Find Your True Top Priorities in Just 7 Minutes With RICE Prioritization

If you’re not familiar with RICE, it is a decision making framework tool that helps product managers figure out what to build and what is the highest priority at the moment. It uses a simple formula of:

(reach * impact * confidence) / effort.

Challenges

So let’s first talk about some of the challenges of using a framework like RICE.

The first thing is you’re going to have to first wrangle up all of your ideas so that you can put them into this RICE framework. It can take some time to find everything, or you can just shortcut that process if you already know the items you want to compare and can just drop them right into your document.

Another thing about RICE is that since it is constrained to reach impact confidence and effort, sometimes you may not be prioritizing for what’s important to you. You may want to customize it to your needs if you have OKRs or other metrics that are top priority.

And another thing that can happen with these prioritization frameworks is that like any prioritization framework, some stakeholders may not like what they see if their thing is at the bottom.

Opportunities

On the other hand, the great thing about the RICE framework is that it helps you find overlooked quick wins. It can help you realize maybe that that really cool feature that you were thinking about may not really be worth your development time right now.

It gives you a system to use. You don’t have to really rely on your gut anymore. Hopefully you’re not doing in the first place. But it gives you a system that you can use consistently over and over again. And using such a system, it also gives you a good reason for saying “no” to some things. You can just point to where it is on the framework, where it’s scored and ranked.

And it could be like, this is why we are not doing this right now. Sorry.

How To Do RICE Prioritization

First, prep your spreadsheet

There are two ways to do this. Option one is to open up Speckled. Option two is to use the spreadsheet program of your choice.

If you’re in Speckled, all of this is already set up for you.

If you’re in a spreadsheet, you’re going to want to create columns. One for the item name and then more for reach, impact, confidence, effort, and RICE. And then you’re going to list out all of your items and you’re going to score each of them on these four things.

Reach

Reach is measured as a number usually, and it’s how many people are going to be impacted by this thing that you’re thinking about building.

You only need a general idea of this. It doesn’t have to be an exact number, just a general estimation of how many people you think might be using or impacted by this feature.

Impact

Next up is impact. Impact is the measure of how much of an effect this item that you’re ranking is going to be having on your users. This is a very subjective one.

In our spreadsheet, we can use high, as like a three, medium as a two, and low as a one so that way you can actually calculate everything at the end.

Here are some examples…

  • A low impact may be a bug fix that maybe only a couple people are experiencing.
  • A medium might be a new feature that may or may not bring in new users or retain existing ones.
  • A high impact item might be a change to your code base that fundamentally changes how the application works.

Those are just examples. There’s a lot more nuance into that. Here’s an article to help you judge what may be low impact, medium impact, high impact.

Effort

Next up is effort. This is expressed as a numbe and this is how long it’s going to take your team to pull this off.

The unit of the number is up to you. Maybe if you’re a startup, this might be in hours or days. If you’re a medium company, maybe this is weeks or sprints. And if you’re a large company, it could be months.

Just make sure that you use the same unit for all of your comparisons. That way you’re doing an apples to apples comparison.

Confidence

Last up is confidence. This is expressed as a percentage.

This is an indicator of how sure you are about your reach, impact and effort scores.

So let’s give an example of an integration. Maybe your team has built 10, 20 of these before.

You generally know how they go and you can estimate them pretty well. You know how many users are going to use them, you know how much of an impact is going to have. So you’re pretty confident about your estimate. You could give this a 90 to 100 percent value.

Meanwhile, maybe if you’re doing something new, and you don’t know how it’s going to impact your users, how long it’s going to take, and how many people will be affected, your confidence value will be lower.

For example, if you’re pulling out Braintree to put in Stripe, that could be easy process, depending on your engineer’s experience with doing something like that, or it could be a really time consuming process.

Your confidence number will slide up and down depending on how sure you are about your other numbers.

Putting it all together

Now, that you have everything scored, your RICE score will show up if you’re using Speckled. If you’re using a spreadsheet, in that last “RICE” column, just use the formula for RICE, which is reach times, impact times confidence, all over effort. Give that a calculation, sort it, and then see what floats to the top.

You may see some surprising things that have floated to the top. Maybe that crazy feature that you think is going to be killer is actually kind of somewhere in the middle. And maybe that little thing that you’ve been meaning to do for a while, maybe that’s actually really important right now.

In review

RICE gives you a really great way to see what is important based on the components of RICE - reach, impact, confidence, effort.

If it’s new to you, it can be challenging to get everything on your list, but once you do, you’ll be able to see your great ideas float to the top.

Happy RICE prioritizing!

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