Decision Matrix: What Every Team Needs for Smart Product Design
Within the two seconds it took you to read this post’s title, 254 new devices connected to the internet. And let’s not forget that 89% of the world’s data was generated within the past two years alone. Technology is changing faster than ever. Keeping up with the needs and demands of a tech-hungry society is no small feat. The pressure is on product designers to make improvements and introduce the latest and greatest technology.
What consumers may not realize is that behind every product design are countless hours of research, brainstorming , and testing. Because, at the end of the day, a good design solves problems . Luckily, designers can effectively prioritize and work through these problems with the help of a decision matrix.
What is a decision matrix?
Many designers struggle with an overabundance of tasks, each competing for their immediate attention. But how do you know which tasks should take precedence? The decision matrix helps to uncover the items that take top priority while weeding out the items of least importance. This visual tool, similar to an action priority matrix , allows you to prioritize your list of tasks based on the criteria that are most essential to the needs of your company and target audience. Some commonly used attributes in this practice are value and effort.
(y) Value = How essential/necessary something is for the customer
(x) Effort = The energy/resources required by the organization
As you weigh your tasks against these attributes, you’ll find their place in one of the four quadrants of the decision matrix: do, decide, delegate, or delete.
The defining quadrants of a decision matrix
A task’s fate is determined by its location on the matrix. Once a task is placed within a quadrant, your team will know which action to take regarding a task’s completion. Here’s what you need to know about the following four quadrants:
Do (High Value, Low Effort)
The tasks in this space are your moneymakers and/or ticket to a highly satisfied customer. Therefore, they deserve top priority. With minimal effort, completing these tasks gives customers a product that makes a huge impact.
Decide (High Value, High Effort)
Often, the most valuable things in life require the most effort. These important tasks need to be scheduled out to ensure they’re completed, without completely draining your time. Try breaking these tasks down into smaller tasks to keep your focus and bring a positive boost when an item is checked off.
Delegate (Low Value, Low Effort)
There will always be tasks that are not worth your time or may not fit your particular expertise. Delegate these tasks to someone with either more time or more capabilities related to the task. Alternatively, when you have that extra bit of time on your hands that you might normally spend on browsing social media or organizing your desk, consider knocking off a few items from this quadrant.
Delete (Low Value, High Effort)
These tasks simply don’t hold a flame against their moneymaking, satisfaction-inducing counterparts. There’s no reason to drain precious time and resources into a task that is of little value to your customers. Do everyone a favor and remove these tasks or delegate them to someone else.
How to get the most out of your decision matrix
In a few simple steps, product designers can use a decision matrix to lighten the burden of decision-making and start giving users what they need. Here are the steps to get started:
Determine what you’re prioritizing
That mile-long to-do list may include tasks with varying timeframes and categories. First, decide which items you would like to include in your decision matrix (e.g., features to implement, projects, needs of buyer personas, or research ideas). Then, consider the general timeline you’re focused on (e.g., the next month, quarter, or year).
Design the matrix according to your needs and specifications
This matrix is meant to work for YOU. Choose the criteria and scale that best fits your needs. Although value and effort are common attributes to assign, you may wish to substitute them with criteria like: ease of implementation, effect on other systems, customer pain from problem, or return on investment (ROI).
Some items may be more number-based, such as the ROI of a certain product launch or the time taken to implement an item. These matrices aren’t meant to be a perfect science — especially when you’re not certain of how a new feature or product will be received by users. Estimates and guesses are perfectly acceptable. You may opt to leave numbers aside and simply place items based on their perceived value and effort levels.
When dollars and customer satisfaction are on the line, it pays to do your homework. Before placing items on the matrix, conduct some brief research. Get a feel for an item’s value and effort levels by viewing the results of similar tasks or features that were previously rolled out. We can learn a lot about the future from our past. You may also want to ask the following questions about each item to guide your thought process:
- Does the feature affect many people?
- Will the feature increase revenue?
- Will you gain new customers from the product?
- Does the feature significantly improve customers’ lives/satisfaction?
- Does the feature build brand awareness and trustworthiness?
Let the group cast votes
The life of a product, from inception to delivery, involves a lot of different individuals. Developers, designers, marketing specialists, and other skilled minds work together to make things happen. With that said, their opinions matter, and they need to be heard.
Give your team an opportunity to provide input by letting them mark items they believe should take priority. Keep things anonymous by numbering the items (in no particular order) and letting team members share a ballot with their top numbers. Or use a digital poll to compile the responses.
Place items on the matrix
When your research and team discussion is complete, plotting items on the matrix should be the easiest step. Once you’ve put every item in place, make a plan for completing them based on their location on the matrix. Does your gut tell you that an item isn’t quite where it needs to be? Revisit the matrix to see if the needle has moved for certain items.
Plan and prioritize
There is no set way that a team needs to prioritize. Tech companies with so many unique skills may find that it’s best to assign items from each quadrant among their team members. Whereas, a group of product designers may decide that each taking a high priority item and then working their way through the lower priority items may make the most sense.
However you assign tasks out, make sure you have a system in place to stay on top of your team’s work. A kanban board’s super visual and organized format is a great place to make and keep track of these assignments.
Related: Why Kanban’s Visual Flow Improves Productivity **
The pros of using a decision matrix
There are so many reasons to start using a decision matrix for your prioritizing needs. Here are just a few benefits to consider:
Optimize group discussions
A decision matrix is really an organizational tool that allows teams to share feedback. People take more ownership of tasks that they gave input on and, therefore, will see their assignments out to the end. Not only can you facilitate more organized meetings, but you can help team members feel valued and recognize their potential.
Support visual thinkers with a visual guide
When 65% of the population are visual learners , a nice mental map like a decision matrix is a welcome sight. The ability to move items on a physical, or digital, chart allows for better visualization of what needs to be accomplished compared to a standard checklist.
Offer support for decisions
Before a product enters the market, a lot of decisions need to go through key stakeholders (e.g., business representatives, usability specialists, technical experts, etc.) before designers can spring into action. Evidence from a decision matrix helps you back up your case.
Effectively weigh options
Designers have a lot of goals — incorporating a new feature on an app, increasing the battery life on a product, and so on. But each goal also carries a lot of obstacles — like time, budget, and optimizing technology for different languages or accessibility needs — that designers must work through. A decision matrix sifts through the possibilities, leaving you with the most essential items.
Tips for creating a decision matrix with a remote team
Though switching to remote work during the pandemic wasn’t the most ideal change, we’ve discovered a lot of benefits from working remotely . And with efficient tools like video conferencing, interactive whiteboards , and project management software, teams can conduct business just as effectively, if not more, than ever before. If your remote team wants to prioritize with the decision matrix, try these strategies to optimize this powerful tool:
Set a time frame for research and input
Using a decision matrix in a remote setting allows team members to take the time to research the items in question before voting on their effort and value levels. Just be sure to set a clear deadline for team members to submit their input to keep everyone on track.
Establish rules for voting
Any time people voice their opinions, there’s a risk for conflict to arise. Combine this struggle with the challenge of sharing through a virtual platform, and the potential for disharmony escalates. Prior to any discussions through Zoom , or collaborating on a Vibe Board , lay out the expectations of each team member in voicing their opinions and casting votes on the items.
Make the plan visible to everyone
Once you prioritize your tasks, document the plan somewhere visible to your whole team. Whether you keep it in an editable Google Sheet or utilize kanban software, like Asana or monday.com , make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what tasks they’re assigned.
Use the best remote tools for your team
Create a digital decision matrix that can be saved and edited in real-time. Vibe users have access to a decision matrix template that can be marked up and edited from team members in any location. Plus, with over 80 integrated apps , Vibe users can simultaneously make edits and pull up applications to aid virtual meetings.
Product designers need to be in tune with the needs of their consumers to deliver a product that they need and want. With the help of a decision matrix and cutting-edge tools like Vibe’s interactive whiteboard, the brilliant minds behind product development can prioritize and execute goals like pros.
Vibe offers a collaborative solution combining an interactive digital whiteboard and innovative smart software. Increase engagement and efficiency at your brainstorming sessions, virtual training, and classroom sessions by integrating your favorite applications with video conferencing and an infinite, mess-free writing canvas. Collaborate today with Vibe.
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