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Task Prioritization: Prioritizing using Effort and Confidence

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on Task Prioritization.

Yesterday, I talked about the first two factors in task prioritization, Reach and Value. Today, I’ll talk about two other key factors that should be taken into consideration:

  • Effort: How difficult is this to accomplish?
  • Confidence: How confident am I in my estimates?

Effort, usually measured in time (days) or in “points” (a measure of effort you define yourself), takes into consideration the amount of time it will take to complete a task. This is really important to take into consideration in conjunction to the factors we discussed yesterday, because often times high Reach and Value tasks take a long time to complete. For example, moving simple pieces of previously written and tested code to different parts of the site is pretty straightforward, so it would score as a low effort. Building entirely new customer experiences, on the other hand, take more time because the experience must be designed and new code has to be written and tested.

Confidence, measured as a percentage, is a way to take uncertainty into consideration. Ideally, you will be able to measure your estimates for Reach and Value based on customer usage data from your product, customer surveys, or other research you’ve conducted and Effort with the engineering team’s input. However, that information is not going to be available in all cases, so you might have to use your best judgement. In the cases where your estimates for the factors are well-researched, you should use a high Confidence value closer to 100%. The more you have to rely on only gut instinct, the more you should discount your Confidence. For example, to the extent possible you would want to estimate the Reach, Value, and Effort of a task by using customer usage data from your product or other research you’ve conducted and in doing so you can be confident in your estimates of these factors. However, if you don’t have any data to support your your hypotheses, then you can use the Confidence factor to adjust for that.

Now that we’ve outlined the four primary factors in prioritization scoring, tomorrow we will talk about how we can map each measurement to a number that we can plug into a formula.

The Task Prioritization series