Agile delivery on time – MoSCoW and Timeboxing

In the AgilePM® approach, time and cost are the constant elements of a project. In relation to the specificity of work in the agile approach and variability of customer’s needs, the scope of a project is the variable element. Because of that, it is necessary to determine, which of those requirements are important and necessary to carry out and which can be omitted or delivered at different deadline. Without doubt, the MoSCoW prioritisation technique is a useful tool in the evaluation of priority of requirements included in the scope.


As one of agile approaches, AgilePM® proposes the combination of the MoSCoW prioritisation technique and application of Timeboxes. Such combination constitutes the basic advantage of the agile approach and allows teams to timely deliver solutions, which in turn guarantees the observation of time constancy.

Application of Timeboxes

Timebox in the AgilePM® practice is a strictly determined period of time, during which can be executed certain objective e.g. delivery of a specific requirement or requirements. It is recommended that the duration of Timeboxes is within 2 to 4 weeks. They can occur in two styles: free format Timebox or structured DSDM Timebox.

You can find more information about Timeboxes on our blog in post Timeboxes in the AgilePM® practice.

The MoSCoW prioritisation

MoSCoW is a prioritisation technique used in projects. Its name originates from words:

  • Must Have,
  • Should Have,
  • Could Have,
  • Won’t Have – this time.

The Must Have rule determines the minimum scope of requirements (MUST – ang. Minimum Usable SubseT), which the project guarantees to deliver. It is an absolute minimum that ensures the fulfilment of Business Case and completion of a project.

The workload related to the delivery of said requirements should not exceed 60% of total workload. The completion of requirements only from this groups is defined as the worst possible scenario.

Requirements determined as Should Have are important from the point of view of Business Case, but they are not integral – they will not pose a threat to the basic functionality of final product. Their omission can be painful for business, but it is possible. The delivery of Must Have and Should Have requirement sets constitutes as the project success option expected by business.

Requirements that are desired, but less important are determined with the Could Have priority. Their omission does not have as significant impact on the final solution as in case of the Should Have priority.

These requirements can be excluded from the scope of a project without causing problems and their omission is usually simple and cheap. By average they cover approximately 20% of workload necessary to manufacture all requirements under a project. The completion of all such requirements (next to Must Have and Should Have) would mean the execution of the most optimistic scenario.

Won’t Have – this time means all requirements, which the project team along with business decided not to deliver in a given period of time. They should be written on a List of Requirements with Priorities in order to prevent their informal implementation at later time. Such requirements can be planned for execution in a next project.

The MoSCoW prioritisation is especially useful in projects that have a strictly determined deadline. It can be used at many levels and therefore requirements can have three priority levels:

  • MoSCoW for project,
  • MoSCoW for Project Growth,
  • MoSCoW for given Timebox.

Combination of MoSCoW and Application of Timeboxes

The term Timebox can also be applied in relation to a whole project or Project Growth, but the practice of its application refers to a Timebox of the lowest level, that is, works of the Solution Development Team.

The MoSCoW prioritisation of work scope in a Timebox and constant evaluation of what can be achieved within set deadline aims to ensure the completion of Timeboxes on time and delivery of functional solution.

The Iterative Development gives an opportunity to deliver a product that actually meets expectations at the end of a Timebox. The achievement of intended solution is possible through constant improvement of a product on the basis of performed business reviews.

Decision making concerning the solution must be quick and confident. Otherwise, there is a risk of losing precious time on waiting till a decision is made. It is important that team is able to implement changes falling within determined scope of Timebox’s goals without the necessity to start a formal process of change tracking exceeding the team’s tasks.

The application of the MoSCoW technique can improve the work of a team within envisioned changes of the scope of requirements. MoSCoW thoroughly determines which possible modifications can be executed by the team and reported at a later stage (Could Have requirements) and which changes require external guidelines (Must Have).

However, all those changes of content require arrangement and approval by the whole Solution Development Team instead of being adopted or imposed by one member.

The application of Timeboxes constitutes as one of key practices in AgilePM®.  It is used in combination with the MoSCoW prioritisation technique in order to ensure delivery on time. Short duration of Timeboxes enables to concentrate on solutions and control at the lowest level.

The delivery of the Must Have and Should Have requirements in Timeboxes reflects the correct operation of the team, as well as correct planning, assessment, and risk management. Correct operation at the level of Timebox transfers to the next stages and builds a feeling of confidence also at the Project Growth level and level of the project.

Learn how to use MoSCoW and Timeboxing on the AgilePM® training course.



  1. W. Łabuda, Podejście zwinne a tradycyjne do projektów wytwarzania oprogramowania, Zeszyty Naukowe WWSI, No 13, Vol. 9, 2015, s. 57-87, WWSI
  2. AgilePM®, Agile Project Management Handbook v2, DSDM CONSORTIUM, s. 50-51, 54-54, 118-130