Difficulty Impact Matrix: Learn How to Use It Effectively


The Difficulty Impact Matrix (DIM) is an invaluable tool for project managers and teams to assess the difficulty of tasks, prioritize the most important duties, and draft an action plan. It helps to identify the potential risks, provide clear guidance on how to address them, and ensure that the right resources are allocated to the right tasks.

By breaking down tasks into components and assigning them a difficulty rating, the DIM can help to pinpoint areas that require more attention and focus, making sure that tasks are completed in the most pragmatic way possible.

It is a flexible and versatile tool that can be used to help teams succeed in any type of project. This guide will explain what the Difficulty Impact Matrix is, how to use it, and the potential benefits it can offer your team.


What is the Difficulty Impact Matrix?

Correctly prioritizing the objectives, actions, and tasks is a crucial part of any plan. There are numerous methods for setting priorities, and although many different tools might be useful, it is vital to zero in on one method and use it to its greatest potential.

The Difficulty Impact Matrix is a grid that compares different tasks according to their level of difficulty and impact. It is a human-centered design that allows project managers to assess the risk associated with each task, as well as prioritize them based on the level of importance and urgency.

It is a tool that businesses and organizations have used for many years, and it is still as relevant today as ever. It is a tried and tested method that can help to ensure that a project is completed efficiently. It can also help to allocate resources in the most appropriate way, and ensure that the right people are working on the right tasks.

This method, which was initially brought to us by Douglas K. Smith, may be used to rank the importance of various objectives. The y-axis of the grid represents significance while the x-axis represents effort. The matrix may be used by individuals or groups to plot their objectives, strategies, or projects, and so establish priorities for time and energy. Since even low-impact successes may pave the way for high-impact results down the line, the matrix also acts as a roadmap toward establishing momentum.

The Difficulty Impact Matrix is different from other matrices, such as the Eisenhower Matrix, as it also includes the level of impact each task has on the project. This can help to prioritize the tasks and make sure that the most important ones are dealt with first.

Why Do You Need A Difficulty Impact Matrix Tool?

The DIM may aid in bringing focus to project groups. It may be useful for spotting dangers and ensuring that they are handled correctly.

It should be used when stakeholders or employees have a hard time choosing which of several options to prioritize. Items could be much of anything, from functions in an app to concepts, objectives, geographic places, etc.

The DIM may be used to ensure that activities are accomplished in the most efficient manner by dissecting them into smaller duties and giving each part a difficulty rating.

It’s also a handy tool for keeping tabs on the development, gauging efficiency, and pinpointing problem spots. The tool’s adaptability and versatility make it useful for teams working on a wide variety of projects and ensuring that their efforts are meeting the expectations of their clients.

Who Should Use An Importance Difficulty Matrix?

Project leaders, project coordinators, designer leaders, technological leaders, and 2–4 stakeholders which make up the core team should ideally be involved in forming the matrix. The Difficulty Impact Matrix can be used by project managers, teams, and organizations across different sectors and industries.

The Difficulty Impact Matrix can be used across a range of different types of projects, including software development, engineering, marketing, and construction.

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How To Draft A Difficulty Impact Matrix?

Write out everything that has to be done, from long-term objectives to short-term plans. The matrix should only be utilized for one of these (goals, strategies, tasks) at a time, so keep that in mind. Thus, it is not advised to include both objectives and strategies in the same matrix. If you already have a list, you can use it to provide a unique name for each item in the list.


  • The first thing you need to do is create a rough outline of the tasks that need to be done. You can do this by breaking down the big tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. Once you have a rough outline of the duties, you can assign them a difficulty rating.
  • You can do this by breaking down tasks into components and assigning them a difficulty rating.
  • Once you have done this, you can start putting the tasks in a two-dimensional table. The x-axis will have the difficulty and the y-axis will have the importance or impact. Also, keep a side panel or space to add a comment if required.
    The difficulty and impact of tasks will form the basis of your DIM. You can also add a few notes to give more context to the tasks, and indicate ways to address the potential risks or issues
  • Select an item and have participants rate its significance (left to right). There are several vantage points from which to assign weight: those of the target audience, the company’s bottom line, the product’s stakeholders, etc. The scenario below involves prioritizing features based on their perceived value to end users.
  • After you’ve determined the significance of each feature, you may move them along the grid to gauge their level of difficulty. At this time, you should only be rearranging elements vertically. They need to stay in a horizontal orientation.

How To Decide Which Item Goes Where?


When deciding which items go where, it’s important to keep in mind that difficulty and impact are not directly linked. That means that tasks with a high difficulty rating can have a low impact on the project, and vice versa. The key is to look at the overall picture. The primary goal here is to identify the tasks that are going to have the biggest impact on the project as a whole.

Items in the bottom left quadrant are considered “targeted” since they have the highest probability of being accomplished. Expenses that provide little to no benefit are located in the top left corner. Strategic priorities are those that call for big financial outlays yet promise substantial returns. Items in the bottom right quadrant are very valuable since they have a big effect for little investment.

Once you have determined the tasks with the highest impact, you can start looking at the difficulty rating of each task. The goal here is to find a balance between the tasks that have a high impact and those that are easy to complete. You will want to make sure that you don’t get stuck doing easy tasks, but also avoid the risk of taking on tasks that are too difficult to complete on time. Finding the balance between these two things will help you succeed in any type of project.

Final Words

The final and most important step is to discuss the matrix and its outcomes with your colleagues, employees, and stakeholders. Relate each characteristic to the area it landed in and explain why it fits there. Now is the time to connect with everyone involved and discuss lessons learned. Your next step may be very apparent at this moment, or you may have to back up and try again. Your next actions, whatever they may be, will be simplified by the fact that you’ve come to them as a single group.

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