Among the great things I learned last week in London UK at the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Program Consultant training is the concept of using the Weighted Shortest Job First method of prioritization for backlog items. The concept is similar to the Relative Return On Investment (RROI) that I teach in my Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner courses, but adds a bit of sophistication both in the background theory and in the actual application.
Weighted Shortest Job First is a numerical score where the larger the score, the sooner the job (feature, product backlog item) should be done. Scores therefore give a sequence to jobs. The score is based on the ratio between two estimates: the estimate of the “cost of delay” and the estimate of the “duration to complete”. The cost of delay is a more sophisticated version of business value in that it takes into account customer needs, time criticality and risk reduction or opportunity cost.
In SAFe, the WSJF is calculated at the level of the team’s backlog on user stories through estimates of effort by the team and estimates of the cost of delay that are done by the product owner in collaboration with program management and business owners. The effort estimate is considered a reasonable proxy for the measure of duration, but there is explicit acknowledgement that this may not always be a reliable relationship.