Weighted Shortest Job First

Learn about the primary tool for managing an Agile project portfolio.

ABOUT THIS CHAPTER   Many organizations sequence their project portfolios quite informally. They use intuitive practices to decide which projects to start first and which to finish first.

These organizations do not realize just how much their informal approach to project portfolio management is costing them. If they did, they would choose to burn stacks of $100 bills before they would choose to manage their project portfolios by using seat-of-the-pants methods.

The gap in value between intuitive approaches to portfolio management and mathematically based approaches is wide, and Agile projects’ shorter cycle times create even more opportunities to increase the value delivered through a well-managed portfolio.

The primary tool for managing an Agile project portfolio is Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF).

The concept of Weighted Shortest Job First comes from Don Reinertsen’s work on lean product development (Reinertsen, 2009). In Agile development, it’s primarily associated with SAFe, but the concept is broadly applicable regardless of whether an organization is using SAFe.

WSJF starts with an identification of the “cost of delay” (CoD) associated with each feature or story. CoD is a not-very intuitive term that refers to the opportunity cost of not having a feature available. If a feature will save your business $50,000 per week once it goes online, the cost of delay is $50,000 per week. If the feature will generate $200,000 per week in revenue once it goes online, the cost of delay is $200,000 per week.

WSJF is a heuristic for minimizing the cost of delay for a set of features. Suppose you have the features in this table:

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