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Weighted Scoring

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What is weighted scoring?

The weighted scoring decision matrix is a powerful quantitative technique. It evaluates a set of choices (such as ideas or projects, for example) against a set of criteria you need to take into account (strategic fit, revenue increase, risks, costs, hours/days required)

It also is known as a “weighted decision matrix model”.

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Important:

This is often referred to as a "prioritization matrix", which is an umbrella term that’s also used to describe the Value vs Effort model. This crossover can often be a source of confusion. But don’t worry, we’ll be sure to be very clear about what we are talking about.

There are two main types of decision matrix: weighted and unweighted. The unweighted decision matrix assumes all criteria have the same importance while the weighted one applies different weights.

Weighted scoring and its decision matrix technique is not only widely applicable, but also one of the best ways to tackle important and complex decisions.

When should you use a weighted scoring decision matrix?

The weighted decision matrix is particularly useful, specifically when you have:

  • Many choices (such as different features, projects, and campaigns).

  • Multiple decision criteria to consider (such as strategic fit, costs, risk, and customer value) with similar or varying levels of importance.

It's exceptionally powerful when you have to choose between multiple promising options and need to consider many criteria, or when you need to allocate limited resources to multiple options.

By extensively evaluating your choices and quantifying the process, you'll be able to greatly reduce (and in many cases remove) emotion and guesswork from the decision process. This enables rational and objective decisions every time.

A dedicated prioritization tool like airfocus (shown below) allows you to set this up in minutes, but you can find how to recreate it with your own tools in our prioritization guide.

How to create a weighted scoring 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 another VOOM Video App example they are:

  • Google calendar integration

  • New onboarding

  • Slack bot

2. Determine influencing criteria

Brainstorm what criteria will affect those decisions (this could be things like strategic fit, revenue increase, costs, project hours, and risk of failure, for example). List these criteria as columns.

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Tip:

Positive criteria usually represent your current product or business goals.

Using costs and or project hours (or something similar) is a good starting point for negative criteria.

Sometimes deciding whether to add criteria can be a bit of a trade-off

  • Having fewer criteria makes the prioritization process easier and less time-consuming.

  • Leaving criteria out makes your model completely blind to this type of impact.

3. Weigh your criteria

Weigh 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 starting from an insignificant to greater impact). This helps to calculate the relative importance of each criteria.

4. Rate each choice for each criteria

Evaluate your different choices against the criteria. While using your defined 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 flip side, high development costs should result in a low Costs Value because high costs are negative.

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Tip:

Using a dedicated prioritization tool allows you to combine different value types like 1-5, any given amount of money (like $500 USD), or T-shirt sizes (S, M, L, XL) as well as scoring directions.

5. Calculate the weighted scores

Multiply each of the choice ratings by their corresponding weight.

6. Calculate the total scores

Sum up each of the choices and compare the total scores.

3 pro tips before you get started

Now you know how to get started with a weighted decision matrix. Before you go ahead, check out these three essential tips to avoid common pitfalls:

1. Remove all unnecessary choices

Before you start creating your weighted decision matrix, identify what sort of criteria you think a winning choice requires. Does it need to meet a minimum amount of attributes? Does it need to align with a certain goal? By doing this, you will quickly eliminate unnecessary options. Removing all unnecessary items and criteria is a step towards simpler prioritization. Ultimately, this saves time and yields better results.

2. Rate each criteria separately

When it comes to considering each criteria, be sure to isolate it from all other criteria on the list. This will help you make an objective decision, putting this one criteria into perspective. You'll also be able to make a more unbiased score without being influenced by other factors.

3. Keep the decision matrix up to date

External realities (like a new competitor, for example), as well as internal goals and considerations (such as budget cuts), can change quickly. So, watch out for any new factors and update your decision matrix accordingly.

Why we love it

  • It creates transparency and agreement

    about the importance of each prioritization factor in the decision-making process.

  • It’s one of the most comprehensive methods

    of comparing numerous initiatives thanks to its linear layout.

  • It vastly reduces emotional bias

    , as it is based on objective metrics that affect the viability of the feature in question.

A few downsides...

  • Could be subject to inherent bias:

    criteria weight can be under or overestimated based on other criteria.

  • Blind to externalities

    : doesn’t consider changing internal and external factors (new entrants).

  • Dependencies are not considered:

    this can be problematic as dependencies are an important consideration when prioritizing.

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