User Story Prioritization: How to Prioritize it in Agile

User stories are short descriptions of what a user wants to achieve with a product or service. They are written from the user’s perspective and typically follow a simple format: As a <type of user>, I want <some goal>, so that <some benefit>.

User stories are essential for agile development because they help teams understand the needs and expectations of their customers. They also allow teams to break down complex features into manageable chunks that can be delivered incrementally.

However, not all user stories are equally important or urgent. Some may have more value or impact than others. Some may have more risks or dependencies than others. Some may be easier or harder to implement than others.

How can teams decide which user story to work on first? How can they prioritize them to maximize customer satisfaction and business value?

This is where user story prioritization comes in.

What is User Story Prioritization?

Use Story Prioritization

User story prioritization ranks user stories according to their relative importance and urgency for the customer and the business. It helps teams align their work with the product vision and goals, and deliver the most valuable features first.

Prioritizing user stories can also help teams:

  • Manage stakeholder expectations and feedback
  • Reduce waste and rework
  • Improve team collaboration and communication
  • Adapt to changing requirements and market conditions
  • Deliver faster and more frequently

How to Prioritize User Stories in Agile?

There are many methods and techniques for prioritizing user stories in agile. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on the context and situation.

Here are some of the most common ones:

Moscow Prioritization Method

The Moscow Prioritization method involves categorizing User Stories into four priority levels: Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won’t Have.

This method helps you to identify and prioritize the most critical features of the product while also identifying less essential elements that can be deferred to a later release.

For example:

Must HaveEssential features that are required for the product to work, such as user authentication and basic search functionality.
Should HaveImportant features that enhance the product but are not essential, such as advanced search and filtering options.
Could HaveNice-to-have features that are not critical, such as social media integration and gamification elements.
Won’t HaveFeatures that are not going to be implemented, either because they are not feasible or not aligned with the project goals.
  1. Paired Comparison

Paired Comparison is a technique that involves comparing each User Story to another and ranking the User Stories according to their importance. This method helps you to prioritize User Stories based on their relative value, rather than absolute value.

For example, suppose you have four User Stories:

User StoryABCD
AXA > BA > CA > D
BB < AXB > CB > D
CC < AC < BXC > D
DD < AD < BD < CX
  1. 100-Point Method

The 100-Point Method involves assigning a value of 100 points to the most important User Story and then distributing the remaining points among the rest of the User Stories.

This method helps you to prioritize User Stories based on their relative importance and impact on the project goals.

For example:

User StoryPriorityPoints
AMust Have100
BShould Have30
CCould Have20
DWon’t Have0
  1. Kano Model Analysis

The Kano Model Analysis involves categorizing User Stories into Basic, Performance, and Delight attributes and prioritizing them accordingly.

This method helps you to prioritize User Stories based on their potential impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. For example:

AttributeUser StoryPriority
BasicLogin functionalityMust Have
PerformanceFast response timeShould Have
DelightPersonalized dashboardCould Have
  1. The Hippo Method

The Hippo Method involves gathering all stakeholders, including customers, developers, and business analysts, and discussing and ranking the User Stories by voting. This method helps to prioritize User Stories based on consensus and buy-in from all stakeholders, which can improve communication and collaboration across the team.

In this method, stakeholders can discuss each User Story in detail, sharing their opinions and perspectives. After the discussion, each stakeholder can vote for the User Stories they believe are most important, and the votes are tallied to determine the priority. While time-consuming, this method ensures everyone’s opinions are considered and the team is aligned on priorities.

  1. The Iron Triangle Method

The Iron Triangle Method prioritizes User Stories based on their impact on cost, schedule, and scope. This method ensures the most critical work is completed first while staying within the project’s constraints.

In this method, each User Story is evaluated based on its impact on cost, schedule, and scope. For example, a User Story that requires significant development effort may impact the program and increase the project cost. By considering the impact of each User Story on these three factors, the team can prioritize the User Stories that align with the project goals and constraints.

In conclusion, selecting the correct method for prioritizing User Stories is essential to Agile development. Using one of these methods or a combination, you can ensure that the most valuable work is completed first within the limited time and resources available. Prioritizing User Stories effectively improves team communication and collaboration, meets customer needs, and delivers high-quality software products on time and within budget.

What Are the Criteria for Prioritizing User Stories?

User Story Criteria

The following are some standard criteria for prioritizing User Stories:

  • Technology Risk: Consider the risk associated with implementing a User Story from a technological perspective. If the User Story involves new or untested technology, it may be riskier and require more attention.
  • Business Value: Consider the value that the User Story will deliver to the business or customer. User Stories that offer high business value should be given higher priority.
  • Size of the Story: Consider the complexity and size of the User Story. Smaller and less complex User Stories may be easier to implement and deliver value faster, making them a higher priority.
  • Dependencies: Consider the dependencies between User Stories. User Stories with many dependencies may need to be prioritized higher to ensure they are completed before other User Stories.
  • Urgency: Consider any time-sensitive needs for the User Story. If the User Story is required urgently, it should be prioritized higher.
  • Stakeholder Priorities: Consider the priorities of stakeholders, including customers, product owners, and team members. Prioritizing User Stories based on stakeholder priorities can help ensure everyone is aligned and working towards common goals.
  • User Needs: Consider the needs of the end-user when prioritizing User Stories. User Stories that address important user needs should be given higher priority.
  • User Story Example: Use specific examples of User Stories to prioritize. This helps clarify priorities and ensure everyone understands what needs to be done.

Considering these criteria, you can effectively prioritize User Stories and ensure that the most valuable work is completed first.

Prioritizing User Stories is an essential part of Agile development and can help improve team collaboration and communication and deliver high-quality software products on time and within budget.


Prioritizing User Stories is an important process in Agile development that helps teams to deliver high-value software products on time and within budget. There are several criteria you can use to prioritize User Stories, including technology risk, business value, size, dependencies, urgency, stakeholder priorities, and user needs. By taking these criteria into consideration, you can ensure that the most valuable work is completed first and that everyone is aligned and working towards common goals.

Other common FAQ

Why Are User Stories Important?

User Stories are important because they help to ensure that the development team is focused on delivering value to the customer. By capturing the needs and requirements of end-users in a User Story, the team can work towards meeting those needs and providing a product that meets the customer’s expectations.

Who Decides the Priority of User Stories?

In collaboration with the development team, the product owner typically decides the priority of User Stories. The product owner is responsible for determining the business value of each User Story and prioritizing them based on the value they deliver to the customer.

When to Use User Story Mapping?

User Story Mapping is a technique that can be used to visualize and prioritize User Stories. It is useful when you have a large number of User Stories or when you are working on a complex project. User Story Mapping can help you understand the product’s overall structure and identify the essential User Stories that need to be completed first. It is typically used at the beginning of a project to help with project planning and scoping.