How to Prioritize Agile Stories

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Last Updated: August 11, 2020

Using a problem based approach to assign priority

One of the biggest steps after you’ve planned and mapped out your product is the prioritization phase. This is crucial to agile planning. The prioritization phase refers to when team members vote and organize which stories to start first. Ordering the stories should be done by the most important features to get the product to market the fastest. Releases are then sliced out to create MVP’s (minimum viable products), sprints and upcoming releases.

This allows teams to self organize, work on the most valuable features first, and have a visual roadmap for the project at hand.

Teams often make the mistake of guessing which stories to prioritize. Teams being building without understanding of what problems they are trying to solve first they .  Solutions are developed for problems that do not exist.

To have a competitive product in today’s saturated take a problem based approach as to be considered. If the problem a team is solving is unclear, not only may your team build the wrong stories, they may begin overbuilding, wasting time and money.

A problem based approach means that your team identifies what problems exist for your current or potential customer. Then, building stories around the existing problems to find solutions. Once you begin thinking from a problem-based approach you can have stronger insight on what to build next.

How to prioritize stories

Set business goals

You have to set business goals first, understand your market, and understanding what financial constraints your business have.

For your business goals, this can direct back to what problems you are looking to solve for your customer.  Agile goal setting relies on tapping into your business goals above that of just stakeholders, customers, and team.  Goals should be simple, inspiring, memorable, ambitious, time-bound, tangible and fundamental. For example:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

This solves a problem of customers needing information and Google creating a solution that allows anyone to access it. Prioritization and an effective agile process becomes much simpler when goals are understood.

Understand what solutions currently exists

Understanding what is currently out on the market is a must.

Who are you competitors? Who are potential partners within the industry?

Doing audit and competitive analysis on the current landscape of your product is crucial to understanding what needs to be built. See what can be borrowed, what can be improved, and what needs an element of innovation.

Know your budget restrictions

You have to be aware of your team’s financial restraints.

This goes beyond cash in the bank. There are high costs associated with building a product. One of the highest being labor hours of developers. If you overbuild you can find your team burning through valuable cash in order to pay developers to build. Teams are faced with back tracking to build the right stories when the wrong features are built.

When using the problem-based approach, tied in with your products MVP it will allow you to build your product with as little time and money as possible. Once you release it to your customers you can the get valuable feedback, and then prioritize what stories need done again, release and repeat.

When you’re building your story maps it’s important to remember…

Prioritization should be done last.

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