Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ease and Impact matrix

I've been reading up strategies for successful project management for a while now. Going through some material on what are the ideal things to do during the project initialization step, I came across another useful tool, Ease and impact matrix. A while back, I had covered Responsibiltiy Assignment Matrix, which is a relevant tool for managing different responsibilities every stakeholder role may have, and associated communication.


Coming back to Ease and impact matrix, when a new project is beginning, a lot of details are still unknown - for example, who are the stakeholders, what is the success criteria, who is responsible for delivering the project, who takes accountability of the developments and so on. At this stage, defining the scope of the project is one of the most critical pieces, as it affects all other timelines for every other part. The basic idea then, is to brainstorm amongst various stakeholders to generate the list of ideas, rank each of these ideas on the basis of ease of doing and impact they create for the organization, and have a chart visualization for the prioritization.

Now those of you who would have worked with bug tracking tools (like bugzilla, JIRA, github issues etc) would be familiar with two fields that most tickets carry - ticket type (bug, task, epic etc) and priority (low to high to blocker). These tickets help in the management of all development during the lifecycle of the project, and if one were to think of it, during any sprint, teams usually pick a mix of tickets (tech debt, critical hotfixes, regular development, maintainence, and so on) to satisfy all their stakeholders. Similarly, organizations regularly use the BCG matrix to evaluate how to invest within their portfolios, based on a matrix of market share of the products and the market growth rate. The common theme with any such matrix solution remains picking up ideas that fall within the best quadrants.

In the case of Ease and impact matrix, this usually follows the pattern: 1) High impact, high ease of doing 2) High Impact, low ease of doing 3) low impact, high ease of doing and 4) low impact, low ease of doing. Depending on the strategic objectives and stakeholder needs, a bunch of ideas can thus be picked, making sure that the goals associated with the project can be SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound).

To build your Ease and impact matrix, you would need to:
  1. Brainstorm with your stakeholders and sponsors to arrive at a list of ideas
  2. Identify the goal of the strategy - make sure that you what is one most important measure that would indicate failure
  3. Rank each of these ideas in terms of impact achieved on the goal - You can use a 1-10 scale to do this, or could even do estimates using t-shirt sizing of the buckets - plot this data along Y axis
  4. Further rank these ideas based on the ease of doing them, and make sure you are using the same scale here (1-10 numbers vs t-shirt sizing) as for impact - plot this data along X axis
  5. Make sure every idea/activity is mapped on the matrix
  6. Priortise within each qudrant, on basis of impact, and then ease of doing:
    1. High impact, High ease of doing: Prioritise these activities as the first to do
    2. High impact, Low ease of doing: Spend more time in planning these activities, as these may otherwise result in poor outcome because of the complexity.
    3. Low impact, High ease of doing: Do these tasks if they are a must for a higher impact task
    4. Low impact, Low ease of doing: Depriortize these activites brutally, and don’t attempt them unless they are necessary for a high impact task.
  7. In general, activities that are hard to do should be the first to be rejected by wavering support from project sponsors.
  8. Depending on the scope of the project, you can even try planning activities in 90 day blocks, while planning the remaining years at the high level only.

And thus, you would have a very relevant framework/tool, which would help you remain focussed and achive due success.

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