The foolproof way to prioritise tasks in agile development

Which is the most important task to work on right now? When working in an agile environment, this needs to be crystal clear to everybody involved. Is it a newly discovered priority 1 bug or maybe the most critical feature for this sprint? Who decides? The product manager, the team or the stakeholder that shouts the most? I’ve seen it all in many organisations and then only way to get around it really is to agree on a way to measure what’s critical.

The impact matrix is one of many ways to prioritise among user stories, bugs and minor features and to me it’s close to foolproof. Why? Because any way you use this, it will make a big impact for your product and it’s also really easy to use.

Just ask these two questions for every task: “How many of our users will this affect?” and “How often will the average user benefit from it?” Then use the scales and place your task in one of the squares. Top right tasks are high priority!

You can do this during sprint planning or in the middle of a sprint. It doesn’t matter, because the answer should always be the same.
Here is a Google Doc with the matrix ready for you to use today!

For most tasks it will be easy to use it, and for some cases harder. For example: If you’re looking to build a tracking-feature that will allow marketing to acquire ten times as many users as before, this needs to be measured on that scale. Not that it’s 4 people at marketing using a feature often.

This is not my invention, but unfortunately I have lost the source (a blog post). If you know it’s origin, please notify me and I’ll add it. Also I’d like to test this on non tech work too, as it could be used in any department. Let me know if you’ll try it!