PERSPECTIVE: Prioritization Revealed


IT manager are under consistent pressure to make priority decisions. Especially, when supporting multiple business units. Every day we receive a much amount of change requests, incidents and problems that we cannot handle at the same day. Making the right decision, on what we should work on next is vital to justify IT existence and business viability!

Like most IT activities prioritization is challenging and requires a considerable mental effort! Fortunately, to make our life easier, ITIL suggest a very intuitive approach for prioritization.

Priority is a factor of Impact and Urgency. Urgency is our tolerance to time; how long we can wait before handling the issue. Urgency simply is the time factor.

Impact is the relative importance, regardless of this time tolerance. It is the measure of the effect on the business. While determining urgency is simple, determining impact is the a bit tricky.

Below some tips for determining the business importance/effect for any task, defect and change

  1. Agree with the business on the Vital Business Functions (VBF) and their importance. What are the most important business functions that the business cannot continue without? All issues related to these functions should be assigned the highest impact.The list of VBFs should be agreed with upper business management and should be agreed on board of directors’ level.
    It is worth mentioning that compiling this list and sharing it with everyone in IT department is vital for having consistent impact analysis.
  2. Requests can be categorized into 3 main categories:
    1. Functional: bottom-line, this is what the customer wants. It is the functionality that supports a new or changed business process.
    2. Usability: is related to ease of use and flow for performing a certain process or functionality e.g. wizard, single entry point process….etc
    3. Management: this is related to monitoring the functionality, log actions, collect data…etc.

    Usually functional request have the highest priority since the impact is directly reflected on business, then comes usability, then management.

  3. Consider Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. Estimated time to complete a task and its complexity should not affect it’s priority. Priority should be driven by urgency and business impact only.
  4. Develop a reliable Configuration Management System (CMS). A reliable CMS will be of great help to perform impact analysis to understand the effect the change or problem fix will have on other components and services. CMS is a must-have to conduct a comprehensive impact analysis


Having urgency and impact in place, all is left is to simply multiply them to get the relative priority as illustrated in the image.

Keep in mind that the image is for illustration purposes only. You can set as much prioritization levels are you want.

Finally it is vital to remember that the main purpose of prioritization is to respond to business needs and to support business processes regardless of the IT complexity in design, transition and operation.

Enjoy business-oriented prioritization!

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