Weighted decision matrix: Your tool towards pro-level prioritization

February 12 2019 | 6 min read
Making the right decisions, especially ones that have a direct impact on your bottom line, can be tough. It's never as simple as writing down a list of pros and cons. Numerous aspects have to be considered. Their varying importance has to be taken into account. When stakeholders participate in the decision-making process there is probably a lot of bias and emotion involved.
Weighted Decision Matrix & Prioritization Template
Arguably the best way to do important and complex decisions is using the decision matrix technique.

It's exceptionally powerful when you have to choose the best option and need to consider many criteria or when you need to allocate limited resources to multiple choices.

By extensively evaluating your choices and quantifying the process, you'll be able to completely remove emotion and guesswork from the decision process. This enables rational and objective decisions every time.

Moreover, the decision matrix allows a clear structure which you can reference in discussions, meetings, presentations or when you need to justify your decisions.

What is a decision matrix?

The decision matrix is a powerful quantitative technique. It evaluates a set of choices (for example, ideas or projects) against a set of criteria you need to take into account.

It also is known as "prioritization matrix" or "weighted scoring model". No need to get confused.

There are several types but two main categories: The weighted and unweighted one. The unweighted decision matrix assumes all criteria have the same importance while the weighted one applies different weights.
Decision Matrix Template For Effective Prioritization

When should you use a decision matrix?

The decision matrix is extremely useful, specifically when you have:
  • Many choices (such as different features, projects, and campaigns)
  • Multiple decision criteria to consider (such as costs, risk, and customer value) with
  • similar or varying levels of importance

Step-by-step: How to make a decision matrix

Here's a step-by-step guide to set up both an unweighted and a weighted decision matrix.

To make it even simpler, let's use an example:
You're trying to figure out which product feature your team should develop next, but there are plenty of criteria which need to be considered. Start by creating a weighted decision matrix.

How to create a weighted decision matrix

1. List different choices
Start by listing all the decision choices as rows. Don't forget any relevant choices, since these rows will form the foundation of your decision matrix.

In our example they are:
  • Adapt product to French market
  • Develop mobile app
  • User onboarding 2.0
2. Determine influencing criteria
Brainstorm what criteria will affect those decisions (like customer value, cost, effort, and effectiveness, for example). List these criteria as columns.
3. Rate your criteria
Rate each of these criteria in the columns using a number (the weight) to assess their importance and impact on your decision. Establish a clear (and consistent) rating scale for each one (for example, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 leading from an insignificant to greater impact). This helps to calculate the relative importance of each criteria.
Decision Matrix Weighting
4. Rate each choice for each criteria
Evaluate your different choices against the criteria. While using the same rating system (in our case, from 1 through 5), rate each criteria individually. For example, if you think your mobile app has tremendous business value, give it a 5. (Keep in mind: The values for each choice don't need to be different. Equal weighting is perfectly acceptable.)

For each of these values, you have to make sure that higher values represent more preferable options. For example, a high ROI should lead to a high Business Value score because a great ROI is beneficial to your business. On the other side, for instance, high development costs should result in a low Costs Value because high costs are negative.
Decision Matrix Scoring Direction
5. Calculate the weighted scores
Multiply each of the choice ratings by their corresponding weight.
Decision Matrix Scoring Direction
6. Calculate the total scores
Sum it up for each of the choices and compare the total scores.
Decision Matrix Weighted Scores
7. Make your decision
The choice with the highest score is usually the one you should prioritize.
Weighted Decision Matrix Best Option

How to create an unweighted decision matrix

Follow the same steps as for the weighted decision matrix while skipping the third step ("3. Rate your criteria"), that is:

1 - 3. List your choices, determine influencing criteria, and rate each choice for each criteria.

In the unweighted decision matrix, you don't have to define weights for each criteria, so skip Step 3.

4. Calculate the total scores
Instead, each criteria carries the same level of importance. Hence, after scoring your choices, just add up these scores for each one.
Decision Matrix Scores Without Weighting
5. Make your decision
Again, the choice with the highest score is likely going to be your best option.
Unweighted Decision Matrix Best Option
Key takeaways "How to set up a Decision Matrix"

Firstly, list your different choices as rows and use your criteria as columns. Then, decide if you want to build a weighted or an unweighted decision matrix.

If you're going to create a weighted decision matrix, add a weighted score to each of your criteria, depending on how important it is, and calculate an overall score (based on the weighted scoring) for each of your choices.

If you want to create an unweighted decision matrix, you will pursue the same approach with the only difference that all criteria hold the same weight (all are of equal importance).

3 Tips on how to optimize the decision matrix

You will be able to get started with a weighted decision matrix now. Before you go ahead, check out these three essential tips to help you avoid common pitfalls:

1. Remove all unnecessary choices

Before you start creating your weighted decision matrix, identify what sort of attributes you think a winning choice requires. Does it need to be a certain amount? Should it be quick or easy? Does it need to align with a certain goal? This way you will quickly eliminate unnecessary options.

2. Rate each criteria separately

When it comes to considering the first criteria, ignore the rest. This will help you make an objective decision, putting this simple criteria into perspective. You'll also be able to make a more unbiased decision when it comes to the score by treating each criteria separately from the others.

3. Keep the Decision Matrix up to date

External realities (like a new competitor), as well as internal goals and conditions of an organization (budget cuts), can change quickly. So, watch out for changes and update your decision matrix regularly to keep your priorities up to date.

Time to get started

The weighted decision matrix helps you to plan, and to communicate your decisions. It will add a whole new angle to your strategic planning process. Also make sure all the relevant criteria is taken into consideration before making a decision.

If you don't want to create a decision matrix from scratch, feel free to try the airfocus Scoring Board. The airfocus Scoring Board allows you to combine different value types (such as currencies or project hours). Moreover, it enables you to visually map your priorities on a chart and transform your priorities into an actionable roadmap at the click of a button.
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