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Risk Reduction Vs. Time Criticality metrics difference in WSJF

A common question we recently get is how to differentiate Risk Reduction and Time Criticality in the WSJF method, used for SAFe.


I'll go through this topic in this post in case it may be helpful for the community.

If you have questions or different ideas, welcome to add comments.


A brief overview of WSJF

WSJF (Weighted Shortest Job First) is a native SAFe prioritization method used for long backlogs in large organizations, which face increasing waiting times due to fast-growing issue queues. 

This technique aims to speed up the delivery of value by calculating the Cost of Delay and WSJF score for each backlog item (be it feature, bug, or automation task).

It takes into consideration 4 factors, which are assigned to every issue in the backlog.

  • Business value
  • Time Criticality
  • Risk Reduction
  • Estimated size


Risk Reduction Vs Time Criticality

Often the difference between Time criticality and Risk reduction may be unclear in WSJF prioritization framework. Both metrics seem to lever time and risks associated with delay in delivering a backlog item.

In fact, both factors - time criticality and risk reduction - are closely related to time/urgency, but they still have different angles to look at an issue:


⏰ For Time Criticality, we evaluate if there's a specific deadline for the task (either set up by external factors or estimated on the basis of previously collected company data). 

Can we lose customers if it isn't completed in a certain time?

Are there peak shopping periods, dates when regulations will be in effect?

Is it related to license/contract expiration date?


⚡️ Risk Reduction, on the other hand, takes into account tasks or items that might prevent a significant impact from occurring. 

Is there any negative impact if we delay?

What potential risks can come up if the task is not finished in due time?

A bright example may be an infrastructure/system upgrade. It can prevent services from going off during a surge in traffic.

Or when considering to fix a security bug, we look at how it can help avoid a security incident, and how grave this incident may be for the company.


The WSJF score

When we have all metrics assigned to every task in the backlog, we add quantitative weight to them so that we could calculate the cost of delay and the priority score.

The Cost of Delay will be a sum of business value, time criticality, and risk reduction. It allows us to measure the impact of time/delay on the outcomes we’re hoping to achieve.

To calculate the WSJF score, we divide Cost of Delay by the Estimated Size.


If you want to learn more about the WSJF prioritization technique, take a look at the article here


Use of WSJF method in Jira

If you would like to use the WSJF method to prioritize backlog directly in Jira, you might want to test our app Foxly.


Foxly is a backlog prioritization app for Jira Cloud created by us at Jexo.

It helps you manage the whole prioritization process in Jira as part of the operation workflow.


The WSJF method is one of the predefined methods in Foxly.

It enables assigning metrics - Business value, Time criticality, Risk reduction, and Estimated size - directly to your tasks in the backlog.


Untitled design (3).gif


There is also an option to adapt the prioritization template to your needs, edit types of metrics, add extra ones, or adjust the scoring formula.

Next, you can use the Priority table in Foxly to fill each of the metrics for issues in your backlog. 

And then the app calculates the WSJF score for each issue automatically.


Foxly - editing metric value.png

You can also filter issues by priorities and build the WSJF Priority Matrix to visualize the results and identify quick wins.


If you want to learn more about Foxly for backlog prioritization in Jira,
you can watch a demo video, or try out the app from Atlassian Marketplace
and check it out yourself.


There is a 30-days free trial and as a bonus, the app is free for up to 10 users 👏




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