Designing a prioritisation matrix

Designing a prioritisation matrix

When I attend networking events and people find out that I’m a portfolio, programme and project management specialist, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is around prioritisation of projects in a portfolio. So, I thought I would use this post to write about designing and implementing a simple prioritisation matrix.

In simple terms, a prioritisation matrix is a table that lets you rank ideas or projects in order of importance, using pre-defined criteria and weightings. It can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be.

So how do you design a prioritisation matrix?

  1. Decide the outcome you want to measure

For example, you might have a strategic goal of saving your organisation $10 million in the next financial year. This will be the outcome you want to assess the ideas or projects against.

  1. List the criteria you will assess the ideas or projects against

This list should contain all of the characteristics that you will be assessing the ideas or projects against. It won’t contain any rankings or priority at this point. Using the example above of saving the organisation $10 million in the next financial year, the list might contain:

  • Low implementation cost
  • Ability to use existing resources
  • High dollar savings
  • Minimal impact on business as usual activities
  • Quick to implement
  1. Decide the relative importance of each characteristic

You can do this in a number of ways; it can be as simple as a group of people sitting in a room and deciding the relative importance of each characteristic to as complex as creating a matrix with each characteristic listed on the x and y axes and numeric weightings applied to each one with line totals being generated to provide relative importance.

  1. Decide the scoring methodology for prioritisation

This can be as simple as 1 to 5, where 1 is the most likely and 5 is the least likely to achieve the objective. Each organisation is likely to have its own scoring methodology. You should also consider what your cut off numbers are, i.e. if an idea or project scores above or below a certain number they will be excluded from consideration.

  1. Evaluate your ideas or projects

You now have a weighted list of characteristics to assess the ideas or projects against, as well as a scoring methodology for prioritisation. To start, create a matrix with the ideas or projects listed on both the x and y axes. Pick the first characteristic that you want to assess the ideas or projects against and compare each idea or project by asking how well it is likely to achieve it. For example, you might have 5 projects to assess so you would work along the 5 projects and ask the question – how likely is the idea or project to have low implementation costs. You would do this across every idea or project for each characteristic.

This will give you a prioritised list of ideas or projects that will help you achieve your goal – in this case saving $10 million in the next financial year.

  1. What next?

At this point you will have a list of ideas or projects that will help you achieve your objective. Now it’s the easy part - bringing them to life and realising the benefits that they promised.

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