Initiative Prioritization Matrix

An eight-step approach to building a criteria-based matrix provides a workable prioritizing system. Step 1: Identify all key IT project stakeholders, e.g., business managers, IT project managers, business sponsors, etc. Step 2: Organize a workshop to build the criteria-based matrix and use it to set priorities. Participants will be all the stakeholders identified in Step 1. A Prioritization Matrix is a useful technique to identify which problems are the most important to work on solving first. The Matrix helps you rank problems or issues generated through brainstorming, using weighted criteria that are important to your project and/or organization. A prioritization matrix is a business process analysis tool, often used alongside other bpm software or Six Sigma techniques for comparing choices using specific criteria, and figuring out what to prioritize. It can be applied to anything, from simple tasks to complex projects, by anyone, from single individuals to large organizations.

  1. Prioritization Matrix Worksheet
  2. Initiative Prioritization Matrix Definition
  3. Prioritization Matrix Excel
  4. Initiative Prioritization Matrix Example
  5. Strategic Initiative Prioritization Matrix

What is a Prioritization Matrix?

The Prioritization Matrix is a simple tool designed to compare the proposed projects or tasks, giving them all the same criteria and weighted grades. Once all of the proposals have been graded, it is easy to see which one should positively impact the company. InitiativePrioritization Matrix TemplateInitiative is a tool that is important because deciding which project should receive a green light to go ahead and start is hard work, with a profound impact on the company’s bottom line.
Prioritization Matrix
Many executives tasked with making these decisions rely on their experience and instincts, which don’t always lead to the most promising projects being given the go-ahead.
The Prioritization Matrix tool can also be used to decide which tasks should be prioritized if the resources are limited (time, experts, machines, etc.).

How to Create a Prioritization Matrix?

Putting together a solid matrix is a team effort and needs to get input from all stakeholders and team members. The following steps need to be taken to put a matrix together –
Step 1: Agreeing on the criteria - Which criterion will be scored and measured for each proposal
Step 2: Setting the grading values: Each criterion must receive a grade, which depicts how it aligns. For example: If the criterion is “aligns with strategic goals,” then the grades may be: “0 – not at all”, “3 – with 2 or fewer goals”, “6 – with the majority of goals”, “9 – with all of the goals.”
Step 3: Assigning weights to each criterion: Agree on which criterion has the largest impact on the company
Step 4: Create the matrix: List the criterion in the left row, their weight in the next column, and the values in the following column.
Step 5: Column wise: Add the projects from the fourth column onwards
Step 6: Calculate the grade: Multiply each criterion's weight by the grade value for each project.
Add up the grades for each project, and then list them from the highest grade to the lowest.

Task Prioritization Matrix Template

Task Priority Matrix is an approach of categorizing the tasks you have into Critical, High, Medium, and Low. The categorization helps you to address the tasks on a priority basis. This priority matrix build in excel helps you to manage your tasks and priorities.
Task Priority Matrix Template

How to Prioritize Tasks?

An alternative task prioritization method is called the “Important / Urgent” decision-making matrix. This method splits the tasks into four different quadrants, and the responsible party should complete the tasks in the top left quadrant first.
Once these are done, move to quadrant two, three, and finally to four and complete the tasks there. This method is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill and was used by him to prioritize his multiple tasks. The definition of these classifications is as follows –
Important: A task which, when completed, has a positive impact on achieving the goals (either the company’s or personal).

Urgent: A task that demands immediate attention and is more often than not associated with achieving someone else’s goals. Not completing these tasks is usually associated with immediate consequences.
  • First (Upper Left) - Important and Urgent: These are the tasks that positively impact the goals and are important to someone else. These tasks should take precedence over any others.
  • A second (Upper Right) – Important but not Urgent: These are the tasks that positively impact either the company or person's goals and should be completed after the tasks in the first quadrant are done.
  • Third (Lower Left) - Urgent but not Important: These tasks require immediate attention but do not impact our goals. These are mostly tasks that other people ask of us in the organization and are important to them.
  • Fourth (Lower Right) – Not Important and Not Urgent: These tasks usually don’t get completed (or started for that matter) since they aren’t important to anyone.

Features of the Task Priority Matrix Excel Template

  • Allows task prioritization based on four categories - Critical, High, Medium, and Low.
  • Has a backlog section that can be used to list the tasks which need to be done.
  • Task has to be created once in the backlog and then moved to the required categories by simply entering task ID.
  • Critical tasks should be done immediately, High tasks should be done ASAP, Medium and Low can wait for a bit more time.
  • The matrix highlights tasks that are not assigned in any category.
  • Duplicate tasks are highlighted in red bold in all the categories.
  • Each task has a score that can be used to signify the priority.
  • Using CTRL + Q will execute the sort, which will sort the tasks based on their scores. The higher the score higher the task is listed.

Project Priority Matrix

In an ideal world, organizations would have all the budget and resources they need to carry out all projects in their pipeline – and I would be happily rich. Unfortunately for all of us, we don’t live in an ideal world, and organizations are always constrained in the number of projects they can deliver with limited resources.
Project Prioritization Process

Why Prioritize Projects?

  • In a nutshell, in the same way, project management is all about doing projects right; portfolio management is about doing the right projects, that is, the ones that align to strategy.
  • However, most of the time, resources, not a strategy, determine what gets done and when and most organizations still rely on rudimentary approaches to select their projects, namely, “first-come-first-served,” “who-shouts-the-loudest,” the well-known “gut feel,” or even the “eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”
  • I’m certain there may be advantages in following your instinct, but, overall, not only are those emotional, biased, and subjective approaches, they also miss consistency, transparency, and alignment.
  • At the end of the day, you end up with nothing more than pet projects, fashionable projects with the word “strategic” on them, and a couple of projects that are not aligned to what you wanted to achieve in the first place.
  • Defining how to prioritize projects can be a daunting task (and you may even upset a person or two initially).
  • Fortunately, we’re here to suggest a prioritization model that you can take away and use on your own.

Features of the Project Prioritization Matrix

From the rigorous Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) to sophisticated PPM tools and the entertaining priority poker, there are plenty of techniques out there for portfolio prioritization. Still, perhaps the more commonly used and easy to implement and tailor is the prioritization matrix.

Project Prioritization Matrix

Identify your criteria

  • What matters to your business? Is it the return on investment? Customer satisfaction? Improving operational efficiencies? All of them?
  • Gather your senior leadership team, discuss your strategy, and agree on what criteria projects should be evaluated against.
  • As a best practice, my recommendation would be to, at least, include ‘strategic alignment’ and the 3R’s of portfolio management – risk, resources, and return.

Establish the weight of each criterion

  • If achieving cost-efficiencies is more important than protecting reputation risk, this should be made clear for all so that projects that contribute to this objective can be pursued. Others that don’t can be moved to the bottom of your list of priorities.
  • The different criteria weight should sum up 100%.

Define the rating scale of each criterion

  • Each criterion should have a scale – usually comprising 3 or 5 levels – that defines how it can range.
  • For instance, if the criteria in the analysis are “Strategic Alignment,” then the question to ask would be “to what extent is the project aligned with our strategic objectives?”, whose answers could vary from “1 – does not align”, to “2 – aligns to a minimum”, “3 – somewhat aligns”, “4 – strongly aligns”, to “5 – fully aligns”.

Score your projects against each criteria

  • Grab your list of projects, sit your Exec team, and start evaluating each project to each criterion, scoring them using the scale previously identified.
  • Some projects may be easier to score than others. Still, you will soon realize that the prioritization exercise's discussion is what matters the most to align expectations and clarify the strategy to be followed.

Calculate the project total score

  • Simply put: just do the maths. Your project total score is a sum of the scoring for each criterion x the weight of that criterion.
  • The higher the score, the higher the priority of the project. Simple, right? I told you so.

Project Prioritization Matrix Example

The following example compares three proposed projects for a local private (for profit) hospital. The board can budget only one of the projects.
Prioritization Matrix Example

When it comes to IT projects, there is usually a long list of to-do items, all of which seem pressing and considered urgent by stakeholders. Without the time or resources to tackle them all at once, it becomes important to prioritize tasks. Effective prioritization can help IT teams with time management, enable all members to work more efficiently, and help to ensure that your team is tackling the most critical projects first.

Prioritization Matrix Worksheet

That said, prioritizing IT tasks is not an easy process. With many different parties involved, all of which seem to have differing opinions about how projects should be handled, it can be frustrating and inefficient to try to prioritize projects properly. However, implementing some strategies to help with project prioritization and creating a prioritization system can make this task more efficient and effective.

Strategies for Prioritizing Projects

A few things that your organization should consider implementing as part of its prioritization system include:

Evaluating Projects with Strategic Level Planning in Mind

Before prioritizing, it’s important to spend some time gathering all of the information that your team needs to be able to order projects effectively. One part of that information gathering should involve working with the leadership team and gaining a thorough understanding of the business’s overall vision, the direction the company is planning to go, and the timeline for any major shifts. To better have an understanding of these issues, consider having all project managers involved in strategic-level planning. By better understanding and keeping the company’s strategic-level planning in mind, the IT team will be better positioned to prioritize projects properly.

Identifying What Factors are Motivating Each Project

Similarly, as part of information gathering, it’s helpful to understand what factors are motivating each project. For example, is a project focused on gaining a competitive advantage, financial benefit, process improvement, legal or tax regulations, improving quality, reducing risks, or growing the business? Understanding what factors are motivating each project is important information that your team needs to have before ordering projects.

Identifying any Issues that Might Impact Project Success or Completion

Another component that it’s crucial to think through is anything that could potentially impact project completion. For example, do you have a project that can only be finished once another team completes a task? Or one that is dependent on factors that are outside of the business’s control? If so, it’s important to identify those issues so that you can keep them in mind when evaluating which projects to take on first.

Creating a Criteria-Based Matrix

Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, create an objective system for weighing and evaluating projects. Creating a criteria-based matrix is an effective way to do this and to build a model that can be used repeatedly. Doing so will enable your team to rate each project based on established criteria, which will provide an objective, data-driven system for prioritizing tasks.

Initiative Prioritization Matrix Definition

Sharing Prioritization List with the Management and Leadership Team

Once you’ve created a list that prioritizes projects, it’s important to share the list with management and the leadership team before beginning work. In addition to sharing this list, it’s helpful to also review the matrix with stakeholders so there’s transparency about how projects were ranked. Doing this ensures that all parties are on the same page about what projects will be given priority and helps to establish clear expectations. Further, it offers another opportunity for feedback and input before the established plan is put into action.

Effectively Creating and Using a Criteria-Based Matrix to Prioritize Projects

While information gathering and sharing is an essential part of the process, creating and utilizing a criteria-based matrix is perhaps the most important way to ensure that prioritization is done strategically, objectively, and effectively. To develop the matrix, it’s necessary to involve all IT stakeholders.

With these stakeholders at the table, the first step is to establish the criteria to use to judge projects. These criteria will be specific to each organization and should be specifically catered to your organization’s priorities and needs. However, when crafting these criteria, it’s important to ensure that they are factors that can be measured objectively and easily. Examples of common criteria used are:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Ease of Implementing
  • Potential Revenue

Prioritization Matrix Excel

Once criteria are developed, allocate a weight to each criteria on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being least important and 5 being most important.

Once the criteria are established and weighted, you can use the matrix to evaluate specific projects. Using a similar 1 to 5 scale, rate each project based on the impact that it will have on each criterion identified. For example, a rating of 1 would indicate that a project will have the least positive impact on a particular criterion; whereas, a rating of 5 would mean the project will have the most positive impact on the established criterion.

After rating each project based on its impact on each criterion identified, simply multiply the rating and weight to get a score for each criterion. Next, add up the scores for each project to determine the order in which projects should be addressed.

Initiative Prioritization Matrix Example

For more details about how to develop and utilize a criteria-based matrix, visit this tutorial.

Initiative Prioritization MatrixInitiative Prioritization Matrix

Tips for Easy and Effective Implementation of Prioritization Strategies

Strategic Initiative Prioritization Matrix

Even with good strategies and systems in place, the process of prioritizing IT tasks can be frustrating and challenging. After all, it inherently involves lots of different individuals, many of whom have different priorities and opinions about how projects should be addressed. To help ease this burden and to help to make planning more productive, keep these tips in mind:

  • Let data drive the process. When you sit down with a team to prioritize projects, make sure that you’ve brought all necessary information and data with you. Using data to help frame issues and the impact that projects will have can reduce the extent to which opinions and “gut feelings” drive or are distractions during the process.
  • Be consistent about the criteria used. Another way to reduce the impact of individual opinions and desires is to be consistent about the criteria used in the planning matrix. This ensures that organizational priorities are at the center of the process, as opposed to departmental desires or an individual’s unsubstantiated opinion of how projects should be tackled.
  • Unify around goals. Another way to ensure that the prioritization process is focused on the right issues is to ensure that all parties involved agree upon and are unified around the same organizational goals. Unifying around the same top-level goals before beginning the task of prioritization will help to make the process more focused and effective.
  • Prioritize with a specific time frame in mind. When working with teams to prioritize projects, it’s helpful to specify a time frame. For example, it’s easier for a department or team member to understand that a project will not be addressed “this month” or “this quarter” as opposed to hearing that it’s not being addressed. This small shift can have a big impact on the prioritization process and how the prioritized list is received.

Prioritizing IT projects is not easy or quick, but it’s an important step towards ensuring that IT teams are successful. Taking the time to go through this process helps to ensure the team has the necessary information to prioritize tasks and that the team is taking on the most important projects first. Further, it helps establish organization-wide communication, clear expectations, and transparency about how projects are ranked. If your organization does not have a system for prioritizing projects, start working with IT stakeholders and the leadership team as soon as possible to create one that can be used consistently to prioritize projects.