How to Prioritize Your Product Backlog Using the RICE Framework?

Prioritization is part of the project roadmap process when PMs consider each factor of a project idea. It is a difficult task, so Product Managers or Project Managers often rely on instinct, intuition, rough estimates, and external expectations to make project decisions.

Instead, this article proposes a simple framework to standardize the complicated and risky decision-making process of what to develop next. RICE framework for prioritization allows for a scoring analysis of the factors associated with initiatives and uses an exact calculation model.

Why prioritization is such a big issue?

Prioritization is difficult because there are so many factors to consider, and it is a responsible task because the development schedule for product features is determined by it.

These are the three main factors that make prioritization particularly difficult:

  • It relies on information that is difficult to quantify
  • Many initiatives compare very different things, making it difficult to weigh
  • Product managers are at the intersection of customers, stakeholders, and of business and implementation, so all aspects need to be known and weighed up when deciding what to deliver next.

What are the RICE framework and RICE Scoring?

The RICE score is something like a cost-benefit analysis of an initiative. By scoring and rating, you can get solid product metrics to determine which initiatives should be prioritized and in what order.

This enables the RICE prioritization framework to be applied to a wide range of ideas, allowing for greater objectivity and more accurate estimation when setting priorities.

RICE framework is prioritization scoring. It is designed to help product managers make better-informed decisions about which product features, ideas, and initiatives to prioritize during product development. It helps to break down one big estimate into four smaller ones which makes it easier to easily see through the whole project.

With the RICE scoring model, initiatives are ranked according to the overall value they generate, so it is clear to all team members what order they will have to work on each initiative.

How was the RICE framework invented?

The RICE prioritization model was co-developed by Sean McBride, who was then a PM at messaging software company Intercom. Intercom’s team had reportedly worked with dozens of other prioritization models before to facilitate and improve their team’s decision-making.

What is the meaning of the RICE framework?

The RICE framework is one of the most recognized scoring methods for prioritization.

It is an acronym that stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort.

Reach – How many users are affected in a given period?

Reach is an indicator of how many people an initiative is expected to reach in a given time. For example, we expect 100 people to try the app in 30 days.

Impact – How will this affect individual users about our goal?

The impact score is measured by the number of people who act on your initiative in a given timeframe. For example, out of 100 people who try the app in 30 days, we expect 5 people to buy the product. This assumes 5 people will give you the impact metric.

Intercom’s scoring system helps measure the expected impact:

3 = massive impact (XL)

2 = high impact (L)

1 = medium impact (M)

.5 = low impact (S)

.25 = minimal impact (XS)

Confidence level – How confident are you about the accuracy of your estimates

Your confidence score is derived from the available data, experience, and intuition. Research on products of similar types, categories, and target audiences will help.

There is also a scoring method for confidence scores:

100% = High confidence

80% = Medium confidence

50% = Low confidence

20% = Moonshot

Effort score – How long will it take to implement?

Effort measures the cost of the initiative in man-hours, man-days, or man-months and is a key factor in determining the overall RICE score. You can use the scoring system that was created for Reach. 3 = massive impact 2 = high impact 1 = medium impact .5 = low impact .25 = minimal impact

Calculate the total score

The result of the formulation of RICE is a single score. To calculate this, multiply the total benefits of Reach, Impact, and Confidence, and then divide it by the costs (Effort).

(Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort = Total Score

After calculating the overall score, you can calculate the RICE score for all the other initiatives in your roadmap and rank them according to the scores you get.

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RICE framework in StoriesOnBoard

We’ve recently implemented the RICE model in StoriesOnBoard roadmaps. Using the RICE prioritization method saves you time and makes things easier for product teams.

RICE Priority Matrix

Using the RICE framework, feature ideas or initiatives can be visualized on a simple matrix. Based on your scoring, it defines categories that give additional information to the priority score.

RICE priority matrix

Quick wins – Implement these ideas first to create value and deliver results quickly. These initiatives and product features deliver the most value for the least effort.

Strategic – These will bring huge value but they usually require more time and resources. Plan for them carefully.

Maybes – They do not require a lot of time, but on the other hand, they do not offer much value. Consider implementing these items, but do not list them in advance.

Don’t – These items take too long to realize and the value delivered is not as high. Leave them for last or skip them altogether.

Using the scales and sliders, you can easily calculate the total RICE score and ranks the product ideas based on it.

Example of RICE scoring in StoriesOnBoard

With StoriesOnBoard, you can even start your new project with storyboards or roadmaps, as you like. You can easily switch from one to the other, creating a roadmap or story map view of your planned project that everyone can understand.

In addition, the story map can be integrated with the most popular task management and issue tracker software, so your project, no matter how complex, will be both fully transparent and easy to plan in detail.

The prioritization feature was introduced in StoriesOnBoard’s Product Management Suite a few months ago with the new product roadmap function with the option of priority view.

It currently allows a choice between two methodologies: Value vs. Effort and RICE frameworks. (Stay tuned, the third most popular prioritization framework, the KANO model, will be available soon).

Here’s a RICE framework template for an easy example of the framework:

RICE prioritization framework example

Using the scales and sliders, the app calculates the total RICE score and ranks the ideas based on it. By using it, the stressful task of the prioritization process is taken off your shoulders and you and your team can focus on planning product development with care and confidence.

As mentioned above, the priority view is an option, so you can display the prioritized order of ideas and initiatives in the roadmap with a single click and continue planning the next sprints and releases.

Sounds interesting? Want to try the RICE framework out in practice? Try it now, free for two weeks with no obligations.


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