Agile PM Process Grid–Process 1.7 Prioritizing Stories

John Stenbeck, in his book ‘PMI-ACP and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, has created an agile project management process grid that takes the 87 processes he has defined into 5 process groups and 7 knowledge areas.

I am currently covering those three processes that fall within the Planning process group and the External Stakeholder Engagement knowledge area.   The first process in this block of processes is 1.5 Product Roadmap, the second process is 1.6 Minimal Marketable Features (MMF), and the third process is 1.7 Prioritizing Stories.

All of these processes are linked together in the following way.   In the first process 1.5 Product Roadmap, the stakeholders were engaged in the process of setting up the product roadmap and its relationship to the various releases of the product.   In the second process 1.6 Minimal Marketable Features (MMF), the development of the product is refined even further, down to the level of Minimal Marketable Features (MMF), which might be considered the equivalent of minor deliverables in traditional PM.

At this point, you have the scope of the project worked down to a granular enough level that you can the concept of team velocity to make a rough order of estimate regarding whether you can finish the project within the time constraint allowed.   Team velocity refers to the production capacity of the team.

So if you find through process 1.5 and 1.6 that there are 500 story points involved in the particular release you are working on, and the mean team velocity turns out to be 50 story points per iteration, then you can say within a rough order of magnitude that the release will take 500/50 = 10 iterations to complete.

However, if this is a project where the time constraint is fixed, and you only have, say, 7 iterations worth of time, then you have figure out how to make do with features that add up to 350 story points rather than 500 story points.

This is where this process 1.7 Prioritizing Stories comes in.   What are the

  • must have
  • should have
  • would be nice to have
  • could have

features of the product.   Here the customer/proxy must weigh in the discussion by deciding what it is the product will do, how it will look, and how it will perform.   Based on these criteria, the backlog of features can be prioritized.   It is essential to get the stakeholders’ cooperation in this process, which again is why this is under the “External Stakeholders Engagement” knowledge area.

The prioritization process is sometimes referred to as “grooming” the backlog, and this is because, like the periodic grooming of a pet whose hair is constantly growing, the process started here in the initiating process group continues during the course of the project, where changes in the priority of stories may end up changing between iterations.

The process of prioritizing stories is a significant investment in time on a project, but it delivers valuable returns in offering a path to success.

This concludes our discussion of the planning processes related to External Stakeholder Engagement.   The next block of 4 planning processes are those related to the “Value-Driven Delivery” knowledge area.


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