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Product Management: Weighted Scoring

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

What is weighted scoring prioritization?

Weighted scoring prioritization is a framework designed to help you decide how to prioritize features and other initiatives on your product roadmap. With this framework, initiatives are scored according to a set of common criteria on a cost-versus-benefits basis, and then ranked by their final scores.

The goal of the weighted scoring approach is to derive an objective, quantitative business value for each competing item on your list. You can then use those values to determine which items should be prioritized on your roadmap.

How is weighted scoring used?

The weighted scoring model can be very useful 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 certain 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 simpler example of weighted scoring—one many of us are familiar with—is the use of it on school tests. Teachers who deem the essay portion of their exams more important than, say, multiple-choice sections, will give those essays a greater percentage of the student’s overall grade than their multiple-choice answers.

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

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, including both costs and benefits, on which you’ll be scoring each of these initiatives.

The screen shot here shows an example of a team using six scoring criteria—three costs, three benefits—on which to rank the relative strategic value of five competing product initiatives.

A screenshot depicting an interface for weighted scoring prioritization

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

For example, let’s say you determine that the benefit “Increase Revenue” should be weighted more heavily 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, and then calculate these overall scores to determine how to rank your list of items.

Read the product manager's guide to prioritization  ➜

Conclusion

Deciding which product features to work on first, or which initiatives should receive the greatest shares of development resources, can often be a complex and subjective process. When product managers use weighted scoring prioritization, they can add objectivity to their roadmap decisions.