MoSCoW is not just the capital of Russia

Recently I was re-watching the old 1974 classic “Earthquake.” And even though the acting or the script s high art, at least in my opinion, the special effects for the time were quite impressive. Also, as a licensed California civil engineer, I can appreciate the movie from a professional standpoint. At one point in the movie, for example, Charlton Heston argues with a client about improving the specifications on his building project. The client reminds him that he meets State and City codes, but Heston tells him it is not enough in a seismic zone such as Los Angeles, which is where the movie takes place.

MoSCoW is not just the capital of Russia

In project management, as well as in software development and business analysis, to name a few, there is always a need to prioritize the various requirements, which is not always easy or straightforward, especially in larger projects. Therefore, using a technique such as MoSCoW can be beneficial and helps save time. The idea is to categorize the project requirements in the following manner:

  • Must have – vital components you cannot live without
  • Should have – not mandatory, but are considered important to very important
  • Could have – great to include, but neither mandatory nor very important.
  • Would have – provide little or no value, and which you can give up

I was already living in San Francisco during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and, afterwards, a city building code was added requiring that water tanks be placed on elevated metal stands, as well as be strapped and bolted to a wall. It has also been recommended to anchor or bolt house framing to the foundation and is a new code requirement, but it is not mandatory to retrofit them if they do not exist, which is understandable on the one hand, since the structures have been standing as is for over a century. However, if you compare the immediate cost and effort to make relatively minor structural changes to the potential risk years or decades from now, you might want to advocate for a more conservative approach. The point of this example is twofold:

  • It is important to prioritize your project requirements at every step.
  • Sometimes you need to use your judgment and discern for yourself if an S or a C needs to be an M.

In addition to building code requirements, which are based on efficiency and life safety for the most part, in civil engineering and construction, there is always the sustainable component, which is becoming more and more of a “must have” in some jurisdictions, but not yet in all. For example, renewable energy, water reclamation and recycling, and energy efficiency, to name a few, are still considered “should” and “could” have requirements. Therefore, the decision is left to the property owner, developer and other key stakeholder, which in many cases will opt for whatever is less costly as an initial investment; instead of looking at the long-term effects on profit and sustainability. So, next time you are trying to prioritize your project’s requirements, consider what is clearly crucial and what might be superfluous.

MoSCoW is not just the capital of Russia

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