As a project manager, there will be times you find yourself facing difficult decisions. Sometimes, there’s no obvious right or wrong answer and you need to weigh the pros and cons of each option to make a well-informed choice.

A decision matrix can be a useful tool for helping project managers break down their options and assess them systematically. But what are decision matrices, and how can you use them as part of your next killer project plan?

In this guide, we’ll look at how a decision matrix and other similar tools, such as the Eisenhower matrix, can assist you when making important decisions. We’ll also look at how monday.com’s suite of apps and integrations can help streamline your project management processes.

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What is a decision matrix?

A decision matrix is a chart or table that helps project managers understand their available options. Creating a decision matrix requires thinking about the project’s priorities and which factors are most important. In many ways, a decision-making matrix is similar to a list of pros and cons; however, most matrices go deeper than this, assigning relative values to each option and also giving factors different weightings.

For example, if you need to purchase new laptops for members of a specific team, you may wish to consider:

  • Memory
  • Storage space
  • Battery life
  • Processing power
  • Portability
  • Price

Ideally, you’d want a laptop with high specifications, long battery life, and a low price. Realistically, you’ll likely end up compromising on some factors. If your employees need to run software that has a requirement of 8GB RAM, any laptop with less memory than that would be automatically rejected.

You may have a budget of $10,000 to purchase 10 laptops, so any laptop costing more than $1,000 per unit would also be automatically rejected.

Once you’ve worked out those issues, you can prioritize the others. Let’s imagine these employees spend most of their time in offices, so portability and long battery life are “nice to have,” but not required.

You’ve sought feedback from the team and they’d rather have more processing power and storage space than a sleek, thin device. Therefore, you’ll weigh the laptops that score well in those areas more highly than the ultra-portable models.

“Decision matrix” is a part of our Project Management Glossary — check out the full list of terms and definitions!

Decision matrices vs. other forms

There are several ways of analyzing your options and making decisions. The decision-making matrix is just one option. Other tools include:

  • The Eisenhower matrix
  • Stakeholder analysis maps
  • Brainstorming

These tools serve a slightly different purpose, as we’re about to explore:

Eisenhower matrices

The Eisenhower decision matrix is used for prioritizing tasks. It uses a 2×2 grid to help prioritize tasks by importance and urgency. If you have a long list of different tasks or issues and need to decide what order to work on them in, this matrix is useful. The Eisenhower matrix divides tasks up into the following categories:

Urgent and important jobsLess urgent but still important jobs
Urgent but not important jobsLess urgent and not important jobs

 

The jobs in the top left quadrant are ones your team should work on as soon as possible. The top right quadrant is also important but can be deferred. Jobs in the lower left quadrant are ones that should be done but can be outsourced or delegated. The lower right quadrant lists jobs that are not a priority and that can be looked at if there’s time, or even ignored.

Stakeholder analysis maps

The stakeholder analysis map is used to categorize stakeholders based on their levels of interest and influence in the project. Knowing who your stakeholders are and how much attention to pay to each group is essential in enterprise project management.

Stakeholders who are both high influence and high interest should be involved in the decision-making process, while those who are low influence and low interest are less important and only need to be informed about major changes. This map doesn’t directly influence the decision-making process, but it can be useful when considering how much stakeholder feedback to take into account.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is often the first step in making any decision. If you need to make decisions about issues where you’re relying on qualitative feedback or simply don’t have much data to go on, brainstorming among your team and talking to key stakeholders can help you reach a consensus on how to progress with the project.

Now that you understand how decision matrices compare to other methods of analyzing options, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of decision matrices and what they might include.

Pros and cons of decision matrices

Using a decision matrix makes a lot of sense if you’re faced with a decision that has a couple of available options, and the criteria you’re weighing are quantitative. This tool is particularly useful for breaking down decisions where you’ve got between three and eight quantitative criteria to consider. Decision matrices are less useful when a decision is being made based on qualitative criteria, or if there’s a long list of criteria to consider.

For simpler decisions where there are just a couple of options and you’re weighing a short list of qualitative criteria, a more traditional list of short pros and cons may be more useful and easier to understand.

For very complex decisions, the decision-making matrix may become unwieldy and difficult to understand. Weighting the importance of specific criteria can assist with the process of interpreting the matrix, but if you’re dealing with more than eight criteria, other tools could be more useful.

A decision matrix is an informative tool that takes the emotion out of major decisions.

What does a decision matrix include?

A decision matrix includes a list of possible options for the project and a list of the factors that go into making the decision. Optionally, it may also include weightings for each factor. For example, if you’re planning a company party at the end of the year, you may need to decide how to transport attendees from multiple sites to the party. Your matrix may look something like this:

 

decision matrix for transportation

You’d work through the matrix and rate each option on a scale of 1 to 5 for each factor. In this case, a higher score means a better option. For example, having attendees get there on their own using public transit would be the cheapest option, but it might stop people from being able to attend if they can’t get home at the end of the party due to inconvenient bus times.

Using the entertainment budget to rent taxis would be convenient, but also probably expensive and may not be covered by your insurance. As you work through the matrix, you can total the scores for each category, and the option with the highest score is the “best” according to the matrix.

Now that you know the major components of a decision matrix, let’s take a look at how to develop a project with one.

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Developing a project with a decision matrix

You can apply a decision matrix to any decision where you have a good idea of the factors that matter the most. Decision matrices aren’t binding documents either, and many project managers use them as simply another tool to help them understand their projects.

For example, you may complete a weighted decision matrix for getting employees to that end-of-year party and discover that renting a minibus is the best option on paper. However, intuitively you may feel that the matrix has come to the wrong conclusion.

If you find yourself feeling that way, that’s a sign you need to reconsider the criteria you put into the matrix. Yes, the minibus is affordable, accessible, and gives you control over timings, but the only company serving your area has old buses that are uncomfortable and unpleasant to ride in for the long journey you have planned.

Comfort wasn’t something you’d put in the matrix at all. As you can see, even if you disagree with the matrix’s conclusions, using one can help you see the issues in your project more clearly. It’s the act of putting your thoughts down on paper in such a systematic way that matters.

Using monday.com to create a decision matrix

Creating your first decision matrix can be daunting. Fortunately, there are tools and templates out there to help you. monday.com Work OS and its collection of integrations and tools for project management are useful for any project manager who needs some help to get started.

monday.com helps you take your project management to the next level. Rather than simply relying on Gantt charts, Work OS offers templates, reporting tools, and software integrations to help you communicate more effectively with your team, track the progress of your project, and work more efficiently.

For more decision matrix support, check out our FAQs below.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a decision matrix?

A decision matrix is a table that lists options as rows and the factors you’d need to consider to make a decision as columns. Each option is given a score for each factor, and the factors can be weighted based on their importance. In theory, the option with the highest score is the best option to take.

Why are decision matrices useful in project management?

Decision matrices remove the emotional aspects of making important decisions and help project managers think systematically about the decisions they’re making.

Managers aren’t bound to obey the results of a decision matrix. If they disagree with the result, this can be taken as a sign to reconsider the weightings awarded to each category.

Inform your project management with decision matrices

Building a decision matrix can give you clarity on which factors should be considered the most closely when making decisions. If you have many quantitative factors to take into account, a decision matrix can guide you towards the best overall option. Take advantage of the integrations and templates from monday.com to be prompted through the process of building a decision matrix, stakeholder survey, or other similar tools.