The RICE Framework is a method of prioritizing projects based on their Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.
No matter what your field is, resources and work need careful management. Some tasks take priority over others. The question is, how do you prioritize them? The RICE Framework is a tool that product managers use to do just that.
When you know which tasks are more important and need to go first, you can tackle them in order to boost your productivity and efficiency. Having a system in place for prioritization helps you move work along a lot more smoothly and allocate your team’s time and effort effectively.
This glossary entry will examine the RICE Framework, how it can help you prioritize your projects, and how to use it to direct your team’s efforts.
Table of contents
What is the RICE Framework?
The RICE framework is a method of prioritizing the different steps and tasks of a project by using a scoring system. The acronym, RICE, scores projects based on their Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. These four factors produce a score that determines how important a given project is.
A product manager can then score all their relevant projects with this framework. After they’ve done that, they’ll have a clear idea of where to focus their team’s efforts.
The RICE framework comes from Intercom and was developed by Sean McBride who coined the term and created the relevant calculations. Since then, this method has spread to other fields as its metrics and scoring system are useful to product managers across every industry.
The Importance of Prioritization
Many attempts to prioritize a project list are tainted because they are based on gut feeling or personal opinion. These factors are, by definition, affected by the person’s preferences and biases.
This type of prioritization strategy also neglects to answer the following:
- How do you prioritise?
- Which projects should you focus on?
- Which ones can you leave for later?
These are questions that plague every product team, and the RICE framework helps answer them.
The RICE framework relies on concrete data to define its criteria. By using the RICE framework, you can use hard numbers to make decisions instead of relying on your intuition.
Also, filling out the 4 factors requires that you look up actionable metrics from your consumer base. This means that the process takes into account a project’s value to the customer—which is a key factor that some product managers can forget to take into account.
The Ingredients of RICE
The RICE framework consists of four factors and a final score. Now, we’ll take a look at each factor with the type of question you need to ask, and then we’ll explain how to define each of them. Each factor matters and is important to help prioritize your projects effectively.
How many people will your project affect? Define this as a number of people or events over a given period. For example, subscribers per month or transactions per quarter. Make sure you use product metrics to get your numbers for this. A larger effect on your customer base is almost always better.
How much will this affect the individual customer? Define this as a multiplier. The original RICE scale used the following:
- 3 for massive impact,
- 2 for high impact,
- 1 for medium impact,
- 0.5 for low impact, and
- 0.25 for minimal impact.
Consider how your product will affect your intended audience. Defining a specific goal will help you score your Impact. Think of something like ‘increasing conversion rate’ or ‘maximizing satisfaction’. Essentially, the Impact score is how much a project contributes to achieving this goal.
How sure are you of your estimates? Define this as a percentage. How much data is there to support your Reach and Impact statistics? The original RICE scale used three levels:
- 100% for high confidence
- 80% for medium confidence
- 50% for low confidence
Any project that you rate below 50% confidence should be seriously reconsidered. If you’re not confident about your project being successful, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board. Think of confidence as a measurement of how much data you have to support the other three factors.
How much work will this project take? This factor contrasts the other three, functioning mathematically as a divisor. Define this as a measurement of work your team members need to do. The standard unit is person-months, which is how much work one team member can do in a month.
An Effort score that is too high is not a great sign. Effort acts as a means to show you the cost-benefit analysis of your project. It underscores the three previous factors by measuring how much work your team needs to do.
Once you’ve determined all four factors, plug them into the equation to see your overall impact based on the time being spent put into your project at hand. The result is referred to as the RICE score. Now, let’s calculate one to see how it pans out.
How to Calculate RICE
After you have defined each factor and collected your data, you can plug in the appropriate numbers. Remember to go with known data over gut feelings.
Use the following equation for your final RICE score:
(R * I * C) / E = RICE score.
Repeat this process for every task or step of your project, or you can use it for different projects on your plate too. After you’ve collected your RICE scores, sort them from lowest to highest. This will get you an idea of which projects can get the most results for the effort your team will put in.
As you use the framework, remember three important considerations.
- You are scoring multiple projects or tasks. RICE is a prioritization framework, so you’re trying to find out what you should be doing in what order. RICE is inherently about comparison.
- Be consistent across the projects you’re comparing. Define what criteria you’re using first before scoring individual projects. Your comparison is not going to be helpful if one project’s Reach is ‘subscribers per month’ but another’s is ‘transactions per quarter.’
- Remember that the RICE score is ultimately a tool. There may be times that you’ll need to prioritize a project with a lower RICE score. This may be because it’s a prerequisite for later projects, and so those later projects have to come after it.
Keep all these tips in mind as you evaluate your project list. Sort the most important ones and slot them into place by when they need to be done. RICE scores help you to better judge how to prioritize all your projects.
Boiling Down the Essentials
The RICE framework is a tool used by many product managers to organize their projects. Use it to help you determine which of your projects will have the most important results, based on the amount of work you put into each one.