The RICE Prioritization Framework [Deploy It, Master It]

Table of contents:

One of the responsibilities of product managers is to identify the most important projects to work on. Prioritizing is a necessary component of this task. 

Having limited resources and too many features can be daunting. Choosing which features to work on and at what point in the process is absolutely essential to prevent delays and a poorly implemented product. 

This is where a prioritization framework comes in. A good scoring system will help you consider all of a project idea's fundamental elements with discipline and combine them in a methodical and logical way.

Score-based prioritization using RICE Framework

The RICE prioritization framework is a model recently developed by the team at Intercom, an app designed to connect companies and customers. 

The Intercom team felt that standard prioritization frameworks lacked the flexibility and were disconnected from what matters most when making a decision about what initiatives, features, improvements to prioritize. 

As a result, they tried to create a new approach for weighing ideas, functionalities, and projects to clearly demonstrate to stakeholders the reasons and the results of adding initiatives to their roadmap.

In this article, we will quickly share the fundamentals about RICE. We will try to go beyond the original post of Sean Mc Bride who co-developed the RICE prioritization as a Product Manager in the early days of Intercom.

Our goal is to help you understand WHEN you should use the RICE Prioritization Framework and HOW to deploy it in your team.

First, let’s start with a quick definition. 

What is the RICE Scoring Model for Prioritization?

RICE is the acronym for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort, the four factors we use to evaluate each project idea.

In order to better understand how to calculate the parameters and then finally implement this prioritization framework in your company, let's first take a quick look at how the different elements work and the questions they answer:

We recently added a RICE Prioritization BOARD to the ProdCamp prioritization module. 

Should Product Managers use RICE? 

Why would you use the RICE prioritization method over other frameworks, and how can you encourage your team to adopt it?

The RICE model is a validation process to organize well-defined initiatives into an impact-based roadmap. It is not a magic formula to determine what your strategy should be or to transform vague ideas into a vision.

Your strategy and vision have to be set way before you decide to prioritize your roadmap. This is one of the important principles you need to know to build a Product Roadmap.

As a recurring team exercise (monthly or quarterly), the RICE methodology encourages your team to think about the problem they are solving from a specific perspective and with a number of advantages.

  1. Metric definition: Thinking about your product improvements with RICE framework in mind will help your team redefine what metric matters when it comes to success. 
  2. Data-driven decision: To utilize RICE scoring model, you need to consider clear data points such as a number of requests or an overall number of users affected by a feature, removing emotions and opinions from the prioritization debates.
  3. Flexible Framework: You can easily adapt the model to your reality. Use it to prioritize ideas, features, initiatives.
  4. Favor alignment: Because the score covers critical variables, everyone can understand how it will help you align everyone on your roadmap, internally and externally.

Factors to consider before using RICE Scoring Model

Before using RICE prioritization framework, they are a few things you need to consider:

1. RICE is not a scientific method. 

The decision to focus on a lower-scoring initiative or to discard a feature with a higher score could be influenced by various factors, such as the dependencies between two projects.

2. There are various ways to calculate each element of the RICE method. 

It's important to make sure RICE aligns with your company's strategy and methodologies before you implement it, and keep the first implementation steps simple to drive adoption.

3. Start by asking the right questions

  • How to quantify your REACH?
  • How to qualify your IMPACT?
  • How to assess your CONFIDENCE level?
  • How to estimate your EFFORTS?

Now that you have a better understanding of how the RICE system works, it's time to examine it in more depth.

RICE as a framework for assessing priorities

Quantify your REACH

An excellent way to think about this criterion is by tracking how many requests there are for a particular feature or how many customers will be affected over time.

It could be as simple as “How many users requested this functionality?”, “How many customers will this project impact over the next quarter?”. You could also consider the number of affected “transaction” or “activities” per month/week. 

It mostly depends on what product metrics or KPI you decide to focus on. Check this article to find out which ones are the most relevant in your context.

What we recommend:

After using RICE internally, we recommend relying on the number of requests received through feedback, customer interview, chat support, etc. to quantify your reach.

Qualify your IMPACT

Impact also depends on what metric matters most for your business and what exactly you want to influence while building something new or improving something that already exists. 

For Intercom, it was “How much will this project increase conversion rate when a customer encounters it?” It could also be, “How much will this initiative increase the number of users needed within one account?” or “How much will this feature drive the adoption of higher pricing plans?” 

When the answer is "dramatic", your initiative will weigh XL. However, when it is "less significant", it will weigh closer to XS. 

What we recommend:

After using RICE internally, we recommend leveraging the combined value of the customers who requested a specific feature to qualify your impact.

Assess your CONFIDENCE level

It is easy to get excited about a new project as a result of your level of confidence, so addressing your level of confidence will compensate for a lack of information, skills, or resources for this project.

The confidence level is often given as a percentage, but you could consider it as a score of 50 for instance.

While calculating your confidence level, be honest with yourself:

  • Do you have metrics to back up your reach and impact research? 
  • Can you continuously track them to measure evolutions? 

Give your project a 100% chance or 50/50 score.

Are your customers asking for AI and you are still hiring the right resources to build it? Give your project a 70% chance or a quality score of 30/50. 

You may have a hard time measuring a project's reach and impact compared to what you evaluate. Your initiative should not get more than a 50% chance or a 20 percent confidence score.

What we recommend:

After using RICE internally, we recommend measuring your confidence level by asking all of the main stakeholders to separate communicate their confidence scores over 100 points. Then, remove the highest and lowest scores and calculate your average confidence score.

Estimate your EFFORTS

Once we know how many people will be affected, how much will they impact, and how confident we are that all of this will occur, we can calculate the effort to find a path that will encounter less resistance. 

There are a few functionalities that would have a high reach and impact with a low level of effort and a high level of confidence. This could be measured in terms of "people per month" or as "number of days/weeks" to develop. 

As for the number of people per month, this will be more difficult to gauge since you have to do some math. Our advice based on our own experience is to use an approximate number of days involved to plan, develop, verify, and deploy the project you assess.

What we recommend:

In order to estimate your effort, we recommend that you first think about it in terms of days of development and ask your development team to get a close estimate. Once you have this estimate, you can take into consideration dependencies with other projects and the effort involved with those.

If the number of dependencies is over two, we recommend you to apply a factor 2 on your effort estimate to cover the dependency aspect, or simply add the effort estimate of the 2 dependencies as well, if they have been forecasted already.

Rice Effort Estimation Example :

Using RICE scores effectively in Prodcamp 

ProdСamp is a user feedback product management platform designed to help you prioritize your work based on customers' feedback from multiple sources. 

Once you capture feedback with ProdСamp, you can use it to prioritize and inform your product roadmap in just a few clicks.

Create a RICE scoring Board and name it:

Select which types of criteria you want to use to score your project, idea or feature:

RICE prioritization by ProdCamp

Select the ideas or functionalities you need to prioritize and add them to your board from the pickup list:

Score your REACH, IMPACT, CONFIDENCE and EFFORT level for each of the features:

Obtain your RICE score and clarify what your team should be focusing on for the next quarter or sprint:

Start acting. Change the priority of your feature right from your board and add it to your roadmap:

Build! Share it with your dev team along with all the user insight you have collected while getting feedback.

What you should remember

A clear prioritization framework and a scoring system will allow you to decide when to make exceptions.

RICE can be extremely useful when comparing ideas that are difficult to compare. It makes you think about why a project idea will be meaningful, and forces you to be realistic about how much effort it will take to achieve the goal.

Ready to start turning user feedback into revenue and improving your customer satisfaction?

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