The improved prioritization process

  • Create a new prioritization session in PairWise
  • Finalize the objective and add the information details necessary to involve your participants
  • Add your participants, stakeholders, subject matter experts, etc. to the session
  • Build your criteria hierarchy. Criteria is what your organization value and what your participants will prioritize
  • Go through the criteria prioritization using pairwise comparisons. Engage, discuss and learn in the process
  • See the weighted result of your collaborative prioritization
  • Enter your alternatives – the options your organization can choose between to achieve your criteria
  • Evaluate the alternatives against the weighted criteria
  • See the result of your evaluation, i.e. how each alternative score against your organizations criteria
  • Make your decision based on the score to cost ratio of each alternative

 


Session

What is a session?

A session is typically a meeting or a workshop where a team of stakeholders intend to choose between one or more alternative products or services based on their prioritized criteria. For larger scale decisions, a session may comprise several meetings and/or workshops.

Tip

  • Keep the session objective short and descriptive. Once the session is created, you can add a more detailed description for the participants to read (See Objective).

Objective

Example objectives

  • “Purchase computers for the sales department”
  • “Find new office space in London”
  • “Evaluate ongoing projects against our strategy”
  • “Identify business risks and choose mitigating actions”
  • “Hire director for the internal Training department”

Tips

  • The objective of the session should be kept as concise as possible and must be clear to all participants, but the text should also be kept as unbiased as possible to allow for an open dialog between the participants.
  • If possible, keep your text visible within the field. This will allow the full text to be displayed throughout the system.
  • Avoid terms like “best”, “fastest”, “cheapest” when describing the objective. Part of the prioritization process is to identify just which of these (and other) parameters are more important to the participants.

Participants

Participants (stakeholders, project members and subject matter experts) to your session

Who should participate?

You can invite anyone you like to participate in the prioritization session, but some consideration will benefit the outcome

  • The number of participants may affect the time needed to complete the prioritization. Since dialogue is a the heart of collaborative prioritization, make sure that you balance the time available with the number of participants so everyone have amble opportunity to make their arguments and ask their questions
  • All participants will influence the outcome of the session. Make sure that your choice of participants reflect the structure and organisation affected by the prioritization session

Tip

  • A participant will typically be a person, however, in some cases it may be more relevant or manageable to register opinions on a departmental level. In this situation, enter the departmental name/ID instead of the participants name. By doing so, you also allow for more than one participant from each department (or replacement of participants if you host multiple workshops).

Criteria

What is a criterion?

A criterion in PairWise is something your organisation values (which is why we don’t include cost in this step). The complication is, that the value of each criterion will vary from individual to individual as well as between different departments/business units. Sometimes, the value assigned to a specific criterion can be negotiated by exchanging knowledge and experience, other times the assigned value is simply a matter of local preferences or requirements or based on different perspectives on the business.

Criteria will be very different from session to session, but here are a few examples. See more under the #Examples menu item.

  • In a product selection session, the criteria will most likely be product qualities like “durability”, “weight”, “global support”, “screen size”, “user interface”, “references”, and so on.
  • If you are looking to recruit for an open position, criteria could be “experience”, “education”, “references”, “personality”, and “competencies”. In this case, sub-criteria to competencies could be more specific like “fluent in Spanish”, “experienced SAP user”, “experienced educator”.
  • What if you want to evaluate your project portfolio? In this situation, you should take a step back and look at your business strategy or formulated goals. Projects, whether they are in pipeline or ongoing, are not what an organization want, they are a mean to achieve what an organization want. So your criteria could be e.g. “increase cross-selling”, “reduce storage cost”, “attract technical talent”. Once these criteria are prioritized, you can either allocate new project funds according to the scores or evaluate your ongoing projects to see which accommodate your strategy more.
  • Risk management has become a concern for almost every organization today but mitigating all risks may be very costly and reduce business agility (if it’s even possible). Of course, risks are not valued by organizations, but identifying the most critical risks and responding appropriately to them is. Risk criterions may be “physical risk”, “technological risk”, “financial risk”, “brand risk”, etc. Under each of these risk criteria, a number of sub-criteria can easily be identified.

Building your criteria hierarchy

Building the hierarchy is a very important part of the prioritization process. For some prioritization sessions, the hierarchy may be more or less given, eg. it could be that the topic is very well defined or maybe the process is recurring within the business and much of the footwork has already been done. However, if you start with a blank sheet of paper, consider if a top-down (also known as stepwise refinement) or bottom-up approach will be most applicable in the situation.

See also our example page.

Tips

  • If possible, keep your text visible within the field. This will allow the full text to be displayed throughout the system
  • Consider a break after building the criteria hierarchy. The hierarchy is very important for the outcome of the process and prioritizing the wrong criteria means some degree of rework
  • For complex decisions, you may consider to divide the process into a separate “objective and criteria workshop” followed by a prioritization session a few days later

Prioritization

Navigation

The prioritization page contains two elements. Just below the icon menu, you will see a navigation area with one or two rows of blue #tiles, and below the navigation area you will see the #scale grids where each participant vote is registered.

The blue navigation tiles are a visual reflection of the criteria hierarchy you just made. If your hierarchy is without sub-criteria, you will see one wide blue tile. If your hierarchy contains sub-criteria, you will see a second row of blue tiles, one tile for each column of sub-criteria in your hierarchy. To navigate through the process, click the top tile and go to the scale grid to start the prioritization. When all votes are registered, the blue tile turn green. If you added sub-criteria, click the leftmost tile in the second row and go to the scale grid to prioritize your sub-criteria. When all votes are registered, repeat the process through the blue tiles in second row.

Enter priorities

For each pairwise comparison of criteria, ask the participants for their vote and register it by clicking the appropriate circles (#radio button?) in the scale grid.

If the participants appear to agree, i.e. all participants place their vote within two to three adjacent circle columns, then move on to the next scale grid. If the votes are more distributed on the scale, ask the participants to share their perspectives, get the discussion going and learn from the arguments.

When the debate is easing off, ask if any participant want to change his or her vote. The arguments presented may have uncovered new ground and it’s perfectly legit to change the votes based on the discussion. On the other hand, different organizational affiliation, experience or personal preference may result in very distributed votes. That’s fine too.

Scale of priorities

What does the circles mean, exactly? Each scale grid has two criteria listed, one in the top left side and another in the top right side. Nine circles are displayed next to each participant name and between the two criteria. If the participant find, that the two criteria are equally important to the organization (or the participants part of the organization at least), then the vote should be cast in the middle circle. Going one circle to the left (or to the right) of the middle circle means that the criterion on the chosen side is “moderately more important” than the opposed criterion. If the participant find criterion A to be “by far more important” than criterion B, then the vote should be cast in the leftmost circle (given that A is on the left-hand side of the scale).

These are the definitions of each circle

  • By far more important (the leftmost and rightmost circles respectively)
  • Significantly more important
  • More important
  • Moderately more important
  • Equally important (the middle circle)

Weights

The #weights page is purely for reporting.

PairWise displays your criteria hierarchy with the calculated results of the prioritization process.

The top row of tiles reflect the criteria. Each tile will display a figure in the bottom right corner, which is the relative score (out of 100) compared to the other criteria.

If your hierarchy contains sub-criteria, these will be displayed below the criteria. Each sub-criterion will display the relative score (out of the criterias score) compared to other sub-criteria under the same criterion.

Example

“Security” is one of your criteria and it has two sub-criteria “Physical security” and “Data security”. After prioritization is done, “Security” has the relative score 18 (out of 100). During the process, both sub-criteria were prioritized as well. “Physical security” was considered twice as important than “Data security” so the 18 points are split accordingly between to two sub-criteria. “Physical security” gets 12 points and “Data security” gets 6 point. If the criterion “Physical security” had more than two sub-criteria, odds are that all sub-criteria would score less points.

Tip

  • If a criterion or sub-criterion has a very low score (1-3 points) then it may indicate that the criterion isn’t that relevant to include in the prioritization – or that the criteria hierarchy has become too detailed. Maybe you choose to remove the criteria/sub-criteria to get a “cleaner” picture or maybe you want to keep it to communicate the result to the organization. Sometimes, specific topics are “trending” in the organizational conversations and the prioritization result may help balance the discussion going forward.

Alternatives

What are alternatives?

Alternatives are the options you can choose from e.g.: projects, office locations, candidates, products, etc. The nature of your alternatives will almost always be described in your objective. Let’s say your objective is “Find new office space in London”, then your alternatives will be specific office buildings (by names or adresses) and the value parameters of your alternative will be described by your choice of criteria. In this example, the cost you register on each alternative could be the calculated annual cost per square foot (or you could make a more complex calculation including relocation cost, cost of external services, write-offs, etc.).


Evaluation

Navigation

The evaluation page contains two elements. Just below the icon menu, you will see a navigation area with a row of blue #tiles, and below the navigation area you will see the #scale grids where each participant vote is registered.

The blue navigation tiles are a visual representation of each of your criteria/sub-criteria. To navigate through the proces, click the left-most tile first. The criterion text will display below the tiles. Then go to the scale grid to start the evaluation of the alternatives against this particular criterion. When all votes are registered, the blue tile turn green. Click the next blue tile in the row and repeat the process until all tiles are green.

Enter scores

For each pairwise comparison of alternatives, ask the participants for their vote and register it by clicking the appropriate circles (#radio button?) in the scale grid.

If the participants appear to agree, i.e. all participants place their vote within two to three adjacent circle columns, then move on to the next scale grid. If the votes are more distributed on the scale, ask the participants to share their perspectives, get the discussion going and learn from the arguments.

When the debate is easing off, ask if any participant want to change his or her vote. The arguments presented may have uncovered new ground and it’s perfectly legit to change the votes based on the discussion. On the other hand, different organizational affiliation, experience or personal preference may result in very distributed votes. That’s fine too.

Understanding the scale

What does the circles mean, exactly? Each scale grid has two alternatives listed, one in the top left side and another in the top right side. Nine circles are displayed next to each participant name and between the two alternatives. If the participant find, that the two alternatives are equally good for the organization (or the participants part of the organization at least), then the vote should be cast in the middle circle. Going one circle to the left (or to the right) of the middle circle means that the alternative on the chosen side is “moderately better” than the opposed alternative. If the participant find alternative A to be “by far better” than alternative B, then the vote should be cast in the leftmost circle (given that A is on the left-hand side of the scale).

These are the definitions of each circle

  • By far better (the leftmost and rightmost circles respectively)
  • Significantly better
  • Better
  • Moderately better
  • Equally good (the middle circle)

Result

PairWise displays your alternatives in the top horizontal row of tiles. Each tile will display a figure in the bottom right corner, which is the relative score (out of 100) compared to the other alternatives.

Below the alternatives, you’ll see a representation of your criteria hierarchy. Each criterion and sub-criterion has an icon in the bottom right corner. Click the icon to expand the tile and see how each alternative scored on this particular criterion or sub-criterion. Click the icon again to collapse the tile.


Decision

The scatter chart displays each of the alternatives by their relative score (X-axis) and their actual cost (Y-axis) respectively. Based on your previous discussions, prioritization and evaluation, PairWise now provide you with a score/cost indication of each alternative. It is now up to you to decide which alternatives to move on with.

Sometimes the choice is easy. Whether you need to pick one alternative (e.g. a product or service) or more alternatives (e.g. for a project portfolio), you will quickly be able spot the winner(s) or at least identify the less attractive alternatives. Other times, it may be a bit more tricky: even though the alternatives come with a very different price tag, they may (more or less) deliver the same score/cost ratio. If this is the case, your decision may be influenced by financing options, risks involved, going with your current vendor or the like. Given that you have identified the right criteria and followed the process, the positive message is that no choice will be a bad choice in this situation.


Help

You can always get context-sensitive help by clicking the icon in the top right side of the screen. This will display the help pane in the right-hand side of the screen. To close the help pane, just click the icon again and the pane will disappear.

See the Help page


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