Monday, July 6, 2009

Priority Matrix

Over the next few posts I am going to focus on getting the priority quantified, justified and aligned. This is both a formal and informal process and the Information Technology professional has to ensure that the large list of projects are properly dealt with. All to often we get transfixed by the projects we want to work on or the last one in the door. Either of these conditions can be deadly for the overall effectiveness of your team.

Priority Matrix

Using the priority matrix will give the organization a visual perspective of where their priorities align. On a regular basis, opportunities should be placed on the matrix for comparisons and synergies. What was deferred last time may be ready for action now, especially if your identification process has made a continued to effort to a build common technological framework for delivering business value.

The axis and quadrants of this matrix represent a powerful tool for qualifying opportunities.

Ease of Implementation

How difficult will it be to implement the opportunity? Do you have the correct skills? Is the organization ready? Are there obstacles in the way of success? Can success be measured? These are some of the critical questions that need to be answered before you extend too many resources to the development of the opportunity.

Social/Economic Value

Too many opportunities are measured on pure economic value. This method has proven to be successful in building an organization, but in a highly competitive marketplace more factors need to be considered than just the old standbys. Many opportunities have a social benefit that is difficult to measure – for example, social impact is often overlooked when qualifying employee portals and intranets. Many opportunities are lost when faced with the concept "if it isn't broke, don't fix it." Successful organizations take the time to quantify all benefits, and to build environments that are moving the whole organization forward rather than just handling the issues relating to sales, manufacturing, and/or finance. The entire benefits of an opportunity should be investigated when bringing new opportunities forward. The challenge is to quantify the benefits in the context of business value.
Even more critical to qualifying opportunities effectively is to understand the quadrants of the matrix in relation to the potential for positive business impact.


This quadrant of the matrix is for those projects that are less difficult to implement, but have a lower Social/Economic Value. Basically, this quadrant contains the "nice to have," but not the "need to have" opportunities and benefits. Timing is everything and the projects in this quadrant generally spark up good positive interest, but the organization isn't prepared to implement them now. Typically, these projects will see the light of day, but just not in this round of approvals.

Do Now

This quadrant speaks volumes for those opportunities that are easy to implement and have high Social/Economic Value. The low-hanging fruit analogy works well here. These opportunities should be moved forward and funded to advance the organization. The value to the organization can be immediately achieved and the organization is comfortable with the overall fit. The projects align well with any strategic plan or roadmap. These projects were typically once in the plan quadrant, and have since become practical.


When the value is high, but the implementation becomes more difficult, it may be best to review and build a funding proposal. Most new opportunities that require the organization to break new ground will tend to fall into this category. Also, these opportunities tend to require more detail before the decision-makers are comfortable giving the nod to proceed. Overall, these are good opportunities. A fit is recognized, but the comfort level by all the parties is not there. By providing more detail, the organization will be able to make a more informed decision. With opportunities under review, it's a good idea to go back to the business drivers and substantiate the findings, and also go back to the technical options to see if adjustments are needed.


The Wait quadrant is for those opportunities that are deemed difficult to implement, and where strong value statements are difficult to quantify. These opportunities are typically beyond the current scope and understanding of the organization. Opportunities in this quadrant typically need to have a communications or an awareness plan developed before they can be advanced.


  1. I figured I should make a shameless plug and recommend Priority Matrix (, a tool I've developed with some friends to implement precisely this quadrant based prioritization method. I've seen it called the Eisenhower method, as he described it in his work, but I doubt he was the inventor.

  2. I am currently working on a book (due to be completed by March 2013. The idea of the book is about managing your priorities. How can I use your matrix in the book?