There's a common backlog prioritization technique, suggested as standard practice in SAFe, but also used elsewhere, "WSJF", "Weighted Shortest Job First." - also called "HCDF", "Highest Cost of Delay First" by Don Reinertsen.
Now, let me explain this one in (slightly oversimplified) terms:
The idea behind WSJF
How to do WSJF?
WSJF is a simple four-step process:
To find out what the optimal backlog position for a given item is, you estimate the impact of doing the item ("value") and divide that by the investment into said item ("size") and then put the items in relation towards each other.
Step 1: Calculate "Value" Score for your backlog items.
Value (in SAFe) is actually three variables: User and/or Business Value, Time Criticality, Enablement and/or risk reduction. But let's not turn it into a science. It's presumed value.
Regardless of how you calculate "Value", either as one score or a sum or difference of multiple scores, you end up with a number. It becomes the numerator in your equation.
Step 2: Calculate "Size" Score for your backlog items.
"Size" is typically measured in the rubber-unit called Story Points, and regardless of what a Story Point means in your organization or how it's produced, you'll get another number - the denominator in your equation.
Step 3: Calculate "WSJF" Score for your backlog items.
"WSJF" score, in SAFe, is computed by dividing Value by Size.
For example, a Value of 20 divided by a size of 5 would give you a WSJF score of 4.
Step 4: Sort the backlog by "WSJF" Score.
For example, if you get a WSJF of 3 and your topmost backlog item has a WSJF score of 2.5, the new item would go on top - it's assumed to be the most valuable item to deliver!
And now ... let me dismantle the entire concept of WSJF.
Disclaimer: After reading the subsequent portion, you may feel like a dunce if you've been using WSJF in the real world.
WSJF vs. Maths
Two terms with error
Slight estimation Error
Larger estimation error
Square error terms
Errors aren't equal
|Item||Est. WSJF||Est. Value||Est. Size||Act. Value||Act. Size||Act. WSJF|
And that's the problem with WSJF
It is a terrible process for making reliable business decisions, because it doesn't rely on facts. It relies on error-prone assumptions, and it exacerbates any error we make in the process.
Don't rely on WSJF to make sound decisions for you.It's a red herring.
The discussion about where and what the value is provides much more benefit than anything you can read from a WSJF table. Do the discussion. Forget the numbers.