The value/effort matrix is a feature prioritization model used to build effective product roadmaps. The value/effort matrix allows product managers to prioritize their product backlog using a confident, structured approach. The product team learns how to plan an effective roadmap, identify boundaries of work, and differentiate between needs and wants.
Understanding the value/effort matrix
Prioritization is a vital component of product management and the product development lifecycle.
However, many product managers tend to prioritize minor customer complaints or some shiny new idea they thought of yesterday. Many managers are also ill-equipped to make important decisions – whether through a lack of experience or access to appropriate tools or processes. As a result, the product backlog can quickly become a recess for hundreds of unnecessary features or bugs.
Ultimately, effective prioritization means striking a balance between delivering value and the resources available.
The next section will detail how this balance might be achieved.
Using the value/effort matrix
The value/effort matrix is a 2×2 matrix with:
- Effort on the x-axis, defined as the resources needed to complete a task. That is, how difficult will the task be to complete?
- Value on the y-axis, defined as the business or product value a feature will bring. Value can be defined in several ways. How will the feature help gain new customers? How many customers will the feature impact? How does the feature help the business make money? Does the feature increase product virality?
For both value and effort, the team should create a scoring system and rank each feature accordingly. A sample scoring system is provided below:
- 1 – minimal value/extra small effort.
- 5 – low value/small effort.
- 8 – medium value/medium effort.
- 13 – high value/large effort.
- 20 – super-high value/extra-large effort.
The team can then plot each feature on the matrix according to its value and effort score, landing in one of four quadrants:
- Time sinks (low value/high effort) – or tasks that should be left until last or abandoned altogether.
- Fill-ins (low value/low effort) – this describes features that can be completed during periods of low activity between other project tasks.
- Quick wins (high value/low effort) – these tasks should be prioritized to build momentum and boost team morale.
- Big projects (high value/high effort) – or valuable features that are complex and resource-intensive. These often long-term projects must be backed by detailed plans.
Lastly, the value/effort matrix must be revisited periodically. Information derived from customer feedback, analytics, and A/B testing should be fed back into the matrix to reassess each feature.
- The value/effort matrix is a feature prioritization model used in product development.
- The value/effort matrix helps product managers make structured and confident feature prioritization decisions. This ensures the product backlog does not become overwhelmed with low-value initiatives.
- The value/effort matrix evaluates features on a matrix consisting of four quadrants: time sinks, fill-ins, quick wins, and big projects. The evaluation process should be repeated periodically as new insights come to hand.
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