The most fundamental product validation method you need to know as an entrepreneur.

Katja Wirz

3 min read
Apr 12, 2024

What is Moscow?

When you sort requirements or features into these four groups, it's like creating a roadmap for your project. You know what absolutely has to be done (the "Must Haves"), what should be tackled next (the "Should Haves"), what would be nice to have if there's time (the "Could Haves"), and what's on the back burner for now (the "Won't Haves"). This way, the team can focus on getting the crucial stuff done first while keeping an eye on the future. It's a great way to keep everyone on the same page and make sure you're using your time and resources wisely.

The Moscow method, also known as the MoSCoW prioritization technique, is a project management approach used to prioritize requirements or features in software development projects. "MoSCoW" stands for:

  • Must Have
  • Should Have
  • Could Have
  • Won't Have (this time)

Must Have: These are the most critical requirements or features for the project. They are essential for the project's success and must be implemented within the specified timeframe. Failure to deliver these items would likely result in project failure or severe consequences. Should Have: These are important requirements or features that are not as critical as "Must Have" items but are still necessary for the project's overall success. They should be implemented after the "Must Have" items are completed, but they are considered high-priority. Could Have: These are desirable but optional requirements or features. They are not essential for the project's success but could provide additional value if implemented. These items are often considered for inclusion if time and resources allow after the "Must Have" and "Should Have" items are addressed. Won't Have (this time): These are requirements or features that stakeholders have agreed will not be included in the current phase of the project. They may be considered for future phases or releases but are explicitly excluded from the current scope.

How is Moscow good for building startups?

So, picture this: You've got this awesome startup idea, but you're working with limited resources – maybe it's just you and a small team trying to make a big splash in the market. That's where the Moscow method swoops in like a superhero. It helps you figure out what absolutely has to be in your product ("Must Have"), what should come next ("Should Have"), what's nice to have if you can swing it ("Could Have"), and what can wait for later ("Won't Have").

Now, why is this perfect for startups? Well, first off, it keeps you laser-focused on what's essential. When you're running a startup, every dollar and every hour counts. The Moscow method helps you spend those precious resources where they'll have the most impact.

Plus, startups are all about being flexible, right? You're constantly adapting to changes in the market or your own strategy. With the Moscow method, you can easily shuffle priorities based on what's happening around you. It's like having a playbook that you can tweak whenever you need to.

And let's not forget about communication. Startups move fast, and you need everyone on the same page. The Moscow method gives you a clear way to talk about priorities with your team and with anyone else who's along for the ride – investors, advisors, customers, you name it.

Oh, and here's the best part: it's all about getting your product out there, gathering feedback, and making it better. The Moscow method lets you do that in bite-sized chunks. You start with the must-haves, get your product in front of people, and then keep building based on what they tell you.

So yeah, whether you're a one-person show or a tiny startup with big dreams, the Moscow method is like your secret weapon for getting stuff done and making waves in the business world.

Expanding on the Benefits for Startups:

  1. Efficient Resource Utilization: In the startup world, resources are often scarce. Whether it's funding, manpower, or time, startups need to make every resource count. The Moscow method helps startups allocate their limited resources effectively by focusing on the most critical features first.
  2. Agile Development: Startups thrive on agility – the ability to pivot quickly based on market feedback and changing circumstances. The Moscow method enables startups to adapt their priorities and development roadmap as needed, ensuring they remain responsive to market demands and competitive pressures.
  3. Risk Mitigation: Startups operate in a high-risk environment where failure is not uncommon. By prioritizing "Must Have" features, startups can mitigate the risk of project failure by ensuring that essential functionalities are delivered first. This reduces the likelihood of investing time and resources into less critical features that may not contribute significantly to the success of the product.
  4. Alignment with Business Goals: Every startup has a vision and a set of business goals they want to achieve. The Moscow method helps startups align their development efforts with these goals by prioritizing features that directly contribute to business success. This ensures that the product development process remains focused and strategic, driving the startup closer to its desired outcomes.
  5. Customer-Centric Development: Startups are built on the premise of solving real-world problems for their customers. The Moscow method encourages startups to prioritize features based on customer needs and feedback, ensuring that the product delivers value to its intended users. By focusing on essential features first and incorporating customer feedback into subsequent iterations, startups can create products that resonate with their target audience and gain a competitive edge in the market.

An exercise for you to take home with you:

Now that you've learned about the Moscow method and its benefits for startups, why not try applying it to your own project or startup idea? Take some time to list out the features or requirements you have in mind and categorize them into "Must Have," "Should Have," "Could Have," and "Won't Have" groups. This exercise will help you clarify your priorities, make more informed decisions about where to focus your efforts, and ultimately, set your startup up for success in the competitive business landscape.

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