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The RICE Scoring Framework: A great way to Prioritize Your Projects

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Do you feel overwhelmed by the number of projects you need to work on? You’re not alone.
It can be difficult to know where to focus.

In fact, 39% of product managers say the main reason for project failures is a change in project priorities.

That’s where the RICE Framework comes in. This formula can help you focus on your project tasks and figure out which ones are most important.

In this article, I’ll share what RICE stands for, how to use the framework, and some best practices. Let’s get started.

What is a RICE score?

The RICE scoring model is a framework to help managers prioritize which projects to work on.

The acronym RICE stands for four factors that are used to score these project items: reach, impact, confidence, and effort.

Reach refers to the number of users that will be affected by the item.

Impact is a measure of how significant the change will be for those users.

Confidence reflects the team’s belief that they can successfully do the item.

Effort is about the number of resources and time that will be required to do so.

Here’s what the RICE model calculation looks like:

rice scoring model calculation

Source: Product School

By using the RICE score, product managers ensure that they are putting their limited resources to the best possible use.

History of the RICE Scoring Model

In 2013, a Product Manager on Intercom’s Growth team was looking for a way to focus on projects in a more systematic way. He wanted to find a way to remove gut feelings from the decision-making process. And to come up with a framework that could be applied to other projects in a standardized way. And so the RICE (Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort) scoring model was born.

RICE scoring model breakdown

The RICE scoring model can help you evaluate competing ideas. This is done by scoring each idea according to the following factors:

Reach

The “reach” factor is an estimate of how many relevant users any given idea might reach within a time. You have to decide both what “reach” means in this context and the timeframe over which you want to measure it.

Two factors go into determining the reach of an idea. You consider both the potential audience and the likelihood of them getting exposure to the idea.

Otherwise, you may overestimate the reach of your idea and be disappointed with the results.

Impact

The Impact component of the RICE framework measures how much an idea is likely to impact a specific goal. This can be a quantitative goal, such as the number of new conversions resulting from exposure to the idea. Or a more qualitative goal, such as increasing customer delight.

When assessing impact, consider both the potential size of the effect and the likelihood that it will occur. A small idea with a high likelihood of success can have more impact than a big idea with a low likelihood of success.

Intercom developed a system for estimating impact score. This system has five levels or tiers:

  • 3 = massive impact
  • 2 = high impact
  • 1 = medium impact
  • 0.5 = low impact
  • 0.25 = minimal impact

The goal is to prioritize ideas that are most likely to have a positive impact on the business.

Confidence

The confidence level you have in your ideas is an important factor to consider when ranking projects.

If you think a project could have a large impact but don’t have much data to support your estimate, confidence lets you take that into account.

Use the confidence factor for projects in which your team has data to support one idea, but is relying on gut feeling for another.

This is important to avoid over- or underestimating the potential impact of a given project.

To figure out the confidence level for a specific project, use the following reference scale:

  • 100% = high confidence
  • 80% = medium confidence
  • 50% = low confidence

If your confidence score is below 50%; assume that your priorities need to be changed.

By taking confidence levels into account, you can assess the expected value of a given project and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately.

Effort

While all the considerations until now have been positive factors. Effort is a negative factor in your score. This is where you take into account how much time and resources a project will need from your team.

It’s important to be as realistic when estimating effort, as this will impact the outcome of your RICE calculations. More effort generally means a lower score, so it’s important to keep that in mind when prioritizing projects.

In the RICE framework, effort is the number of “person-months”. This is the work that one team member can do in a month. For example, if a project requires 6 different people to work on it for a month, the effort score would be 6 person-months.

You can also use a different scale like “person-days” or “person-weeks”. For example, if 1 person needs 3 weeks to work on a project, the effect score will be 3 person-weeks.

By assessing effort, you can ensure that your team is making the best use of its time and resources.

Best practices for the RICE framework

1. Focus on one goal

It’s best to focus on one goal at a time to maximize impact and minimize effort. Trying to tackle many goals together can scatter your efforts and reduce progress.

It can be difficult to assess confidence levels and measure impact when there are many goals in play. By narrowing your focus to a single goal, you can track your progress and ensure that your efforts are having the desired effect.

This will help you to achieve your objectives more efficiently and effectively.

2. Group your team by what they need to do to achieve the goal

The key to using the RICE framework effectively is to group your team by sub-goals. That way, each sub-team can focus on their own specific task. And you can avoid confusion and duplication of effort. Once you have sub-teams in place, each team can then focus on the individual components of the RICE framework.

By breaking down the RICE framework into sub-goals, you can get to your project goals quicker.

Give autonomy to your teams

One best practice is to give your team members autonomy when it comes to selecting and working on projects. Decentralizing decision-making can help align projects with each team member’s skills and interests.

It can create a sense of ownership and responsibility, leading to better results. So if you’re using the RICE framework, remember to let your team members take the lead.

3. Get a variety of viewpoints for a better assessment

When using the RICE framework to prioritize project items, it’s best to collect diverse opinions for expert assessment.

This means getting input from engineers on how long a feature will take to ship, from product managers on user impact, and from consultants or business stakeholders on company impact.

This allows for a more well-rounded and accurate assessment of priorities.

Additionally, it’s important to be as precise as possible when estimating timeframes and impacts.

This will help ensure that the most important items are given the necessary attention and resources.

By following these best practices, the RICE framework becomes an effective tool for project management.

Conclusion

The RICE framework is a great way to prioritize your projects and make sure you are focusing on the initiatives that will have the biggest impact. By scoring each project, you can be confident that you are making the most of your time and resources.

Looking to improve your management skills? Check out our piece on the PPT framework to streamline your teams.

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