How does your organization decide what features to work on for the next release? Do you let the clients vote and then order the portfolio by those results? Does the loudest sales person get their items prioritized to the top of the list? Or is it more of a “gut feel” by the product owner?

If you’ve experienced the methods above, you have probably wondered if there is a better way to decide what to work on – a way to quantify a few values for each item and then use an objective algorithm to determine the order. Well, do we have a feature for you!

Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is an industry accepted standard for organizing your feature backlog and determining what features to work on first. Created by Don Reinertsen and popularized by the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), the calculation takes into account three value measurements, as well as the size for each feature to derive the WSJF number, which is then used to order the feature list.

The theory

Why does this work? Let’s look at the theory behind it.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of the Cost of Delay, think of it this way: any time we delay a feature, we incur some cost. Therefore, getting the most value is synonymous with minimizing the Cost of Delay. For example, a toy company around Christmas time incurs this cost every day they delay release of a new toy, since other toy companies are getting that business.

First of all, if we have a simple case where all of the work is about the same size, we should first work on items that have the highest cost of delay, minimizing the overall cost. Our imaginary toy company should make the most profitable toys first.

In another extremely simple case, if all work has the same cost of delay, we should work on the smallest items first, again minimizing the cost and maximizing the value. Our toy company should make the toys it can build the fastest. Makes sense.

However, in most cases in the real world, both the cost of delay and the size vary from item to item. In that case we should work on the Weighted Shortest Job First, optimizing for maximum value and minimum cost.

Example WSJF Values in Portfolio Item Details

Example WSJF Values in Portfolio Item Details

This method combines Business Value, Time Criticality, and Risk Reduction to create a combined Cost of Delay value. The Cost of Delay is then normalized for the job size (divided by Swag) to arrive at one number (WSJF value). Finally, sorting the list by this WSJF value reveals the order in which the features should be worked on.

WSJF

WSFJ in VersionOne

As of the Spring 2016 Release of the VersionOne Lifecycle, these new values (Business Value, Time Criticality, Risk Reduction, Cost of Delay, and WSJF) are natively available for portfolio items at all levels, such as initiative, epic, or feature. Portfolio grids can be customized to show these values or even be sorted by any of the values. WSJF rank can be easily be applied to your Portfolio using the Rank by WSJF option from the multi-action menu button.

VersionOne Portfolio Bubble Chart using WSJF Values

VersionOne Portfolio Bubble Chart using WSJF Values

WSJF values are available in all places where you manage your portfolio – in the Portfolio Tree view, in the Planning Rooms, and in the Release Scheduling view, which is useful during your Product Increment (PI) planning. Finally, these values can also be used in the Portfolio Bubble Chart, allowing for portfolio analysis along any one of these dimensions including the WSJF value.

Click here for more information about VersionOne’s Spring 2016 Release.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

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