About the talk

As a project manager, you know that juggling multiple projects can be challenging. It's important to prioritize them so that you can focus on the most important ones first. But where do you start?

In this article, you will learn about the best prioritization framework for your projects, how to use them, and when. But not only that! You will also learn to create your prioritization method with factors unique to your project.

Watch the talk 👇

About Nikki Zavadska

Nikki is the Product Manager and co-founder at Jexo, and she is on the mission to make project management in Jira accessible to everyone.


This is a transcript of the original talk by Nikki Zavadska at PM72 Summit organized by Jexo. 👉 Learn more about PM72 Summit: 72-hour Project Management Conference.

I'm Nikki Zavadska, co-founder at Jexo, where I'm taking care of everything related to the product.

I'm working with software about for about nine  years i started as a QA and then grew myself into application support lead for a company  that was developing AI project management tools, and then i co-founded Jexo and started taking  care of the product as a product manager, and designer and, i also started .leading the team

So what we will be going through in this talk, i will give you a quick introduction to the  prioritization i will show you some of the best methods for project prioritization you can use  that are already indust standard and they're ready for you to pick up but i will  also show you how you create your own prioritization method with something that is  called weighted scoring with this method you can identify the key factors that are most important for your project and you can use them for prioritization and in the end i'll also show  you how you can apply all this and use it in jira

but before we start i just wanted  to quickly introduce you to Jexo,

Jexo is a silver Atlassian marketplace partner that helps teams improve the way they deliver work with our jira planning apps  we have a portfolio of planning apps and our marketplace is covering topics like road mapping, prioritization, reporting and risk management .

But now let's go back to the presentation  itself one big problem that many of us have; while managing projects or managing our work  really is not knowing what to work on next, what projects or what tasks are bringing the  most value to the customer it is also really hard to scope something if you have a  long backlog of items requested from different clients or stakeholders.

So, how do you actually decide on what to work on next?

A big problem is that not many of us actually  know how to prioritize and when working with the teams and stakeholders while prioritizing  without introducing trade-offs you might end up with everything being important and when  everything is important then nothing really is to fix our prioritization process you can use prioritization methods any of the quantitative prioritization methods that you can use are  very simple with the same principles in core they all help you assess some kind of priority  score to help you decide on your priorities.

So when you're thinking of the prioritization  method for your project, you need to think of key factors that are important to your particular  project or whatever you are trying to prioritize.

For example, it can be effort, impact, costs, risks, and so on.

Then you need to find out how to calculate the priority score correctly so it makes sense, and then once you have this basis, you can go ahead, and you can start prioritizing your backlog, and in the end, once you finish the prioritization itself.

You can identify the top priorities by looking at the ones with the highest priority score.

Usually, the higher the priority score in these methods, the more important the task is but you can also use something that is called a prioritization matrix which is basically a matrix when on the x-axis and epsilon axis, you plot one of the factors and then you can have a look visually on these priorities and for example identify the ones with the highest impact and lowest effort which are usually the ones that you should be working on first.

But how do you know what prioritization method to use? there are many quantitative methods, but I did split them into two different types;

One type is a predefined prioritization method; these are really good because they have been already used in many, many projects, in many companies, they are reliable, and they are usually simpler as they are more generic, which makes them really good one to start with, actually, if you are new to prioritization and you want to just quickly get off the ground and running, and you don't want to think about creating prioritization method too much you can start with them.

On the other hand, there is an option to create your prioritization method using a technique called weighted scoring, so you basically identify the factors that are most important for your project, and you also rank their importance you basically weight them. That's where the name comes from this method is a bit more advanced, you need to spend a little bit of time preparing it to be able to use it, but I created a few examples of the key factors that you can use that will really help you speed up the creation process of this method I think it's really good that this method is customized.

So it's very specific to your project, and you can adjust it to your own needs, which makes iT actual actually accurate for your project prioritization as well.

So let me talk first a little bit about  the predefined prioritization methods;

There are many, many of them, but I picked up the top three relevant specifically for project management if you are interested in more methods  we created a workbook that is full of them and you can download it for free.

So this is the issue prioritization method and it looks at three key factors  which are impact urgency and ease calculation of the prioritization  score itself is quite simple you just multiply all these three metrics and you  get the priority score and to assess your backlog you assign the number from 1 to 5 where 1 is  worst and 5 is the best for each of these factors this prioritization method is also popular because  you can combine it with using a priority matrix or it's also called impact urgency matrix  as the name already suggests, you will be using the impact metric and urgency  metric, and you plug these two on a chart and then you can identify the quadrants like do  now do next do never and do last this is really helpful and it brings you uh kind of like a  different dimension into your prioritization process as well so you're not looking on the priority score only which is quite flat.

The next method we will be looking at is the gut method with this one, you're using factors like gravity, urgency, and tendency. When you're looking at the gravity, you are  actually assessing the effects of these tasks or projects if it's serious or it's  not serious;

Then when you're looking at the urgency, you're assessing if the task can wait  or does it need to be done right now and with the tendency, you're asking if it gets worse fast  or maybe in the short-term midterm slow or never and the last method I want to talk about is the  weighted shortest job first, which is the method usually used in a scaled agile or safe it helps  you calculate and understand what the level of the financial impact of not finishing the tasks or  implementing the solution sooner than later is, so if you are working in a bigger organization it's very  likely that you already saw this method in the use.

Okay, so there was enough about predefined prioritization methods now let's have a look at creating your priority scoring with the weighted scoring method there are four steps for you to do in order to create your method and use it,

So the first one is to identify the core factors that are typical for your project then you need to rank your core factors to give them importance in the scoring formula you need to basically wait for them, and after you do that you can create your prioritization formula and it's really simple I will show you how to do that a few people are struggling with that, but it's really, really simple if you know the method and finally you can go and introduce the prioritization method to your team and start prioritizing your backlog usually many people when they think of creating their prioritization method they, struggle with identifying the core factors.

So, that's why I looked at different prioritization methods used in a variety of projects, and I collected the commonly appearing factors I also structured these into a bucket depending on a theme, so one of the buckets is effort and time, then there is a team bucket importance and impact bucket so when you are creating your prioritization method, you just come in and pick up the factors from these buckets and then add them to your formula.

So under the effort and time bucket you could, you can find the factors like, for example, story points effort ease, but there is also a timelessness or tendency where you are assessing if the task is important in a long term, or it's a short-term priority there are also metrics to assess the dependencies on time sensitivity or close team collaboration so usually, if you are collaborating on a project with other teams, then the things might get slowed down by the cross-project dependencies because they're a little bit more difficult to manage.

So it's good to have that as a metric sometimes the next bucket is a team bucket here you can find factors like for example employee satisfaction or team health.

You're assessing if the task contributes to your team health or if your team is going to be motivated enough to complete this task.

A good example is for example maintenance tasks as opposed to a really exciting new project there is also competency and skills, that are very interesting factors to consider, so you can be asking how skilled is your team, do you have a mature team or is it full of juniors? is there someone senior available that can help deliver the task?

And, efficiency is quite a nice factor, too  you're basically looking at if your team can be more efficient after delivering this  task, so a good example is, for example deciding to automate some kind of workflow and the last one is confidence so here you're just asking how confident is your team that they are going to  be able to deliver this task that they estimated and the next bucket is important.

Many companies are actually struggling with managing their stakeholders  in their prioritization process, so creating different importance metric for  your stakeholders from different departments might actually be a good idea because you  involve them in the prioritization process and you basically assure them that you  are counting with their vote as well.

So you can have a stakeholders from for  example sales tech product legal and so on, you can also look at your priorities from a  little bit different perspective by um assessing if its necessary so for example you can determine if it's a technical necessity or if it's a legal requirement and so on so one good example  of a legal legal requirement is for example gdpr, which you really cannot function  without if you're developing software.

And the last one t that i have here is the  impact one, so here you can have a look at how your vision is impacted if there are any  risks or if the item allows aligns with your team or company goal, if it for example increases  the sales or if it maybe if you want to have a look on different factors um you can look at if  it increases the customer satisfaction or if it contributes to good internal or external impact.

Maybe sometimes you might be considering also, impact on the brand or let's say a  risk potential or if it introduces any new risks, so these are some really good factors to consider and the ones that you can be looking at.

So when it comes to creating the scoring itself, it's also quite simple, all you need

to do is to identify the factors and give them weight so weight can be usually a number from one to nine and the higher the number the more important the fact.

The more weight it has in your scoring formula as well so once you have  that you need to multiply weight with each factorand then sum them up and because this number  is quite large if you have a lot of factors in your formula, what you can do is to divide  the sum up by a sum of all weights and that's it.

So let me show you an example so you  can imagine that a little bit better,

So let's say i'm working on this project where my team is relatively new, we didn't work together before and we have  a mix of skills set in the team but majority of our team members are junior. We do have a senior person on the team, but there is a possibility that we won't have enough capacity or skill set to deliver specific tasks.

So, that's why I picked these metrics for this project; it's usually good to pick either ease or effort metric for your prioritization, so you're considering how long or difficult it will be to deliver something. We are a new team, so I also added cross-project collaboration and risk potential to make sure that we identify the tasks that need cross-team collaboration upfront.

next, I need to add weight to each  of these factors, which will represent their

the importance, you can choose numbers from  1 to 9 to make it a little bit easier

the higher the number, the more influential the factor is, and once we have all of this you can go and create the scoring formula so let's do that next.

So basically, what we do is we summarize all factors and we make sure to multiply each element by its weight as well, and then we divide its sum of all the weights which is a 16  in this case.

When assessing priorities, you can use these factors and the scoring formula to prioritize your projects.

Assign the number from 1 to 5 to each of the factors, and the higher the number, the better you can use any tool that you would like, for example, excel, but if you would like to prioritize in Jira, you might be interested in our app Foxly.

Foxly is a Jira app that helps you create  and standardize your prioritization methods and prioritize your issues in Jira directly where the work happens

Foxly has predefined industry standard prioritization methods. Still, it also allows you to create methods and customize them like the one I showed you earlier, so you can use the different styles for your metrics  or factors like, for example, star rating or labels. Hence, it's much easier for everyone to prioritize the tasks themselves.

And it allows you to create your scoring formula. Once you set up your prioritization method, you can prioritize your issues in this interactive table. Once you assign all metrics to the issue, the priority score is automatically calculated.

You can order your backlog by priority  from highest to lowest to see the most important items on the top.

And to get another  dimension to your prioritization, you can also use the priority matrix view and choose the metrics you would like to see on the x and epsilon axis to create your quadrants and views, which gives you quite a bit of flexibility.

From the data visualization perspective, there is also a table under the chart where you can see the actual Jira issues and open them in Jira.

I hope you enjoyed this presentation, do download the prioritization ebook; it's

free and has 15 prioritization methods that you can go and use in your project. And there is also a worksheet that you can download with all the factors I described earlier in this presentation and the scoring formula to create your project's prioritization method.

And that's about it thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you learned something new.

If you want to know more about  Foxly or our other planning apps, stop

by our Jexo's booth at the after-party, and we can talk a little more.

See you there.

And that's about it. Thank you so much for joining.