Agile methods such as Scrum and Kanban have been adopted widely over the past years, especially in software development.

In Scrum, for example, the product backlog is the central repository of all work that should be done in the future by the team who is working on the product.

The challenge of prioritizing

In theory, the product backlog is a prioritized list of work items where the first item has the highest priority, followed by second, etc.

Product Backlog

But how to prioritize a set of work items?

What should actually come first, second, third? Why?

What’s the motivation and reasoning behind the prioritization?

How can you explain or even defend the prioritization?

What are the objectives behind the prioritization?

The CUBE method

The method is fundamentally based on examining backlog items from three different perspectives:

  • the CUstomer perspective
  • the BUsiness perspective and
  • the DEvelopment efforts perspective

The name CUBE is derived by taking the first two letters from each perspective. It is a great aid for memorizing the perspectives more easily and the order in which they should be examined.

Goals and Constraints for Prioritization

The goals that should be reflected in the prioritization typically are

  1. maximization of customer value
  2. maximization of business value
  3. minimization of development efforts

On the other hands, there can be constraints such as

  • technical dependencies
  • external dependencies

The Customer Perspective

In order to be successful with your product or service, it is of utmost importance that it delivers value to your customers and its users.

The CUBE method provides a sound approach for identifying and categorizing user needs as well as gaps and opportunities in your offering.

The Business Perspective

Businesses require revenues to fund activities such as research, development and operations.

And revenues are obtained from existing and new customers.

While the interests of your customers and users should be aligned to the interests of your business, they are typically not the same.

The CUBE method provides an approach to cluster work items into business value categories and measure their effect on your business.

This helps to focus on your business interests whilst keeping an eye on your customer interests.

The Development Perspective

Typically, customer value cannot be created without spending efforts (aka “doing work”).

For software-based products or services that are developed according to agile framework such as Scrum, development efforts are typically estimated in so-called story-points.

Bringing all perspectives together

By bringing together the insights from three different perspectives, it is possible to derive a priorization that supports the current goals for how to advance a product or service.

  • creating packages of product backlog items for incremental release versions
  • cross-checking Business Value and Development Efforts

Product Backlog prioritized with help of CUBE

Summary

Prioritizing work items of a product backlog requires substantial efforts and is not an easy task.

The CUBE method can greatly help you to take more rationale prioritization decisions by taking different perspectives into account. This helps you to maximize your odds of success.

  • Goals that should be reflected in the prioritization are the maximization of customer value, the maximization of business value and the minimization of development efforts.
  • There exist constraints such as technical or external dependencies that also need to be taken into account.
  • Examining product backlog items from different perspectives creates transparency and insights for taking better prioritization decisions.
  • The three most relevant perspectives are the customer perspective, the development perspective and the business perspective.

Interested?

If you’re interested in CUBE, don’t hesitate to get in touch (patrickfreyleanpm@gmail.com | freypatrick)!

There’s a lot of material that I have developed to teach the CUBE priorization method as well as tools to apply it.