The MoSCoW Method is a prioritization technique used in business analysis and software development to reach a common understanding with stakeholders on the importance they place on the delivery of each requirement.
The capital letters in MoSCoW stand for:
• M – MUST have this requirement.
• S – SHOULD have this requirement if at all possible.
• C – COULD have this requirement if it does not affect anything else or a nice to have.
• W – WON’T have this Requirement.
Requirements labeled as MUST have to be included in the current phase in order for it to be a success. If even one MUST requirement is not included, the project delivery should be considered a failure (note: requirements can be downgraded from MUST, by agreement with all relevant stakeholders; for example, when new requirements are deemed more important). Some also use the acronym for MUST as the Minimum Usable Subset.
SHOULD have requirements are also critical to the success of the project, but are not necessary for delivery in the current phase. SHOULD requirements are as important as MUST, although SHOULD requirements are often not as time-critical or have workarounds, allowing another way of satisfying the requirement, so can be held back until a future phase.
Requirements labeled as COULD are less critical and often seen as nice to have. A few easily satisfied COULD requirements can increase ROI or customer satisfaction for little development cost.
WON’T have requirements are either requirements you do not want to see, the least-critical, lowest-ROI items, or out of scope for this phase or project. As a result, WON’T requirements are not planned into the development schedule. WON’T requirements are either dropped or reconsidered for inclusion in later phases or projects. This, however, doesn’t make them any less important. Alternately described as “Would like to have” in the future.
The MoSCoW method is also known as MoSCoW prioritization or MoSCoW analysis.
The o’s in MoSCoW are added to make the word easier to remember.