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Value Vs. Effort

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What is the Value Vs. Effort framework?

Value vs. Effort allows teams to assess their initiatives based on how much value they will bring and how difficult they’ll be to implement. This method has the advantage of visualization as the team will plot their items in a quadrant to decide how to distribute and prioritize initiatives.

In order to be more objective, the placement of the items could be defined quantitatively by a decision matrix (see weighted scoring).

Your team creates a prioritization matrix with Business Value as the Y-axis, and Effort as the X-axis. You then break the matrix down into four quadrants, as shown in the example below: high value & low effort; high value & high effort; low value & low effort; low value & high effort. From this starting point, your team will be able to plot each initiative in the relevant quadrant.

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Please note:

The Value Vs. Effort model is sometimes called a “prioritization matrix”, which is another term for decision matrix. Don’t get confused.

In practice

Items in the high value & low effort will be deemed top-priority as these are considered quick wins. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the low value & high effort items, which are likely items to cut as they are difficult to implement and promise low business value.

When and why should you use the Value vs. Effort framework?

Due to its flexibility, intuitive implementation, and objective approach, it can be applied to numerous prioritization cases. This is particularly useful when you are timeboxed or have very limited resources, as well as when your team is developing a new product, or if you’d simply like to remove bias and have a more objective approach to initiatives that your team might feel strongly about.

Oftentimes we reject an initiative and assume it’s not worth it because of the effort it entails, or quite the opposite when our team is very keen, but upon shedding some light on its business value by plotting them in the quadrant we might reconsider.

How does the Value vs. Effort framework work?

Assess the overall value and effort for your features

In order to place your items on the chart, you first need to assess each item you want to prioritize against the following questions:

  1. How much value will the item bring? Both on a business level, and directly to the user.

  2. How much effort is required to build it?

Let’s delve into the subcategories:

Value

While considering value, we must ask ourselves: what does value mean for our business? And what does it mean to our user personas?

  • Business value:

    This requires you to estimate how much value particular initiatives can yield for the company. This value can be determined by factors such as whether an initiative will generate new revenue, increase customer lifetime value, acquire new users, retain existing ones or reduce churn, among others. Another thing to consider is the impact on brand awareness.

  • User value:

    This describes the value each initiative will bring to your user. You should consider their pain points and how far it goes to reduce them. Is the market demanding this feature? Will it improve your users’ efficiency (or other similar metric)? Will it benefit a large number of users or only a small group?

Effort

How do you measure the effort required? This question can only really be answered on a case by case basis. For most product teams this could be as simple as estimating the total amount of developer hours a certain initiative will require. However, oftentimes it involves a combination of other categories, including risk, among others...

Some of the most common considerations to score effort are:

  • Developer hours

  • Overall resource hours needed (man days, persons per month)

  • Overall operational costs

  • Risks (risk of failure, unanticipated perceived value upon delivery)

  • Costs (internal or buying external goods and services)

  • Story points

Which sub categories you use is up to each team to determine, depending on their resources and priorities.

Determining your priorities with the matrix

Now that you’ve plotted your initiatives on the different quadrants of the matrix, it is time to decide which to include in your roadmap, and in what order.

This is how each quadrant will help you prioritize them:

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Tip:

Instead of placing your items on the quadrants manually, you can back your ratings with weighted scoring to make more objective decisions. Then place them on your “map” This allows you to have a specific weight for each subcategory depending on what’s most important to your business right now. By using a dedicated prioritization tool, this can be done with just a few clicks.

Why we love it

  • Extremely flexible and intuitive:

    applicable across any type of product, organization, and industry due to value and effort criteria taking on a range of metrics.

  • Can be done qualitatively or quantitatively

  • **Resource allocation:**enables you to focus on items that will have the largest impact based on their goals and effort.

  • Objective perspective:

    having inputs from different stakeholders or team members allows us to standardize how we prioritize different initiatives.

  • Aligns stakeholders:

    reaching a common ground on how to prioritize our initiatives allows for stakeholder buy-in.

A few downsides...

  • Could be subject to systematic error:

    usually this is introduced by those estimating how much value or effort each initiative represents. This may result in results being skewed too high or too low.

  • Best for small teams:

    it's hard to implement for teams with large pipelines as well as large teams.

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