10 Ways to Design an Impact Effort Matrix

Aloha fellow visual collaborators!

In this blog post, I'll be discussing the benefits of using the Impact Effort Matrix (also known as the ‘Value Effort Matrix’) as a framework in your workshop, and why visualizing it can enhance the effectiveness and engagement of the exercise.

What is an Impact Effort Matrix?

If you’re brand new to The Impact vs Effort Matrix, here’s the lowdown: it’s a super useful decision making tool that helps you organise tasks or projects based on the level of impact to be made - versus effort required.

By assessing these two factors, you can focus your team's efforts on what matters most to make efficient use of both your time and resources.

It’s also insanely easy to design, and pretty quick to complete. So definitely a nice prioritization tool to have in your pocket - and who doesn't love a good prioritization tool, riiiiright?

Who is it for?

Now, you might be thinking, "Who can use this tool?" Anyone involved in decision-making or prioritization of tasks or projects can benefit from the Impact Effort Matrix, including:

  • Project managers
  • Product owners
  • Visual Facilitators
  • Team leaders
  • Designers
  • Developers
  • Marketers
  • Salespeople
  • Business analysts
  • Consultants

What are the benefits?

Here are some benefits of using an impact effort matrix:

  1. Prioritization: The prioritization matrix helps you focus on what matters most, making the most efficient use of your time and resources.
  2. Clarity: By assessing impact and effort, you can gain clarity on which tasks or projects are high priority and which ones can wait. This reduces confusion and helps you communicate priorities more effectively.
  3. Efficiency: The matrix helps you make the most efficient use of your resources by focusing on high-impact tasks that require less effort. This can improve productivity and reduce waste.
  4. Decision-making: The matrix provides a visual representation of the trade-offs between impact and effort, making it easier to make informed decisions about which tasks or projects to pursue.
  5. Collaboration: By using the matrix collaboratively, you can engage your team in the prioritization process and gain buy-in on the tasks or projects you decide to pursue.
  6. Flexibility: The matrix can be adapted to suit different contexts and situations, making it a versatile tool that can be used across a range of industries and roles.

Why visualise the Impact / Effort Matrix?

Ok, so technically the Impact Effort Matrix is already ‘visual’.

It’s made from a 2/2 square, with arrows along both the y-axis (Impact) and the x-axis (Effort). It will generally look like this…

Impact / Effort matrix examples from Google

I think you might agree that while they're perfectly functional, they’re also pretty dull, and they don’t allure us into the exercise.

And that’s why I L😍VE making things visual. Because visual communication has the power to not only communicate context and direct actions, but to also draw us into the task, and make us want to be there.

Visualizing the Impact Effort Matrix can take this exercise to a whole new level.

How to design an engaging Impact / Effort Matrix

“The proof is in the pudding” of course. So I asked myself “How might I redesign the Impact Effort Matrix template in 10 different ways using the hand drawn icons from the CNVS library, with the constraint that:

  • the design doesn’t overcomplicate the exercise
  • the style enhances the ambience for different brand personalities
  • exercise actions and results are contextually clear

The Results

No items found.

While the examples vary in tone and layout, the approach remains the same. Which means you need never get bored of using the same framework - ever! 🎉

Visual design is a core component of visual facilitation, and this example shows that even the simplest of frameworks can be painted in a way that emotes personality and energy.

And of course I had to put it into practice myself, which you can see in this Impact Effort Matrix example…

Using the Impact Effort Matrix

Step 1.

I jotted down ideas and requests I currently have for the CNVS Product Backlog into the workshop canvas. I then tidied them up using the Miro auto layout feature.

Using the Impact vs Effort Matrix to brainstorm ideas on a hand drawn workshop template from CNVS

Step 2.

I plotted my items out according to the Impact scale on the y-axis.

I’m not going to lie, it was quite hard to do this solo - there is much power to be taken from collaboration and input from others. But I think they are good enough to move forward - the CNVS community feature voting will continually inform the process anyways.

Hand-drawn illustration of an Impact Effort Matrix and clustering sticky notes along the y-axis for Impact

Step 3

I incorporated the Effort scale along the x-axis and moved my content horizontally to the right places

Great design of a hand drawn Impact Effort workshop template with sticky notes clustered

Step 4

I used the following categories to plot out upcoming collections, based on

  • Priority to the quick wins
  • 1 or 2 Phased Collections per product release
  • Filler remains but comes after the quick wins
  • ‘Nope’ means ‘Nope til I get enough user feedback that’s what they want’
Visual collaboration workshop template for an Impact Effort Prioritization Matrix with hand drawn illustration and hand drawn icon from the CNVS visual library

Watch it in action

If you’ve not quite had enough yet, I wanted to challenge myself to create the Impact Effort Matrix grid in less than two minutes. Watch how I get on over in this quick demo video.

Last thoughts

So, there you have it - the impact effort matrix in all its visual glory, plus a nice quick demo on how to make one yourself.

If you're looking for a visual collaboration tool to help you prioritize tasks or projects, make informed decisions, and improve efficiency and collaboration, the Impact Effort Matrix is definitely worth checking out.

And with a little creativity and visualization, you might even find yourself looking forward to your next prioritization exercise.

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