What is Weighted Shortest Job First | WSJF prioritization technique | How to calculate WSJF score | Product prioritization technique

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What is Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF)?

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Have you ever wondered how Agile teams prioritize their work efficiently? Every task matters in Agile and Scrum. But how do we prioritize them? That's where Weighted Shortest Job First, or WSJF, comes into play. It is a powerful prioritization technique that helps Agile teams decide what to work on next. Today, we'll explore how product managers use the WSJF in Agile product development and provide you with a step-by-step guide about it. So, let’s start the learning together!

Introducing the Weighted Shortest Job First Model:

WSJF is a concept that originated from the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It's a prioritization technique that helps Agile teams determine which tasks or User Stories should be tackled first. The core idea behind WSJF is to maximize the economic benefits while minimizing risks and costs.

In simple terms, WSJF helps answer the question: "What should we work on next to deliver the most value?"

How Product Managers Use WSJF in Agile Projects:

Product managers play a crucial role in Agile projects. They connect the stakeholders with the Agile teams. WSJF assists them in making informed decisions about what features or improvements should be prioritized.

Product managers can use WSJF by gathering input from various sources, including stakeholders, customers, and the development team. They assign values to each User Story or task based on factors like customer value, time sensitivity, and risk. The higher the WSJF score, the higher the priority for that particular item.

Step-by-Step Guide to Calculate the WSJF Score:

Before we dive into the detailed calculation, let's start with a concise definition:

What is the WSJF Score? 

The Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) Score is a prioritization metric used in product development to determine the order in which tasks or User Stories should be tackled, considering factors like business value, time sensitivity, and risk reduction.

Estimating the Cost of Delay:

The Cost of Delay (CoD) is a fundamental concept in WSJF. It represents the potential cost incurred by delaying the completion of a task. You can calculate the Cost of Delay by determining how much revenue or value your organization would gain by completing a certain work. Consider the direct financial benefits to enhance the customer satisfaction rate.

Assess how much time matters for this task. Some tasks may have a critical time window, while others may be more flexible. Multiply the revenue impact by the time sensitivity. This formula gives you a quantitative estimate of the cost incurred for each unit of time the task is delayed.

Estimating the Job Duration:

The job duration refers to the estimated time it will take to complete the task or User Story. Agile teams often estimate this in story points, hours, or days. To estimate job duration, follow these steps:

Ensure the task is well-defined and broken down into smaller, manageable pieces, such as sub-tasks or User Story components. Have your Agile team provide time estimates for each sub-task or component. These estimates should be based on the team's collective experience and expertise. Add up all the time estimates for the sub-tasks to get the total job duration.

Formula To Calculate WSJF Score: 

Now that we have both the Cost of Delay (CoD) and the job duration, we can calculate the WSJF score using the formula mentioned earlier:

WSJF = (Business Value + CoD + Risk Reduction) / Job Duration

This represents the perceived value of a User Story or task to the customer or business. It's typically assigned a numerical value, often between 1 and 10, with higher numbers indicating higher value.

The WSJF score considers how urgently a task needs to be completed. A higher urgency would result in a higher score. It identifies how much risk is associated with a particular task. Higher-risk items get higher scores. It also represents the effort required to complete the task, usually estimated in story points or hours. Smaller tasks get higher scores here.

What Are the Benefits of the Weighted Shortest Job First Model?

WSJF offers several advantages to Agile teams:

  • Improved Decision-Making: WSJF helps teams make data-driven decisions, ensuring that the most valuable work is prioritized.
  • Increased Transparency: It provides transparency into why certain tasks are prioritized over others, reducing conflicts and misunderstandings.
  • Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: By focusing on high-value tasks, teams are more likely to deliver what customers truly want.
  • Risk Mitigation: WSJF considers risk, helping teams address potential issues early in the process.
  • Optimal Resource Allocation: It helps allocate resources effectively, ensuring that teams are working on the most important tasks.
  • Adaptability: WSJF allows teams to adapt to changing priorities quickly.

Key Takeaways:

Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) is a valuable tool in the Agile toolkit. It allows Agile teams to prioritize their work efficiently and effectively. By considering factors like business value and time sensitivity, WSJF ensures that the most important tasks are tackled first. Product Managers and Agile Practitioners can benefit greatly from implementing WSJF in their projects. So, whether you're an Agile Beginner or an experienced Agilist, consider adding WSJF to your Agile arsenal for project success!




Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.