Enterprise Service Management Priority Matrix


A priority matrix is a method used in many Enterprise Service Management (ESM) systems to help determine the relative importance of one task over others. ITIL® is one framework for IT service management that UAA has adopted, and using its guidance has established the following priority matrix within the ESM system.

In this article:

Why is it Important?

A priority matrix is a methodology within Enterprise Service Management that can be used to determine the relative priority of one task over others. It uses the intersection of the impact and urgency axis to determine the priority in the matrix. The result of using a priority matrix is that teams can consistently define the order that they should deal with tasks, besides a simplistic method of first-in, first-out.

A priority matrix allows an organization to easily communicate what its priorities are in day-to-day management of service requests, and incidents/issues. This means that high priority tasks can be easily identified and addressed promptly, while allowing tasks with lower priority to be completed within an acceptable time frame. A clearly defined priority matrix helps team members to learn how to correctly prioritize work.

Using a priority matrix will help organizations to deal with work in an order that is best for their business needs. Determining the appropriate priority allows teams to be consistent in how they decide which tickets to address in which order. With the priority matrix being used in the same way by all team members, this will improve their confidence to determine which tickets to work next. Furthermore, as teams become overloaded with more tickets than can be dealt with at one time a defined priority matrix helps teams avoid the lure of "cherry picking" what they want to work, which can result in tickets with higher urgency, and/or impact being delayed. The effective prioritization of work, and being able to clearly communicate to your customers about how an organization decides in what order tickets are worked helps improve customer satisfaction.


ITIL defines impact as a measure of the effect of a request, incident, problem, or change on the business processes.

This effect could be positive, such as a return on investment, or customer satisfaction with a service or new feature. Alternatively, it could be negative based upon the degree of damage or cost that results, such as loss of work-hours, service downtime, poor performance, etc.

Usually impact is not expressed in absolute terms, instead it is a range that is subject to interpretation of each organization's business requirements. This range may include:

  • Number of people affected
  • Amount of lost revenue or incurred costs
  • Number of systems/services/elements involved

A variety of terms can help identify the impact, or effect, of an issue. Since the choice of words matter, and all ticketing applications within the ESM system use the same word choice, the following classification have been selected for the Impact scale:

  • Small
  • Minor
  • Major
  • Critical

This shared Impact scale will provide a clear and common understanding across all ticketing applications, and will assist in providing consistent and effective prioritizing of tasks.


Urgency is not about effect as much as it is about time. Urgency depends upon the speed in which the business, or customer, would expect or want something. This might be providing a service, restoring a service to normal operation, or developing a new product/service and delivering it to the customer.

The longer that an organization is willing, or can afford, to wait the lower the urgency. Anything that significantly affects an organization from an operational, compliance, or financial perspective is generally more pressing than impacts from other perspectives. For example, a service outage affecting the entire campus, or a request from a VIP would require shorter response and resolution times because it is a more urgent issue.

Like impact, urgency scales depending upon an organization's business context, needs, and risks. Within the ESM system the following classification have been selected for the Urgency scale:

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
  • Immediate


Priority is where impact and urgency intersect. Considering impact and urgency offers an organization a clearer understanding of what work is more important and therefore should be accomplished before others. Remember that priority is relative, it is never set in stone, and can vary as the context shifts.

The correlation between impact and urgency can easily be shown in a priority matrix. The following graphic shows the ESM Incident Priority Matrix. Anything that has both a critical impact, and immediate urgency gets the highest priority, while small impact and low urgency results in the lowest priority.

Enterprise Service Management - Impact/Urgency Priority Matrix


Best Practices for Determining Impact, Urgency, and Priority

No matrix is a one-size-fits-all; however, while the labels associated with impact, urgency, and priority is the same for all ESM ticketing applications, the relative value associated with each label may vary between each organization's ticketing application. An organization should define the specific response and resolution times associated with each priority level after discussion with key stakeholders, and then continually refine the definitions as various scenarios are encountered.

One thing to be aware of with regards to establishing the relative value association for an organization with regards to impact, urgency, and priority is the opportunity for confusion of priorities. Imagine the situation where a customer submits a "high priority" request for a new high-performance laser mouse even though their existing mouse works fine, and their daily work consists of mainly word processing and spreadsheets. While the customer may want this new device immediately, when the support team receives the request they are likely to choose a lower priority level due to their perception of impact, and urgency thereby allowing a longer, but still reasonable, resolution time for this request. The solution to this dilemma is to establish a written policy for each ticketing application that clearly defines what constitutes each scale, provides relevant examples, and train team members on how to effectively and consistently apply the scale to all submitted tickets, which will improve organizational confidence that tickets are correctly prioritized.

Need additional help or have issues

For support, requests may be submitted anytime by requesting support for the Enterprise Service Management service. Support Requests are worked by Priority based on the Impact and Urgency of need as well as the order they are received by the IT Employees with the knowledge and permissions to assist with the request.

For immediate assistance please review the Contact Us page for ways to contact the appropriate support group.


Article ID: 564
Fri 6/11/21 6:30 AM
Mon 9/11/23 10:17 AM