Have you ever wondered why many digital agencies can create and finish successful projects on time?
Despite taking on multiple projects simultaneously, they can still produce quality results that satisfy their clients.
Makes one wonder what they are doing to manage multiple tasks.
In reality, it is no secret!
It is really simple— those digital agencies know how to prioritize.
But what do we really mean by "prioritizing"?
We know that all tasks associated with a project are important, but how do we determine which to prioritize? After all, prioritizing the wrong task and doing it before others may jeopardize the timeline and delay the project's completion.
And we so don't want that to happen!
What should we do?
When prioritizing tasks and assignments, project managers and teams use a prioritization matrix. Also called a priority matrix, the prioritization matrix is a management tool that orders tasks and projects based on specific criteria managers define. The priority matrix gives managers and teams a visual to identify which tasks or projects they should work on next.
A prioritization matrix is a very helpful tool for both managers and teams alike. If you are not yet using a priority matrix, here are some reasons why you should consider it:
- A matrix tells you which projects to prioritize. As we handle multiple projects simultaneously, we start to realize that not all projects are the same. Different projects require different deliverables and need to be completed at different times. So, to prevent us from wasting our limited resources and time, we need to prioritize.
- It helps us manage our time better. Many teams use to-do lists and other task management tools to manage time. However, when we have a load of tasks to work on, we often end up procrastinating, and our productivity is affected. To help us with time management, a priority matrix is an alternative tool we can use. By using a one, we can determine which tasks are critical and urgent and which have low urgency and importance.
- It promotes collaboration and teamwork. Handling multiple projects simultaneously means each project will compete for the agency's attention and funding. Choosing the incorrect project to pour resources and time into first may lead to jeopardizing others' timelines and may cause disagreements among teams. To prevent this from happening, we need an objective, logical process to identify which projects to put first. After all, we get our resources from different departments with different priorities. By using a prioritization matrix, we will have a reliable process for conflict resolution, providing our stakeholders with peace of mind.
Prioritization matrices are a proven method of organizing projects along with the tasks and deliverables they bring. We even use it for our projects and tasks!
How about you? Do you want to keep your tasks organized? Start by creating a priority matrix for your agency's projects and identify which to focus on!
If you are not yet aware of how to create and use a priority matrix, we're here to teach you the basics of prioritization matrices— from the necessary steps in creating one to how you can use these matrices effectively to tips on how you can create an effective matrix for your agency. Continue reading to discover more!
Steps to Create a Prioritization Matrix Template
Successful project management is not based on gut feeling. Instead, making decisions regarding projects must be based on fact-based criteria and data gathered from various sources. This also happens when we use a prioritization matrix for the agency. Because of this, it is imperative that we apply a logical process to create our own matrix, right? After all, the priority matrix will provide us with a clear idea of what our projects are, as well as the necessary deliverables and the urgency of each project.
Follow these simple steps in creating a project prioritization matrix and impress clients with the success of the completed projects.
Determine criteria to assess priority.
Creating a prioritization matrix starts with the project objectives. Our projects and deliverables intend to provide solutions to the client's existing problems.
In creating a prioritization matrix, we recommend limiting the criteria to three to five items.
Will it make a difference? It certainly will!
Having criteria ensures that the matrix is easy to use and provides clarity about the projects.
Most prioritization matrices use the following criteria in their template:
- Importance. The importance criteria of the priority matrix refer to the importance of the project or task. For example, complex and time-sensitive projects are more important than small-scale, simple ones.
- Urgency. This criterion refers to the time-sensitivity of each project or task. We can consider urgent projects with shorter deadlines than those with longer ones.
- Required effort. The amount of effort to be put into the task or project is also essential in the prioritization matrix. We can prioritize those projects requiring high effort, such as complex projects requiring thorough research.
- Impact. Also considered as the value of the project, the impact is the prioritization criteria that measures how much a project or task can affect our agency. High-value projects are those that can provide us with the most benefits and positive impact.
Determining the criteria for our prioritization matrix can be done through brainstorming with teams. After all, we need collaboration and team effort to make successful projects.
List all your tasks/projects that need prioritizing.
After we've determined your criteria for the prioritization matrix, we should list all the tasks and projects that need to be prioritized.
In this step, we can also ask for help from team members as well as stakeholders to create the agency's list of projects and tasks needing priority. We can look at one another's to-do lists to identify these projects and tasks and find the common ones. Doing this can make ordering and classifying tasks and projects much easier.
Create a table with your criteria as columns and tasks as rows.
Now that we've determined the selection criteria as well as the projects and tasks needing prioritization, it's time for us to create the actual matrix! There are many variations of priority matrices, from simple priority matrices to complex ones, such as the Six Sigma prioritization matrix. The type of matrix we create depends on our needs and objectives.
The selection criteria are positioned as the columns for your prioritization matrix. The number of columns depends on the number of criteria that the team has determined. For example, the matrix will have four columns if we have four selection criteria (importance, urgency, impact, and difficulty/required effort).
On the other hand, the projects and tasks listed will become the rows for the matrix. Again, the number of rows depends on the projects and tasks listed.
Score each task on each criterion.
The next step in your prioritization matrix is scoring each project or task based on the criteria. Each criterion in the matrix should have a corresponding weight or numerical value and will be the basis for comparison or ranking. The numbers on each criterion will indicate the level of importance of each criterion.
When scoring each project and task, it is recommended that we stay objective. We should score each project and task on how well it meets each criterion. Most matrices use a 1 to 5 scale or a 1 to 10 scale, with one being the lowest and 5 or 10 being the highest. However, you can still use a different scale if you prefer, just make sure that you are consistent with the one used.
Add up scores to get a priority ranking for each task.
After rating each project and task, we can now add each score to determine its priority ranking. Calculating the weighted score for each task will depend on the type of prioritization matrix used.
How do we do that?
Well, we can calculate the weighted score of each task using the following tips:
- Multiply the score of each project or task with the criteria weight to calculate the weighted score. Then, add up the weighted scores to get the cumulative score. The higher the cumulative value, the higher the priority.
- Compute for the relative decimal value. To arrive at this value, we should first get the raw total by adding the decimal values of each row. Then, add up the raw totals to get the grand total. Divide each row's total by the grand total to arrive at the relative decimal value. The higher the decimal value, the higher its priority.
After we've determined the scores of each project or task, we should compare the values against one another to assess its hierarchy in the priority list. Usually, the higher the score, the more essential and urgent the task. However, if we think the results are incorrect, we can reevaluate the criteria and the weights then recalculate the values.
Tips for an Effective Matrix
A priority matrix may be easy to create but can be complicated. One wrong move in determining the criteria or project and assigning values may lead our projects down the drain!
That is why we can ensure that our matrix is effective and helpful by following these simple tips below:
Keep It Simple!
Many project teams avoid using the prioritization matrix as they find the process difficult. Sure, doing a little math can be pretty confusing, but we can avoid confusion if we keep the matrix simple.
Doesn't that sound great?
We always recommend keeping the matrix simple for project teams that are total newbies to the prioritization matrix. We can simplify the priority matrix by using a small number of criteria, preferably three to five at most.
How can we determine which criteria to use? It's simple – we must look at our agency's development goals and objectives. After all, the projects we prioritize will impact our performance and success as an agency.
In essence, project teams created the prioritization matrix to determine which projects to prioritize to maximize productivity and reap the most benefits for the agency. If we are rating projects and tasks based on our biases (and sometimes even hidden agendas), then what is the need for the matrix in the first place?
By being honest in assigning scores to each project and task, we can have more accurate values on our prioritization matrix. And a more accurate prioritization matrix means more chances of project success.
Update as Needed!
Update project management tools and software periodically as the teams' needs change. This is also the case when creating a prioritization matrix.
To ensure we can create an accurate prioritization matrix, we should update our criteria and their corresponding weights as our priorities shift. However, we should still remember that while our priorities may shift with each project, our goals and objectives as an agency will not. So, when we reevaluate our prioritization matrix, we should always align it with our goals and objectives and determine which we should prioritize for now.
The prioritization matrix can help us determine which projects and tasks should come first above all others. We have the weights to identify which of these have the highest priority, but how can other members of the team who weren't involved with its creation know which to prioritize?
It's simple— visualize!
We can use color coding to visualize the priority levels of each project and task. Here's an example:
- Red for high urgency, high importance projects
- Orange for high urgency, low importance projects
- Yellow for low urgency, high importance projects
- Green for low urgency, low importance projects.
Color coding allows us to easily look at the matrix and determine which is which without taking too much time.
How Do You Use a Prioritization Matrix?
Creating a prioritization matrix is one thing, but using it effectively is another matter. As a project manager, how can we use the matrix effectively?
Here are some ways we can use the project prioritization matrix in handling multiple projects simultaneously.
Let the matrix guide what you work on first.
The purpose of the prioritization matrix is to determine which projects and tasks should be put first. It is our guiding star when taking on multiple projects simultaneously.
Taking full advantage of the priority matrix means we look at the results calculated and focus on the projects and tasks with the highest priority based on our criteria.
Schedule/batch tasks by priority level.
Now that we know the priority level of each project and task, we can start working on them depending on their priority level.
Based on these levels, we can execute tasks in batches to better manage our time. For example, we can perform high-urgency and high-importance tasks first until we can accomplish them by a certain percentage. Then, we can work on the next priority level until we can deliver the necessary results.
By working in batches by priority levels, we can avoid procrastinating and accomplish tasks to meet deadlines. This way, we can work smoothly and according to the project management plan.
Delegate or eliminate low-priority tasks.
High-priority projects and tasks are those that can have the most impact and value to the agency. These often include complex and large-scale projects that require experts from the team.
Projects with the highest priority levels often require to be worked on by the best of the team. We can have them focus solely on these projects and follow up from time to time.
But how about low-priority projects? How can we ensure these are still worked on with excellence? We can have these tasks and projects delegated to other team members. However, we still need to consider their skills to ensure we can minimize mistakes and delays in the project. Just don't forget to follow up on your team's progress occasionally!
Review and update your matrix regularly.
Just like other project management tools, prioritization matrices are not one-offs. They need to be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure accuracy and alignment with our goals and objectives.
Reviewing and updating the matrix regularly gives us an insight into how our priorities change as our projects change. This way, we can determine the appropriate priority level for each project and task without compromising the client's objectives or our own.
So, what have we learned today? Here are some key takeaways regarding the prioritization matrix.
- A prioritization matrix can provide us with a number of benefits, namely, 1) determining which projects to focus on, 2) helping in time management, 3) promoting collaboration and teamwork, and 4) aiding in conflict resolution.
- Creating a prioritization matrix will require us to perform several steps: 1) identifying assessment criteria for testing each project or task; 2) determining and listing down the projects and tasks that need prioritizing; 3) assigning scores for each project or task against each criterion; and 4) adding the scores of each task and comparing them to determine priority levels.
Many agencies use a prioritization matrix to manage their projects better and avoid procrastination. Are you having problems with meeting deadlines and executing projects? Maybe a prioritization matrix is what your agency needs!
In a Nutshell...
Here are some reminders when you want to create a prioritization matrix for your agency.
- A prioritization matrix is a simple yet powerful tool that organizations and digital agencies can use to manage their projects better. It provides teams with a clear idea of each project's needs and objectives and the necessary deliverables for each project.
- Creating a prioritization matrix is simple and will need the project team's collaboration. Although it will need effort when you create it, it will save you time in the long run.
- A prioritization matrix is an effective tool to help your agency work smarter, not harder. You can create better workflows and more independent teams by using this powerful tool.
Ready to take on projects that will help you scale up your agency? Contact us today and discover the full potential of your agency!