How to make impactful things

The best ideas on prioritization and decisions on what to do next.

Feature Prioritization

What a priority matrix is

A priority matrix is a management tool for determining the development vector where priorities are visually divided into four (or more) quadrants.

There are matrices for personal time management and complex business projects. Most of them have derived from the Eisenhower matrix created to manage personal tasks.

A prioritized backlog visually divided into 2x2 matrix in Ducalis.io

When to use a priority matrix

Use an action priority matrix when you have limited resources and you want to distribute them rationally to maximize performance and ROI.

Placing backlog tasks into four quadrants will help you visualize their impact on the main business objectives. Focus the team efforts on one of the four quadrants to have a clear understanding of where you’re heading, what results, and when to expect.

How the quadrants work

One of the most efficient and easy to use is the 2x2 matrix. It consists of two evaluation criteria: one positive (e.g., Value, Impact, or Revenue) and one negative(e.g., Effort, Costs, or Risk).

Tasks evaluated by the criteria are divided into four quadrants:

  • Quadrant 1—high positive score and low negative score.
    This quadrant is often called Quick Wins, and its tasks are low-hanging fruit that will bring you positive results immediately. Most likely, you should do these tasks first.
  • Quadrant 2—high positive score and high negative score.
    Here are your Major Projects that won’t bring immediate results but are strategically valuable and should be considered on your roadmap.
  • Quadrant 3—low positive score and low negative score.
    These are so-called Fill-Ins—cheap solutions with no significant impact. These tasks should be further discussed and implemented only when you have extra resources.
  • Quadrant 4—low positive score and high negative score.
    These are Thankless Tasks. They bring little to no value and cost you a lot. Delete them or reconsider the solution to become more valuable.

How to create and use a priority matrix

1. Think of what is currently important to your business to come up with appropriate criteria.

Do you have deadlines, and time is critical? Or you must avoid risks at all costs?

Two criteria are enough for a fast and simple prioritization. Yet, they aren’t enough for complex projects where you must consider and juggle multiple stages of user behavior or business objectives. We in Ducalis.io estimate all the vital elements for our product and just filter the matrix by the criteria we need more focus on at some point in time.

We hide some criteria to consider tasks influencing only the objective important now.

2. Decide on the score range.

What numbers will your team use when estimating the criteria?

Each criterion should be evaluated by the same numbers with prescribed interpretation. We use numbers from 0 to 3 where 0—no impact, 1—low impact, 2—medium impact, 3—high impact.

We use criteria tooltips so that we don't have to keep in mind what they and the scores mean.

3. Estimate all the necessary tasks together with the team.

Who takes part in the project and can bring a unique perspective to the table? Does the project require only engineers or designers and copywriters’ efforts as well?

Considering each task by the whole team strengthens your shared understanding and gives the best prioritization results. In our team, managers evaluate feature Reach and Revenue, engineers and UX/UI—Development Time, and everybody must estimate Activation, Retention, and two product-specific criteria, Speed and Collaboration.

Most of the criteria we evaluate together to keep our shared understanding solid, and specific ones we leave to experts.

4. Study and discuss the prioritization results.

Why have these features made it to the top? Do you all agree they are most valuable now and must be implemented?

Never take the prioritization result into work unquestioningly. Prioritization is a tool to help you make the right decisions and not make them instead of you. Discuss your top priorities with the team at the planning meeting and make sure you all understand what must be done, why this way, and why it’s important.

To Sum Up

A priority matrix is simple and efficient. You can make it far more powerful by using automation tools. Ducalis.io allows you to create a complex prioritization framework you can use both as a weighted decision matrix and action priority matrix and switch the criteria focus in no time.

Try our matrix templates. Free to sign up and free to use. No credit cards. Just jump in and prioritize for your growth.

Teams have hundreds of product ideas. Add up a few hundreds of customers' feature requests, and you get a long list. And what is significant? How to understand what to do next?

The answer is simple—prioritize! There's nothing new about feature prioritization. We all know it's a must for growth. But still, there are so many different prioritization frameworks that many of us struggle to choose one for a start.

Here are a few pieces of advice that should help:

1) Silence the perfectionist.

There is no way you will find an ideal framework and stick to it till the end of time. And likely, you won't even understand what exactly do you need from a framework until you put it into action. Grab the first one that seems to be ok and try it out on your tasks. Don't know which is ok? Grab ICE—it's the simplest and yet effective framework many teams use.

2) Don't overthink.

After a few cycles of prioritization, you may feel that criteria aren't enough for your features, and you need to consider multiple sides of the product. At this moment again, don't try to come up with all lacking criteria at once. An idea will pop up during evaluation when you read some of your tasks. Write it down or add a criterion straight to the process. Don't spend hours trying to think of new right criteria. Develop your framework gradually.

3) Be agile.

Yes, in prioritization too. Don't hold to the prioritization ranking too tightly. Prioritization is just a tool to help you decide and vector your thoughts. It shouldn't make the decisions for you. Sometimes the world changes overnight. Always discuss priorities with the team, and don't be afraid to start the sprint not by the list.

4) Collaborate.

Involve your team in prioritization. Each of you is more competent at estimating one criterion or another. It's better to collect diverse opinions and then discuss them if they are the exact opposite. The asynchronous collective evaluation will help you build shared understanding and highlight gaps in team alignment.

5) Just start.

Use templates and prioritization tools to save time and help you build a prioritization routine.

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