Get Familiar with Prioritization Matrix Methodologies

Priorization matrix
Get familiar with the best prioritization matrix methodologies and learn tips and tricks for effective project prioritization.

Daniella Varga I

2020.04.07.

According to the Zeigarnik effect – people are always more concerned about the things that they have to do than focusing on things that they have already accomplished. 

Right.

Aren’t we always thinking of all the incomplete tasks that lie ahead?

But as it goes – the list of things that need to be done gets complicated. More often than not, we get derailed off our set schedule and end up creating chaos.

So, what is the right way to ensure maximum productivity? We recommend establishing a hierarchy of tasks to make sure that you have maximum focus on the right tasks at the right time.

How do you do that? From this article you will learn:

  • what a project prioritization and prioritization matrix is
  • what are the best prioritization frameworks
  • tips and trick for effective prioritization

What is a project prioritization matrix?

Before we explore what a project prioritization matrix is, let’s understand what we mean by prioritization. 

Prioritization can be defined as an activity of arranging tasks in order of their importance. This way, it allows the tasks to be accomplished in the most effective way possible.

What Is Prioritization Matrix?

A prioritization matrix is a method where you create rules and set criteria. Then you use these criteria to score your projects so that you can prioritize them.

Your primary goal with the whole process is to work out which projects are most important to meet your business goals. 

The most complicated component of the prioritization matrix is not the calculation involved, but the human element.

The Lean Prioritization approach is represented with the 2×2 product prioritization matrix. It is helpful in decision making and identifying what is important or risky and where to direct the efforts. 

Entrepreneurs also actively use this matrix for product development prioritization. You can also come across this concept associated with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), where you can use this approach to rank features of your product.

The prioritization matrix doesn’t set how the complete process works, but it can be instrumental in the following factors:

  • Enhancing the work structure or the product development phase
  • Establishing a strong management culture in order to meet the goals of product development
  • Implementing the crucial work by applying the required efforts and meeting deadlines

However, prioritizing is not as easy as it seems.

What Makes Prioritization a Challenge?

According to Product Plan’s statistics, 30% of product professionals say their greatest product management challenge is “Getting consensus on product direction.”

Most teams are not aware of the strategic factors that should be considered when a product’s priorities are being worked out. As a result, they struggle with prioritization. 

Why Is Project Prioritization Important?

Project prioritization helps you have a look at all the pending tasks, while also helping you in prioritizing them. 

There are two stages of prioritization, noting down all the tasks and then rearranging in order of priority. That said, prioritization helps you in a range of ways:

  • Acts as a visual aid in establishing work order
  • Introduces improvements in team collaboration
  • You have maximum clarity on every step of product development what your roles are
  • You can efficiently communicate as a team and move on to the next stage as work progresses
  • You have a handle on things

Who Can Use a Prioritization Matrix?

The best part of the prioritization matrix is that it can be used by anyone. 

From school students to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

  • CEOs –know the big picture instead of every minute aspect of the project
  • Small business owners –visualize daily tasks
  • Leaders of organizations – optimize effort distribution
  • Project and product managers – keep up with due dates of projects, upcoming exams, etc.

Prioritization Frameworks

Keeping all the benefits and advantages of periodization in mind, next, let’s see how you can implement them in real-time for businesses.

Weighted Scoring System

If there are five items on your priority list, the weighted scoring system targets to score them based on the quantifiable business value of each goal. Once you have three scores, you can decide your roadmap based on the priorities.

Let’s understand this with the help of an example. Say, you want to create a blog post:

priorization matrix: Weighted scoring system

Step 1: Compile a list of the features and other initiatives you have in mind

Step 2: Prepare a list of rules based on costs and benefits, and then rank each of the goals according to the rules.

Step 3: Decide the weight of the pre-determined criteria. 

For example, if you choose to make technical feasibility have a smaller weight than strategic alignment you will want to assign a greater percentage of the overall score to technical feasibility

Step 4: Rank the features based on the score weight determined in the matrix, and then calculate the overall scores to know which tasks should be prioritized over others.

The Scoring Method We Use At Digital Natives

This is another method that you can try. We use this regularly when working with clients. Here, you need to rate the various features of your product in terms of business value, customer value, and complexity. 

  • Business value: How supportive is the feature of the common business goal
  • Customer value: What value does the feature intend to provide the users
  • Complexity: How complex the task is as far as technology is concerned

Set a value for each criteria for each feature, then calculate what each feature values.

When you quantify all the features, you can decide which are the highest in priority.

priorization matrix: DiNa scoring system

Impact and Effort Prioritization Matrix

In this approach, you review your features based on value and effort.

  • Value assessment will show the business value the feature can add to your product or your business.
  • Efforts measure the resources you need to complete the task.

Based on these dimensions, you will get 4 segments.

Value and impact prioritization matrix

Square 1 – Easy wins

These tasks have a high value and can be established easily. These should be on the top of your task list.

Square 2 – Big Bets

These tasks can bring a lot of value but require a lot of effort and tend to be time-consuming.

Square 3 – Incrementals

These are tasks that could be easily completed but may not be worth the effort as it does not have much impact on how the business is working.

Square 4 – Time Sinks

These tasks should have the lowest priority or be removed, since they require a lot of effort and have very little value.

However be cautious with this method. 

Behavioral psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky described the phenomenon they called Planning Fallacy. They showed that people and teams are consistently overly optimistic about the time it will take to complete a future task, underestimating the actual time.

Beside that John T. Gourville of Harvard Business School described in a 2006 paper a strong mismatch between the value companies expect their innovations will deliver to customers vs. the value customers actually see in the product.

What does these mean?

These mean that in real life the matrix looks more like this:

Value and impact prioritization matrix - real life

To top this, usually there’s another element, which a lot of teams don’t consider: the negative result a project generates. 

So the effort/impact matrix should look something like this:

Value and impact prioritization matrix - real life - 2

And when you make a prioritizing decision, you can use this logic:

Value and impact prioritization matrix - real life - 3

If you are interested in how this method can work in real life, here’s a great article about it.

Eisenhower-Matrix

Eisenhower matrix

This technique is named after renowned US president Eisenhower who was noted for his capability of prioritization. 

The four squares of the matrix are capable of prioritizing any project:

Square 1 – Do

This section contains tasks that must be completed. These are the most urgent targets. Example: preventing DDoS attacks on your website.

Square 2 – Plan

This contains tasks that are very crucial to the success of your business, however, there is no rush in completing this at the moment.

Square 3 – Delegate

This collects urgent tasks that are not very important. There is a high chance that this section will be riddled by distracting factors and should be repeatedly evaluated.

Square 4 – Eliminate

The last section contains the tasks which are low in both importance and matter of urgency. 

This part might seem irrelevant; however, they can determine some of the essential processes that must be done to ensure the success of the product. 

Frequency and Volume of Use Model

Frequency and volume of use model

This technique is quite simple and can help product managers and other specialists with sorting and ordering the features of the product. This process is created with assistance from a two-axis diagram.

On the X-axis, you have the number of people who will be using the feature. On the Y-axis, you mark how frequently users will use the feature.

So, the features that are used by all of the people and have a very high frequency are considered to be of utmost importance. And the ones that are used by only a few people infrequently will land on the end of the priority list.

This diagram prioritization can also give a clear vision of what the next stages of product development should be.

Things to Keep in Mind When Prioritizing

While the entire process of prioritizing might look simple, here are a few things that you must keep in mind to ensure flawless execution.

Align customer inputs when selecting prioritization criteria

The business decisions you make as a team affect the customers in the end. Teams might think that since they own the resources that can make the features come into life, they will decide what the most important feature is at the time. 

However, the team is not the “customer”. The project exists to support the customers and stakeholders, so they should be the ones who select the criteria.

This doesn’t mean, the project team can’t own the “process” of selecting criteria, like run a brainstorming workshop. But the stakeholders should own the selection of criteria.

Discover what your customers and users need and deliver them on the top of the priority list.

Prioritize work depending on what you know

Group-think can be misleading. When there is a brainstorming session, ideas might come up that would push the project forward. Too many ideas, in the end, prove to be futile because you only have so many resources and deadlines. 

To keep exciting but ultimately useless ideas from sidetracking you, use a consistent set of criteria to weigh all ideas and tasks that come up. 

Start by setting the factors you could optimize for (e.g., timing, budget, revenue complexity, etc.). Then decide which are absolute must-haves. Finally, use those as the basis for evaluating and prioritizing every project work.

Focus on the big picture

When there are prioritization meetings and too many people are coming up with too many ideas, it might seem impossible to agree on a few common things. However, the focus should be on a certain goal which needs to be accomplished to be able to keep working on the big picture.

Agree on top-level goals as the first thing, and stick to them. Not easy to do, but simple. If a project doesn’t align with at least one of the goals, it goes in the “won’t do” section. 

Prioritize with a specific time frame in mind

Saying no can be hard,when there’s so many good ideas. But creating a never-ending backlog can lead to confusion and demoralization in the project team. 

The solution: do prioritization for a specific timeframe. This way you say you can’t do the feature this quarter, not saying entirely no.

Now it’s your turn

The beginning of a project is one of the most challenging times. This is when the prioritization matrix can help you prioritize your tasks properly to ensure that everything is well right from the first step.

Now we would like to hear from you:

Which prioritization method will you try?

The classic Eisenhower-matrix?

Or maybe the one that we use at Digital Natives?

Whichever, let us know in the comment section below.

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