• Oct 09, 2019 A priority matrix is a tool used to categorically prioritize types of work. It has three primary strengths: simplicity, speed, and applicability to all types of work (projects and operational work). A priority matrix is easy to understand and simple to use because calculations are not required.
  • MoSCoW prioritization is an effective prioritization method for teams who would like to include representatives from the whole organization in their process. Capture a broader perspective by including participants from various functional departments.
  • If the priority matrix model feels like the right prioritization technique for you, you can build your matrices on paper or in a spreadsheet, or you can use an app that's designed for building priority matrices like Eisenhower Matrix (free) or Priority Matrix (from $12/person/month, billed annually).
  • Start prioritizing projects based on business value. Begin by looking at each project on your list with.
  1. Prioritization Matrix Template
  2. Process Prioritization Matrix Sample
  3. Process Prioritization Matrix Definition

May 06, 2019 A prioritization matrix is a business process analysistool, often used alongside other bpm softwareor 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.

It takes a certain amount of skill and expertise to manage a complex project. A project manager has to juggle the inherent risks, interdependent tasks, constraints, allocation of resources, budgets and schedules that come with all projects whatever their size or complexity.

So how do you decide which tasks to prioritize to get the best outcomes from your projects? Let’s take a look at how a project prioritization process works, and why you need one.


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Why do you need a project prioritization process?

To manage a single complex project, using a systematic process that follows best practices that have developed in the industry over several decades saves you time and effort. Why reinvent the wheel when you can take the best that others have learned, and apply it to your projects?

Experienced project managers will often have developed the skills and expertise required to prioritize projects through both on-the-job experience, formal training, and study for project management qualifications like APM, PMP, or PRINCE2.

But rarely in business is there just one project occurring at any given time. There are more likely to be several projects on the go, and a portfolio manager or program manager will have overall responsibility of a number of projects all competing for attention and, consequently, requiring an effective project prioritization process. This can be taxing even for experienced project managers to handle without an effective method in place.

Before we look at the different ways of prioritizing projects let's look at the difference between portfolio and program management. These are two areas closely related to project management but with their responsibilities and issues and requiring a distinct set of project management skills.

What is program management?

Program management is merely the process of project managing a group of projects at the same time. This is usually because they are related to each other and are all required as part of a broader strategic aim within an organization.

One of the main advantages of managing projects as part of a program of changes is to avoid teams working in silos and potentially ending up with final deliverables that don't work well together.

It is also useful for ensuring adequate resources are applied where necessary, and those skill sets are shared across projects

What is portfolio management?

Where a project manager has responsibility for a single project, and a program manager has responsibility for a group of related projects, a portfolio manager, on the other hand, has the even greater responsibility to oversee a much broader group of projects and programs; the aim being to implement broader business objectives.

Prioritization Matrix Template

A portfolio manager is responsible for budgets, resources, and schedules across a much wider section of a business or even across the entire enterprise. They tend to be accountable for projects in a variety of different areas of the business. For that reason, portfolio management is much more focused on strategy and vision and, hence, future projects that might be required to deliver long term objectives.

Portfolio managers, therefore, are responsible for determining the relative priority of individual projects across an organization. And, of course, the need for a systematic process to prioritize these projects.

Project prioritization processes

It's reasonably obvious that projects need to be prioritized because we cannot do everything – or not all at the same time. Budget, talent, or both constrain most organizations.

So a methodical process is required to determine what projects can be done to deliver the most value, given budget and resource constraints. There is a wide range of techniques that can help with this prioritization and they will typically cover:

  • Business Objectives
  • Financial Analysis
  • Risk
  • Cost
  • Value

Let's take a quick look at a couple of them:

The MoSCoW method

This is a well-known technique for determining what is necessary to stakeholders. It is quick and simple to use but is limited in its ability to accurately categorize stakeholder requirements. For that reason, it is best suited to less complex projects.

MoSCoW is an acronym (with o's added to make it easier for us to remember) of the following stakeholder requirements:

  • Must have – critical elements without which a project could not succeed.
  • Should have – essential elements that could impact the success of the project.
  • Could have - “nice to have” elements that are not essential to the project's success.
  • Won’t have – additional elements that can be eliminated.

The Kano model

The Kano model is based on the assumption that end-user satisfaction with the final deliverable of a project is related to the features and functions available. The level of satisfaction is usually determined through a standard questionnaire. The model breaks the elements down into four separate categories:

  • Performance – ease-of-use and speed are typical performance measures
  • Must-be – these are features that are basic expectations
  • Attractive – not necessarily expected but features that are a bonus
  • Indifferent – these features are neither necessary nor missed by their absence

Net Present Value

The net present value refers to the difference between the amount of money now, versus the value of money at a future date. When it comes to prioritization, projects with a higher NPV are preferred. Cash today is worth more than cash in the following years. This means that projects with longer life spans may have a lower NPV than a project with a shorter life span.

Payback period

The payback period refers to the time taken to recoup the project investment. It’s calculated by dividing the cost of the project over the average annual cash inflows. Using this formula helps the PMO determine which of the projects will regain the original investment faster. However, only using this method to prioritize projects is reductive as it doesn’t include the risks in undertaking a project or the time value of money.

Scoring model

A scoring model is a flexible way of prioritizing projects. The scoring criteria can be molded to fit the values and needs of your PMO, and the process can be as informal or as thorough as needed. The process is as follows:

  1. Select three or four scoring criteria (e.g., benefits, size, risk, impact, margin, cost, feasibility)
  2. Assign ranges to the criteria to rank the projects (e.g., 0-5 or 0-10)
  3. Assign weights to each category (e.g., Risk may be a more significant deciding factor than impact)
  4. Test out the model with different business units to assess whether the model provides meaningful results

These are just a few techniques for prioritizing projects using various criteria. There are many more out there including Story Mapping and Internal Rate of Return if you are interested in looking into more prioritization methods that you could potentially try.

Over to you


Managing one project can be a tricky business, and maintaining a handful can be… well, a handful! So no doubt managing a project requires the use of well-understood procedures and processes if the project is to be a success.

Readers, have you tried any of these project prioritization processes – which do you prefer?

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Download: Prioritization Matrix Template (XLS)

What is a Prioritization Matrix?
How to Construct a Prioritization Matrix
Examples of Prioritization Matrices
More Information

A prioritization matrix can help an organization make decisions by narrowing options down by systematically comparing choices through the selection, weighing, and application of criteria. Prioritization matrices:

  • Quickly surface basic disagreements, so disagreements can be resolved openly
  • Force a team to narrow down all solutions from all solutions to the best solutions, which are more likely to increase chances for successful program implementation
  • Limits 'hidden agendas' by bringing decision criteria to the forefront of a choice
  • Increases follow-through by asking for consensus after each step of the process

How to Construct a Prioritization Matrix

There are three ways to construct prioritization matrices, but the Full Analytical Criteria Method is detailed below. This specific method is best used in smaller groups (3-8 people), which require few options (5-10 options) and few criteria (3-6 criteria). This specific method also requires the team to reach complete consensus on criteria and options. Stakes may be high if the plan fails.

1. Set a Goal

In order to agree on the ultimate goal, your group should produce a clear goal statement through consensus.

2. Set Criteria

Create a list of criteria by reviewing available documents or guidelines. The team must come to a consensus on criteria and their meaning, or the process is likely to fail.

3. Weigh Criteria for Importance

Use a matrix to weigh each criteria against another, in order to decide which criteria are most important.

A. Write Criteria

Write your criteria across the top of the columns. Add extra columns at the end for 'Row Total' and 'Relative Decimal Value' (you'll use those later). Write your criteria at the beginning of each row.

B. Weigh Criteria

Begin the process of deciding which criteria are more important. (Since we can't compare a criterion against itself, we'll start in the second cell of the first column.)

Process Prioritization Matrix Sample

In this cell, ask yourself whether the criterion to the left (reliability) is more or less important than the criterion above (cost). Use the following weighting system to indicate whether it's more important, and by how much:

10 = Much more important
5 = More important
1 = Equally important
0.2 = Less important
0.1 = Much less important

Process improvement prioritization matrix

Note: A whole number (10, 5, 1) should always represent the 'desirable' rating. In some cases, this mean 'more' of something (e.g., importance, reliability, educational value), and in others it may mean 'less' (e.g., cost, travel time).

This indicates that reliability is moreimportant (5) than cost.

Each time you record a weight in a row cell, you must record its reciprocalvalue in the corresponding column cell.

Weight of 10 --> Reciprocal value of 0.1
Weight of 5 --> Reciprocal value of 0.2
Weight of 1 --> Reciprocal value of 1
Weight of 0.2 --> Reciprocal value of 5
Weight of 0.1 --> Reciprocal value of 10

The reciprocal value of 5 is 0.2; this shows that cost is less important (0.2) than reliability.

Continue weighting the remaining criteria and recording reciprocal values.

C. Calculate Totals

When finished, total each horizontal row and enter the sum under 'Row Total.' Add all row totals to reach a grand total.

D. Calculate Criteria Weighting

Divide each row total by the grand total, and enter this under 'Relative Decimal Value.'

These relative decimal values indicate how relatively important each criterion is to you—they are now called your 'criteria weighting.'

You will use criteria weighting to compare options at the end of the process, in Step 6.

4. Weigh Options against Criteria

Use a set of matrices to weigh options within given criteria, in order to start deciding which options best meet your criteria.

A. Weigh Options

Using the same weighting and method as above, place one criterion in the upper left corner of its own matrix, and weigh options against each other. Use weights to indicate which option better meets the matrix's single criterion.

Remember: A whole number (10, 5, 1) should always represent the 'desirable' rating. In some cases, this mean 'more' of something (e.g., importance, reliability, educational value), and in others it may mean 'less' (e.g., cost, travel time).

Repeat this step with each criterion (cost, reliability, efficiency, desirability) using the same options and weighting method, until you have a matrix for each criterion. There will be as many matrices as there are criteria.

These relative decimal values indicate how well each option meets a given criterion—they are now called your 'option ratings.'

B. Optional: Compile Option Ratings

You may find it helpful to put your option ratings from each matrix into a single table to minimize confusion.

5. Compare Options

Using another L-shaped matrix, compare each option based on all combined criteria.

A. Create Summary Matrix

List your criteria at the top of each column, along with their respective criteria weighting values from Step 3. Write each option at the beginning of a row.

B. Multiply Criteria Weighting and Option Ratings

In each cell, multiply the criteria weighting values (found at the top of each column) by the option rating from each matrix in Step 4.

New Chevrolet option rating from Step 4 cost matrix = 0.12
Used Mercedes option rating from Step 4 cost matrix = 0.33
Pre-Owned Ford option rating from Step 4 cost matrix = 0.01
Uncle Henry's Car option rating from Step 4 cost matrix = 0.54

Repeat this for each option and criterion, pulling values from Steps 3 and 4.

C. Calculate Row Total

Add values across each row to reach a row total.

D. Calculate Grand Total

Add all row totals to reach a grand total.

E. Calculate Relative Decimal Value

Divide each row total by the grand total, and enter this under 'Relative Decimal Value.'

6. Choose the Best Option Across all Criteria

Compare the relative decimal values to decide which option is highest. This is the best choice given options and criteria.

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More Information

Public Health Memory Jogger
Public Health Foundation, GOAL/QPC

Mind Tools

Process Prioritization Matrix Definition

Public Health Memory Jogger
Public Health Foundation, GOAL/QPC

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