WSJF Agile Prioritization Framework

The WSJF framework is based on the premise that you must have clear objectives before starting an initiative, i.e plan your work prior to working. Using this prioritization framework, you can predict how much value you are likely to receive from a given project before undertaking it. And it is often easier to change or cancel a project once you have calculated the cost of delay. The faster you want the return on investment, the higher the priority you assign to the task/project.

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WSJF

Templates:

Weighted Shortest Job First: Agile Framework for Maximum ROI

Prioritization of the user stories may differ depending on the circumstances. The type of product, values of users / customers, business / technical risks are just some of the factors that play important roles in prioritization. Therefore, it is not possible to produce a generic prioritization process template or list of conditions.

WSJF Prioritization Framework Definition

Weighted Shortest Job First is:

  • calculated as Cost of Delay (CoD) Divided by Duration, aka CD3
  • used to evaluate projects, features, marketing initiatives, and any
  • used to achieve maximum return of investments (ROI)

In the original WSJF framework developed by SAFe, Cost of Delay consists of User/Business Value, Time Criticality, and Risk Reduction/Opportunity Enablement. But you can use any other factors to calculate the CoD. In fact, in our WSJF templates for different prioritization purposes, you will find different criteria. In this article, we'll look at the original as an example.

User and/or Business Value

User / Business value ranks your jobs by their relative importance to the user and potential impact on revenue. At this point, you estimate how effective this solution is on the overall promotion or your North Star Metric.

Answers the question: What is the relative value to the user? How important is this for the users? What is the impact on the revenue?

Originally measured: Fibonacci sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.

Time Criticality

Time Criticality ranks the jobs by the urgency. You estimate how the value will decay over time or how many customers we may lose if we linger.

Answers the question: How urgent is it for the business? Will users wait or move to another solution? Is there a fixed deadline?

Originally measured: Fibonacci sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.

Risk Reduction and/or Opportunity Enablement

Risk Reduction and Opportunity Enablement help you highlight jobs that may not bring revenue immediately but will benefit the long run. Some solutions will help you to eliminate technical or legal risks and save your money later on. Others may open doors for further improvements that will significantly increase the number of potential customers.

Answers the question: How important is this to eliminate risks ahead? Will this feature enable new business opportunities?

Originally measured: Fibonacci sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.

Job Duration (or Size)

Job Duration is the only negative factor and ranks the jobs by the complexity of realization. It's impossible to achieve the highest ROI without taking into account the costs of person-hours required. Duration is also called story points, feature points, effort, or relative size. With this estimation, the smaller number, the better.

Answers the question: How long will the implementation take? Are there dependencies that can make it more time-consuming?

Originally measured: Fibonacci sequence 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13.

How to calculate

  • Add up Cost of Delay factors: User / Business Value + Time Criticality + Risk Reduction / Opportunity Enablement
  • Divide the sum by Job Duration / Size

Drawbacks and Cures

The main problem with WSJF is said to be its relativity. It's nearly impossible to estimate Job Duration correctly because you can't know precisely how many hours your team will need. The same goes for other criteria. But this problem isn't native to WSJF, and you'll face it using most other frameworks. There are three golden rules to help you diminish the negativity of relativity:

1) Consistency.

Use the same score scale for all jobs you estimate and through each estimation cycle. We all learn with experience, and getting used to the scale will make your estimations more accurate.

2) Use expert opinion.

It is hard for a manager to estimate development time, but it's much easier for the developers. Of course, their estimation won't be 100% precise, but it will still be more competent and accurate. And the other way round—managers and stakeholders will do much better estimating business value than developers. Collaborate on prioritization the same as you do on the projects.

3) Use your brain.

You must NEVER rely on prioritization results solemnly. Any prioritization technique is just a technique to help you decide. Not decide for you.  Real life is much more complicated than a few criteria. Always discuss the resulting top priorities with the team before starting the sprint, and don't be afraid to change your priorities manually. I can't say how many times our team did that, and I can't recall regretting it once.

Another thing about WSJF is that all criteria are treated equally. This is great for balanced development, but for sure, there will be times when you'd like to focus on user value, for example. In this case, you should apply relative criteria weights and additionally multiply the team's scores by weights. Sounds like a whole load of calculations, but in practice, it's a few seconds change if you use productivity tools like Ducalis. Change weights to whatever you need at any moment, and the Top Priorities will be recalculated at the same moment.

WSJF is a really great framework suitable for the prioritization of almost anything. With a few changes to CoD criteria, you can prioritize features, bugs, marketing, and content marketing. For these examples, you can find templates in our library. Go ahead, choose your use case of WSJF and start prioritizing in a few clicks.

Who and What is the WSJF Priorities Template for

This template is great for teams that need a business-driven prioritization for maximum economic benefit. It works for evaluating features, projects, user stories, ideas, and hypotheses.

Produce maximum economic benefit with Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) framework, aka CD3 - Cost of Delay Divided by Duration. Estimate how much you may lose (CoD) and how much time you need for implementation.

⚖️ Pros and Cons

✅️️ Focuses on increasing the ROI with limited human resources.

✅️ Same score scales help to achieve higher consistency in calculations and predictability of results.

❌ Time-consuming prioritization since considers many factors.

❌ Subjective estimation. Scores may be manipulated.

WSJF Priorities Template Settings

Note! The template is fully customizable. You can change it for your convenience.

Criterion 1

  • Name: Business value
  • Impact: value
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: What is the value to the business? How will it impact revenue? Are there negative impacts if we delay?

Criterion 2

  • Name: User value
  • Impact: value
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: What is the value to the user? How important is this for the users? Will users prefer this solution over another?

Criterion 3

  • Name: Time criticality
  • Impact: value
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: How urgent is it for the business/product? Does the value decay over time? Is there a fixed deadline? Will users wait or move to another solution?

Criterion 4

  • Name: Risk reduction
  • Impact: value
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: Does it reduce the risk of future delivery? How important is this to eliminate risks ahead?

Criterion 5

  • Name: Opportunity enablement
  • Impact: value
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: Will this feature enable new business opportunities? Is there value in the information we will receive?

Criterion 6

  • Name: Job Size
  • Impact: effort
  • Weight: 1
  • Scores: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8
  • Description: How big/complex is the implementation? Are there dependencies that can make it more time-consuming?
wsjf agile framework criteria settings in ducalis.io
You can add new criteria, edit current criteria settings, assign them for specific people to evaluate, or delete them completely.
Read more on how to add, edit, or delete evaluation criteria.

Evaluation Results Display

The evaluation results are available in two views: Top Priorities and Matrix. They calculate priorities differently and have different features for decision-making. You can easily switch between the view tabs—they are always available inside any board.

Top Priorities

The Top Priorities page calculates weighted decisions and displays them in a list. The main factor is the weight setting of the criterion as it determines its influence: how positive or how negative. All scores are multiplied by the weight.

The calculation formula in this template is Value Sum divided by Effort:

( (Business value Score * 1) + (User value Score * 1) + (Time criticality Score * 1) + (Risk reduction Score * 1) + (Opportunity enablement Score * 1) ) / (Job Size Score * 1) = WSJF Score
Evaluated features on Ducalis.io Top Priorities page with the WSJF total score breakdown.
Evaluated features on Ducalis.io Top Priorities page with the WSJF total score breakdown.
Read more about Top Priorities features.
Read more about formulas and how to change them.

Matrix

The Matrix page calculates non-weighted decisions and displays them in a 2x2 matrix. The main factor is the impact setting of the criterion as it determines its axis: value or effort. The scores are not multiplied by the weight.

On the Matrix page, Business value, User value, Time criticality, Risk reduction, Opportunity enablement, and Job Size work as filters. Toggle the criteria to count or discount when distributing tasks among the quadrants: Quick Wins, Major Projects, Fill-Ins, Thankless Tasks. You can rename the quadrants at your convenience.

Evaluated features on Ducalis.io Matrix page distributed among quadrants of a priority matrix.
Evaluated features on Ducalis.io Matrix page distributed among quadrants of a priority matrix.
Read more about Matrix features.

Two-Way Sync

You can use a Ducalis.io evaluation board by creating new tasks in it or uploading a spreadsheet.

You can also connect your team’s task tracker to get awesome benefits.

Task Tracker ➞ Ducalis.io Sync

Connect your task tracker for the automatic sync. Set up the filter once, and tasks inside Ducalis.io will always mirror your actual backlog.

Ducalis.io task filter setting for Asana backlog
Example of Ducalis.io task filter setting for Asana backlog

Ducalis.io ➞ Task Tracker Sync

If you connect your backlog to sync tasks with Ducalis.io, you can also sync Ducalis.io priorities back. Evaluate tasks and send their ranking to the task tracker to sort the backlog by priority, and for the whole team to see what’s important.

Ducalis.io priority ranking sync with Asana
Example of Ducalis.io priority ranking sync with Asana

Or download a free Sheets template

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