A brief guide to prioritization matrices

Reading time: about 7 min


  • Strategic planning

Throughout our lives we make a lot of decisions. Some decisions are inconsequential, requiring little to no thought to choose an option.Other decisions carry more weight and deserve a much more rational approach to making your choice. When making bigger decisions, you should take more time to look at different options, consider possible outcomes, determine level of importance or urgency, and so on. 

Luckily, there are a lot of tools you can use that can help you to make informed decisions collaboratively and more easily. In this article we will discuss some prioritization methods to help you make better decisions.

2x2 matrix

This prioritization matrix lets you and your teams visually identify your most important and valuable ideas so you can determine which projects to work on next. It’s a simple matrix consisting of an X and Y axis with four quadrants for you to plot out your ideas based on value and level of effort. 

The vertical axis (Y axis) is labeled with a descriptor like “Importance.” The horizontal axis (X axis) is labeled with something like “Effort.” Then the four quadrants can be labeled headings similar to the following:

  • Quadrant 1: “High Value/Low Effort”
  • Quadrant 2: “Low Value/Low Effort”
  • Quadrant 3: “High Value/High Effort”
  • Quadrant 4: “Low Value/High Effort” 

You and your team can use the Lucidspark 2x2 matrix template to start prioritizing ideas and project backlogs. This exercise helps everybody consider which tasks or projects to focus on and in which order they should be addressed.

2x2 matrix
2x2m matrix example (click on image to modify online)

Benefits of using a 2x2 matrix

  • Easy to create and simple to use. It’s even easier when you use the Lucidspark template. All you have to do is start placing items in the quadrants.
  • Flexible and customizable. You can easily adapt the matrix to prioritize other factors such as importance/urgency (known as an Eisenhower matrix), cost/value, cost/time, etc.
  • This matrix helps you to visualize your priorities. Visuals are usually easier to interpret and understand quickly than text-heavy documents.

3x3 matrix

This is a simple matrix that can help you when performing risk assessments. The 3x3 matrix is similar to the 2x2 matrix but with six quadrants instead of four. This type of chart lets you rate potential risks against both probability and impact.

  • Probability: A risk is an event that might happen. The probability measures the likelihood that the risk will happen, typically low, medium, or high.
  • Impact: Any risk could have a negative impact such as cost, resources, etc. The severity of the impact on these factors can be measured as low, medium, or high. 

This Lucidspark 3x3 matrix template can help you and your team plot potential risks so you can determine which might have the highest impact. Then you can plan how you will address the high-priority risks so you can reduce their impact.

3x3 matrix
3x3 matrix example (click on image to modify online)

Benefits of using a 3x3 matrix

  • Easy to create, use, and understand
  • Identify and plan for potential risks

RICE Matrix

The RICE matrix lets you apply a score to the items (new features or products) you want to work on in upcoming projects. The scoring is based on the following four RICE factors: 

  • Reach: Determine how many people the project will reach in a given time frame.You’ll need to decide what the time frame is. You also need to define what the reach is. For example, how many customers click a specific link, the number of customers who try your new features, free trial signups, and so on.

The reach score is simply the number of people you estimate that your initiative will reach in the specified time frame. For example, if you think that 1,500 people might sign up for a free trial in a month, you would add 1,500 as your reach score.

  • Impact: This score is based on the impact you think your project will have on the people you reach. This score can reflect a quantitative goal, such as how many people who used the trial version of your product convert to a paid account. Or the score can be qualitative, such as increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Confidence: This reflects how confident you are that our product or new features will have a big impact. Use the following options when determining your confidence score:
    • 100% = high confidence
    • 80% = medium confidence
    • 50% = low confidence

If your confidence score is below 50%, that’s a good indication that an idea or task isn’t the top priority for your team.

  • Effort: This is where you estimate the amount of time will be required to finish the project. The time is measured as “person months,” the amount of work one team member can do in a month.

After you have given a score to each factor, use this simple formula to calculate the overall RICE score:

(Reach × Impact × Confidence) ÷ Effort = RICE Score

The higher the RICE score, the higher the priority of the project associated with it. This makes it easy for you to see at a glance which projects need to be worked on first.

RICE prioritization
RICE prioritization template example (click on image to modify online)

Benefits of using a RICE matrix

  • Helps you to make better-informed decisions about what to work on next
  • Reduces personal biases and the push for personal projects
  • Helps you to defend your decisions and inform stakeholders when they have questions

BCG Matrix

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) matrix, also known as the growth-share matrix, is a graphical planning tool that lets you evaluate the strategic position of your company’s brand and products. It helps you to decide which products and services you should keep, which ones you should sell, and which ones to invest more money in for upgrades and improvements.

Like the 2x2 matrix, BCG has four quadrants. The y-axis represents the market growth rate and the x-axis represents market share. This matrix groups a company’s products and services into the following categories:

  • Stars (high growth, high market share): These are the best products and services in your company. They have the highest growth and highest market share. Items in this quadrant bring the company the most revenue and usually have high growth potential. Investing more in these products has the potential to bring in more revenue.
  • Cash cows (low growth, high market share): Items in this category have significant return on investment, but they reside in a matured market with little room for innovation and growth. Cash cows bring in more money than they consume. This money can be invested into items in the stars category to help them grow and increase market share.
  • Dogs (low growth, low market share): These products have a low market share, so they don’t bring in much money. At the same time, they aren’t consuming a lot of cash. It’s probably not worth it to invest in these items because they don’t do well in the market and they aren’t as profitable. 
  • Question marks (high growth, low market share): This category includes things that have high growth potential, but their future is less certain because of low market share. Because of the high potential, you might consider investing more in these items because with the right strategies they could end up being cash cows and stars.

Use this Lucidspark BCG matrix template to start assessing your product portfolio.

Benefits of using a BCG matrix

  • Quickly identify opportunities for growth
  • Helps you to determine the best way to invest for maximizing future growth and revenue
  • Lets you quickly compare products in your portfolio at a glance

A matrix can be a great tool to help teams visually understand key characteristics of their products or ideas. They encourage data-based decision-making, and are a great way for hybrid teams to collaborate together.

Ready to master the prioritization process?

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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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