Weighted Scoring

Weighted scoring prioritization uses numerical scoring to rank your strategic initiatives against benefit and cost categories. It is helpful for product teams looking for objective prioritization techniques that factor in multiple layers of data.

This prioritization framework helps you decide how to prioritize features and other initiatives on your product roadmap. With this framework, initiatives are scored according to standard criteria. The criteria are based on a cost-versus-benefits basis and then ranked by their final scores.

The goal of the weighted scoring approach is to derive quantitative value for each competing item on your list. You can then use those values to determine which items your team can prioritize on your roadmap.

How is weighted scoring used?

The weighted scoring model can be instrumental in product management, but its utility is not limited to this field.

For example, if a company wanted to select the right piece of capital equipment among several choices, they might create a common set of metrics—a combination of both benefits and costs—to score each piece of equipment.

The “weighted” aspect of the scoring process comes from the fact that the company will deem specific criteria more important than others and will, therefore, give those criteria a higher potential portion of the overall score. Continuing with this example, the company might assign more “weight” to the complexity or time to implement a given piece of equipment than it assigns to the cost of buying it.

A more straightforward example of weighted scoring—one many of us are familiar with—is its use on school tests. Teachers who deem the essay portion of their exams more important than multiple-choice sections will give those essays a more significant percentage of the student’s overall grade than their multiple-choice answers.

Using this same thinking, students who have a small quiz and a final exam approaching soon in the same class will intuitively give more attention to preparing for the last. Overall, this is because they understand the final exam will have a greater weight on their overall grade in the class.

How do you calculate weighted scoring?

To do the math, you must first define a few parameters. To begin, determine how you will be evaluating each potential item. For example, you might use Increase Trial, Increase Usage, and Increase Revenue.

For each of those, you need to set the “weight then.” Depending on the stage of the business, that may change. An increasing trial might be most important if it’s early days, while a more mature company would focus on increasing revenue. In this case, we’ll assume it’s still early on, so we’ll weigh accordingly:

How do you analyze weighted scoring results?

The example above shows how significant weighting can be in assessing the strategic value of a given project at this particular time. In six months or a year, the business might be much more focused on revenue and reverse the ranking.

Overall, this highlights the importance of weighting potential development items based on the current strategy. Adding a shopping cart is still a great idea and crucial to the business’s long-term success. But right now, it’s not nearly as important as signing up more users.

This extra layer of context lets the product team and executives dig even deeper into connecting the work in the trenches with the product’s current goals and objectives. You can also group these items into themes, slot them into the roadmap according to when the business’s priorities align with their weighted scores.

How can product managers use weighted scoring?

In a product context, weighted scoring prioritization works as follows.

Step 1: Compile a list of the features and other initiatives under consideration.

Step 2: Devise a list of criteria. This includes both costs and benefits, on which you’ll be scoring each of these initiatives.

Step 3: Determine the respective weights of each criterion you’ll use to evaluate your competing initiatives.

  • For example, let’s say you determine that the benefit “Increase Revenue” should be weighted significantly in the overall score than the cost “Implementation Effort.” Then you will want to assign a greater percentage of the overall score to Increase Revenue.

Step 4: Assign individual scores for each potential feature or initiative across all of your cost-and-benefit metrics. Then calculate these overall scores to determine how to rank your list of items.

Why use a benefits vs. costs lens when conducting weighted scoring?

All features and projects are unique, and it’s irresponsible to evaluate these items purely based on their merits. It’s not a fair comparison if one project will take a week and the other will take a year.

Consequently, factoring costs as part of the equation creates a more comprehensive view and realistic analysis. Without considering the aspects of each item, your prioritization exercise should remain grounded in reality. If not,  and you’ll end up with a bunch of great ideas that take too long.

Next Steps

Allocating the development features to specific product features is a complex process. When product managers use weighted scoring prioritization, they can add objectivity to their roadmap decisions.

Weighted scoring matrices work for prioritization work, not just traditional product development. They apply to any situation where you’re weighing the costs and benefits of different options. These three weighted scoring matrices examples show how to use weighted scoring for the product, marketing activities, and enterprise IT projects.

Weighted scoring uses numbers and math to reach its conclusions. The data derived is a concrete indicator that can help align stakeholders. There may still be challenges, but they’ll be around the underlying assumptions.

Does that look Greek to you? Do you need help with your Product, Strategy or Business? I can help, lets talk!