When teams get introduced to various agile methods, one of the seemingly easy aspects is the notion of the product backlog. They then ask their business parts to prioritize the work in the backlog so the team(s) can pull the highest priority item.
It sounds easy because people think that priorities are binary. In reality, multiple things can be the highest priority. For example, a company might have a mandate to deliver a specific type of reporting feed to a government agency, while also needing to hit a critical product launch. Both are high priority, and would be “tied” for the top spot.
I often get around this by introducing sequencing as a distinct concept from prioritization. For example, in our above scenario the government report might take about two weeks of effort, while the product launch is 6 weeks of effort. If both are due in 8 weeks, we can sequence the work to hit the most critical portions of the product launch for 4 weeks, work on the government reporting feed for 2 weeks (giving a 2 week buffer), then finish up the product launch.
So if you find yourself struggling with “prioritizing” a product backlog with business partners, try talking about sequencing instead. That’s what you are really aiming for anyway, and opens the door to richer conversations about risks, costs of delay and business value delivery.