Have you ever tried to find a good “how to” article or a good strategy overview written for professional website managers?

I did. And I could find plenty of good stuff aimed at the “I love thinking about the Internet” set or the “I love cutting edge web technology” set. But very little at the “I am running a website group at a real company” set.

Although techie articles and pie-in-the-sky articles have their place, when you need real answers for real problems they just don’t give you what you need. You want actionable answers not down-in-the-dirt details or information about macro trends on the Internet.

So I set out to make a website that provides actionable answers to the questions that website managers ask on the topics that matter. Topics like:

  • Project Management finding big problems, coming up with solutions and mobilizing the teams to get the problem solved
  • Content Management slicing and dicing through requests for new web pages, getting the pieces together and getting it live without hiring a legion of web producers
  • Internet Marketing getting the folks to the site, getting them on the list, and then getting them through the funnel to sales or a shopping cart
  • Web Development developing the technology that makes it all possible

And while those are pretty big topics, they are the topics you deal with every day when you run a big-ish website. And if you hang with me, I am going to spill the good stuff I learned from doing this stuff myself.

The next question you are thinking is… who is this guy?

Use a Decision Matrix for Website Project Selection Series (Complete)

Bursting into my office a co-worker started ranting, "This is completely [expletive deleted] irrational. Why, the [expletive deleted], are we redesigning the press release section, again, when we could make a ton of money making user access to the support site require a maintenance contract?"

I agreed. It was completely irrational. Why would we do a low impact project now and defer the high impact project until later? Wasn’t that completely backwards?

And this was part of a larger problem. Our project to-do list was filled with every project that anyone ever dreamed up. And it seemed like all the pet projects from the politically powerful were at the top of the list and the high impact project languished, undone at the bottom.

Even though we had gotten good at executing projects, our ability to select the right projects to execute sucked.

What we needed was a rational project selection process.

We needed a process that would rate the impact of each project so we could objectively compare them. We needed a process that would separate the high impact projects we should fast track for implementation from the lower impact projects we should defer. A process that would reject the very low value projects before they got on the project list. And this process should objective reducing the chance of folks talking low impact, pet projects on to the list as well.

Yeah, that’s it. Good-bye politics. Hello rational decision.

So if this situation sounds at all familiar, you are wondering, “what’s the fix? I have this problem too”. We implemented a decision matrix process. And after some work implementing in our organization, it actually worked. Rationality broke out all over our project selection process. It was great.

A decision matrix works by turning the total benefit of a project into a numeric score. But instead of launching into bunch of techno-babble describing how it works, it’s going to be easier to understand if we just walk through an example.

How to Make a Website Project Decision Matrix

In this example, we will make decision matrix and then use it to evaluate the “press release redesign” and “support site requires maintenance contract” from the "Rationalize Your Project Selection Process” article.

1. Make an impact driver chart – First, we need to make a list of different project impact drivers we want to measure. Revenue gain, costs savings and strategic value are things that clearly drive any project’s impact. And there are tons of other benefits we could add. But to keep it simple just add website usability improvements and availability of funding for the project.

Impact Drivers for Website Project Selection Decision Matrix

2. Assign ranges for each impact driver – To make scoring consistent and remove as much debate from how each impact driver should be scored as possible, give each impact driver a series of ranges for their possible values. Then we assign each range a score of 0, 1, 3 or 5.

Impact Driver Scores for Website Project Selection Decision Matrix

3. Weight each impact driver - Each impact driver offers a different amount of benefit to a project - revenue increases of real money is a lot bigger indication of project impact than funding availability for instance - so we want to weigh each impact driver differently. Think of each impact driver weight as a percentage of the whole project impact; We want the total weight to equal 100%.

Weighted Impact Drivers for Website Project Selection Decision Matrix

4. Make the decision matrix – Now that we have set up our impact driver chart, we need to make the decision matrix itself.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix

5. Score your projects – This is the fun part. "Press Releases Redesign" project has funding and improves usability but doesn't add revenue, reduce costs or even have strategic value. But the "Support Site Requires Maintenance Contract " project increases revenue, has some strategic value but is a little short on funding.
Our scores, as computed using the impact driver chart, go in the score column. The weighted score is the score times the weight from the impact driver chart. Then we total up the weighted scores to get the projects total impact score.

Scored Website Projects in a Project Selection Decision Matrix

6. Bask in the brilliance of it – Now it’s clear that the “press release redesign” project doesn’t pack the impact of the “Support Site Requires Maintenance Contract” project. And our decision matrix will work for every project that comes our way. Nice.

But before you rush off and slam this process into your organization, it's important to note that getting good organizational results can be tricky. Here are a few tips on organizational roll out for your website project roadmap.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix Organization Roll Out

Now that we have made our website project selection matrix, here are a couple of tips to rolling out your website project selection decision matrix into your organization a success:

Tailor your impact driver list – The example’s impact driver list isn’t the right impact list for your group, so you will want to tailor it. Some of types of impact drivers you might want to add are: financial performance (Internal rate of return, project payback), technical (complexity, reusability), resources (funding, staff, materials cost), strategic value (project strategic fit, strategic direction fit), risk (business, technical). I'd recommend at least 6 impact drivers but less than 12 with a good balance between technical and business drivers.

Set a minimum impact score – Make a minimum impact score that a project must score above to be implemented. This will weed out the projects that are simply not worth the money to implement and save a lot of needless discussion.

Set up a project selection group – Try to build a group of decision makers, not lackeys, from the business, marketing, and technical groups you do work for. Use this group to help guide the project selection process. I’d recommend meeting with this group at least quarterly.

Work through the decision matrix as a group – Working through the decision matrix as a group will help everyone understand each project’s issues and trade offs, and help draw consensus between the groups where it’s possible. Where consensus is not possible, I recommend that you, as the website honcho, break the tie.

Develop a high-level project roadmap - Project selection using this process is great but when can they generally expect these great projects to be complete? A high-level schedule of upcoming projects, also called a project roadmap, will help everyone understand when the good stuff is scheduled to appear.

It's pretty easy to see how using a project selection decision matrix can really transform the way your organization thinks about projects. It may be so transformational that you could see the folks sponsoring projects think about the value of a new project before they propose them. Give the decision matrix process a try in your organization and let me know how it goes.

Interested in learning more about a decision matrix?

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix Resources

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix – Technique

The Project selection decision matrix technique described here is a project management best practice as defined by the project management institute (PMI). Except the PMI would call this a scoring model.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix - Websites

American Society for Quality has a pretty good description of using a decision matrix but be prepared to wade through some technical terms and general geekery.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix - Books

Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools (Best Practices (Microsoft)) - Karl E. Wiegers
This book is among the best I have seen for down to earth practical project management techniques. And the section on project selection is excellent. This book is highly recommended.