The Product Owner is supposed to provide the product backlog with the user stories that the technical team will have to develop, as well as define the priority of the tasks to be accomplished. Which user story to develop first? The solution to this problem can quickly become a headache for the Product Owner and take a long time. WSJF, or Weighted Shortest Job First, is a very effective tool that will simplify the work of the Product Owner when he/she must prioritize the content of his product backlog.
How to define the WSJF?
The WSJF is an Agile model designed to determine the structuring of user stories in the Product Backlog. WSJF is all about giving higher priority to the most important and shortest user stories.
WSJF is part of the SAFe Lean-Agile framework. SAFe is a comprehensive Agile framework designed to be deployed across an entire enterprise. It is not made to work with less than 50 people and therefore is not suitable for small teams. However, WSJF is a tool that can be used alone, by the Product Owner, regardless of the size of the project or team.
The basic assumption is that any functionality that is not delivered on time has a cost, the Cost of Delay. Poor prioritization in the Product Backlog can therefore lead to the multiplication of these costs. Even if they are not important for every characteristic, their accumulation can be disastrous.
The goal of the WSJF is to minimize these costs and provide maximum added value at the end of the sprint. WSJF will be particularly useful in helping the Product Owner decide which user story should be developed first. If two user stories have the same value, but one of them will take less time to develop, the solution is simple, it is the latter that will take priority. On the other hand, if there is a feature whose development time is even shorter, but which has not been considered a priority until then, the arbitration will be necessary. This is where WSJF will provide the greatest help.
How to use the WSJF ?
We calculate the WSJF for each user story in the Product Backlog. It allows you to assign a value to determine priorities. The higher the WSJF of a user story, the higher its priority in performance order.
At the end of the WSJF calculation, we get:
– User stories that are not complex but which have a high added value;
– Complex user stories with high added value;
– User stories that are not complex with less added value;
– Complex user stories with lower added value.
1. Calculate the Cost of Delay
According to the WSJF model, the cost of the delay consists of three components:
- Business value: this is the value for the user or the company at the end of an initiative;
- Criticality: is there a deadline? Will you lose customers if you delay?
- Risk reduction or creation of opportunities;
You should give a score for each item using a scale of 1 to 10. Then combine the individual scores to calculate the sum of the three items. This amount represents your Cost of Delay.
Now let’s calculate the working time.
2. Calculate the duration or size of the job
You can choose to calculate the working time as a period, for example, 5 weeks or 3 months. On a scale of 1 to 10, a 5-week project can get a 3, while a 3-month project can get an 8. Or you can approach the WSJF formula in terms of job size. Here you assign a relative score for each project based on the complexity of the job and its size, on a scale of 1 to 10. So a smaller, less complex job can get a score of 2 and a larger job. and more complex can receive a score of 9.
3. Divide the cost of the delay by the time worked
In the last step, you divide one score by the other. Make sure to use a consistent scale (like 1 to 10) to calculate the two values, otherwise, you will end up with incorrect results.
The WSJF helps software development teams order tasks to maximize the value they deliver. The model can be easily implemented because it relies on only two input parameters: the cost of delay and the duration or size of the job. However, be sure to always use the same scale to calculate the scores. Otherwise, you’ll end up with scores that you can’t compare to further prioritize tasks.
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