting. While the method provides clear guidance on categorization, it does not suggest how requirements within the categories should be sorted.
  • Bias. Despite the team-based approach, bias can still occur when most requirements are mistakenly placed in the “must-have” category. Some businesses find it helpful to stipulate that no more than 60% of all project requirements can be classified as high priority.

MoSCoW method examples

Below we have listed a few general examples of the MoSCoW method in action.

Developing a project management app

  • Must have – task assignment, file attachment, workflow monitoring, and integration with Google Calendar.
  • Should have – Kanban view, Notion integration, mobile app version, in-app messaging, and time tracking functionality.
  • Could have – collaborative whiteboard (in-app), Chrome support (add-on), integration with Slack, and a feature that visualizes key project advancement indicators.
  • Won’t have – video conferencing. 

Designing a block of apartments for a new city development

  • Must have – cement, bricks, windows, proper ventilation, fire hoses for each floor, pile foundations, and a stairwell for emergencies.
  • Should have – a compact, modular kitchen, doors made from composite material, soundproofed walls, two elevators, at least two bedrooms per apartment, and ducted, reverse cycle heating and cooling.
  • Could have – load-bearing balconies (with a balustrade), internal staircases for penthouse apartments, outdoor entertainment areas, and an intercom system.
  • Won’t have – traditional gardens, water features, and a separate laundry room for a washing machine and dryer.

Product development for a men’s wallet

  • Must have – two slots for banknotes, ten compartments for credit and debit cards, durable construction material, and high-quality sewing.
  • Should have – leather as the primary composition, a transverse horizontal compartment, a transparent credit card sleeve, and a small company logo on the outside face.
  • Could have – an attractive, timeless color or pattern on the inside of the banknote slots, an additional transparent sleeve for treasured photos, and a small, zippered coin pouch.
  • Won’t have – cream or beige colored leather that stains or wears easily, external metal accents that can catch on the material inside the wearer’s pocket.

Purchasing a new vehicle

  • Must have – at least seven seats, 4WD, a 5-star safety rating, a hybrid engine, front and rear passenger airbags, adaptive cruise control, tow bar, and Apple CarPlay.
  • Should have – reverse parking sensors, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), blind spot mirror warnings, an electric driver’s seat with customizable settings, and Bluetooth.
  • Could have – lane departure warning system, heated seats, limited slip differential, sunroof, leather upholstery, center airbags, remote parking, intersection-scanning autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and live blind spot video feed.
  • Won’t have – a small, four-cylinder engine, screens that are not touch-sensitive, haptic controls that replace buttons, spoiler, and voice recognition.

Building a website for a law firm that wants to enable clients to track their court cases

  • Must have – robust coding free from any bugs, maximum uptime, a simple client registration system, a safe and robust personal directory that cannot be accessed by malicious actors, and discoverability on the first page of Google search results for the company name keyword.
  • Should have – a modern, intuitive, and responsive design and navigation, email notifications, a site with pages that load quickly, nofollow links to external sites or organizations, a high contrast color scheme, and a prominent “Contact Us” page.
  • Could have – a blog section with information on industry news and trends, custom menus with submenus, and an introductory video on the homepage.
  • Won’t have – too much text, no whitespace, and pages with no mobile optimization.

Implementing Agile Methodology for Software Development

  • Must Have – Daily stand-up meetings, user stories, sprint planning, and continuous integration.
  • Should Have – Retrospective meetings, automated testing, backlog grooming, and a product owner role.
  • Could Have – Pair programming, test-driven development (TDD), cross-functional teams, and burndown charts.
  • Won’t Have – Waterfall project management, lengthy documentation, and a rigid change control process.

Launching a New Mobile App for a Fitness Company

  • Must Have – User registration, workout tracking, video tutorials, and a progress dashboard.
  • Should Have – Social sharing features, in-app purchases, integration with wearable fitness trackers, and a nutrition tracking tool.
  • Could Have – Personalized workout plans, live streaming fitness classes, gamification elements, and integration with health databases.
  • Won’t Have – Virtual reality fitness experiences, biometric scanning, and a feature for booking physical fitness classes.

Redesigning an E-commerce Website for a Fashion Retailer

  • Must Have – User-friendly navigation, product listings, a shopping cart, and secure checkout.
  • Should Have – Filter and sort options, responsive design, customer reviews, and product recommendations.
  • Could Have – Virtual try-on feature, saved wishlists, chat support, and integration with social media for sharing fashion finds.
  • Won’t Have – Virtual reality shopping, blockchain-based supply chain tracking, and a complete overhaul of the existing branding.

Upgrading Customer Support for a Telecommunications Company

  • Must Have – 24/7 hotline, ticketing system, knowledge base, and service level agreements (SLAs).
  • Should Have – Live chat support, email support, remote troubleshooting, and a customer portal for issue tracking.
  • Could Have – AI-powered chatbots, predictive maintenance alerts, and a mobile app for customer self-service.
  • Won’t Have – In-person customer support centers, handwritten correspondence, and fax support.

Developing a New Video Game

  • Must Have – Engaging gameplay, high-quality graphics, sound effects, and a clear user interface.
  • Should Have – Multiple levels, character customization, leaderboards, and multiplayer mode.
  • Could Have – Downloadable content (DLC), virtual reality support, and an engaging storyline.
  • Won’t Have – Integration with real-world banking, non-gaming related social networking, and excessive microtransactions.

Expanding Data Analytics Capabilities for a Financial Institution

  • Must Have – Data warehousing, data cleaning, reporting tools, and regulatory compliance.
  • Should Have – Predictive analytics, data visualization, and role-based access control.
  • Could Have – Machine learning algorithms, real-time data processing, and data governance policies.
  • Won’t Have – Data storage on personal computers, unencrypted data transmission, and manual data entry.

Enhancing Cybersecurity for a Global Tech Company

  • Must Have – Firewall protection, intrusion detection, antivirus software, and employee cybersecurity training.
  • Should Have – Regular security audits, two-factor authentication, and secure remote access.
  • Could Have – Employee monitoring software, threat intelligence feeds, and a bug bounty program.
  • Won’t Have – Open access to sensitive data, default passwords, and publicly shared passwords.

Revamping Supply Chain Management for a Manufacturing Company

  • Must Have – Inventory management, demand forecasting, supplier relationship management, and order processing.
  • Should Have – Automated replenishment, real-time tracking, and electronic data interchange (EDI).
  • Could Have – Advanced analytics, blockchain-based supply chain, and just-in-time inventory.
  • Won’t Have – Manual tracking in spreadsheets, paper-based documentation, and decentralized procurement.

Key takeaways

  • The MoSCoW method is a requirement prioritization framework. It may be used to classify tasks, objectives, or change processes.
  • The MoSCoW method utilizes four requirement categories according to the degree that each requirement impacts the overall project.
  • The MoSCoW method is a versatile, accurate, and relatively simple process to learn. However, it can be prone to bias and it does not suggest how requirements within categories should be prioritized.

MoSCoW Method and its Application: Key Takeaways

  • MoSCoW Method Overview: The MoSCoW method is a task prioritization framework used to categorize requirements, tasks, or change processes based on their importance and impact on a project’s success. It uses four main categories: Must have (M), Should have (S), Could have (C), and Won’t have (W).
  • Importance of Prioritization: Prioritization is essential for effective project management, ensuring that the most critical tasks are addressed first. Without proper prioritization, projects can become disorganized and chaotic.
  • Categories of the MoSCoW Method:
    1. Must have (M): These are requirements that must be satisfied for the project’s success. They are crucial for meeting deadlines, legal standards, or safety requirements. Failure to meet these requirements could lead to project cancellation.
    2. Should have (S): These requirements are important but not vital. They may impact efficiency or stakeholder expectations. Secondary requirements should be addressed after must-have requirements are satisfied.
    3. Could have (C): These are desirable requirements that could be incorporated if they do not negatively affect other aspects. They may include refinements or features that enhance the project.
    4. Won’t have (W): These requirements are beyond the project’s scope or add minimal value. They may be considered for future updates or projects.
  • Advantages of the MoSCoW Method:
    • Ease of Use: The method is easy to learn and implement.
    • Accuracy: Prioritization is based on group consensus, reducing bias.
    • Versatility: The method can be applied to various projects and company sizes.
  • Disadvantages of the MoSCoW Method:
    • Lack of Sorting: The method does not provide guidance on sorting requirements within categories.
    • Bias: Bias can still occur, with too many requirements classified as must-have. Some businesses set limits on high-priority requirements.
  • Examples of the MoSCoW Method:
    • Project Management App: Must have – task assignment, Should have – Kanban view, Could have – collaborative whiteboard, Won’t have – video conferencing.
    • Apartment Design: Must have – proper ventilation, Should have – soundproofed walls, Could have – load-bearing balconies, Won’t have – traditional gardens.
    • Men’s Wallet: Must have – banknote slots, Should have – leather composition, Could have – attractive color pattern, Won’t have – easily stained leather.
    • Vehicle Purchase: Must have – 4WD, safety rating, hybrid engine, Should have – reverse parking sensors, Could have – lane departure warning, Won’t have – small engine.

Related Agile Business Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Read Next: MVP, Lean Canvas, Scrum, Design Thinking, VTDF Framework.

Read More: Business Models

Read Next: Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model

Main Guides:

Main Case Studies:

About The Author

Scroll to Top