The RICE Scoring Model: A Prioritization Framework for Product Managers

The rise of mobile, digital, and cloud technologies has given way to a new generation of products that are quickly evolving to accommodate the needs of modern consumers. While these technologies provide organizations with growth opportunities, they also open doors for many challenges. One such challenge is knowing which product features to tackle first while maintaining an efficient resource allocation strategy.

If you have found yourself in this position before or are headed there soon, it might be time to consider investing in a prioritization framework. Prioritization frameworks help companies choose what directions their product should lead next by encouraging collaboration between cross-functional teams under one organizational vision. This article discusses our exploration into different prioritization frameworks and our findings on the RICE method as an effective tool for prioritizing features.

What is the RICE Scoring model?

The RICE Scoring model is a prioritization framework that uses the power of collaboration to help brand teams weigh product options against each other. Developed by David Bland, Chief Product Officer at Branch Metrics, it is an acronym that stands for:

Reach – How many customers does this affect?

How many customers does this involve? Impact – What is the impact on customer health (internal and external)?

What is the impact on customer health (internal and external)? Confidence – How confident are we about our changes?

How secure are we about our differences? Ease – How complex/challenging will it be to implement changes here?

Within these four categories, you can define and score each feature proposed in a prioritization session using a combination of criteria. By going through this process encourages cross-functional collaboration and identifies the best feature/s to implement while also offering a framework for managing tradeoffs. For example, if one of your proposed features would have a high impact on customers but low ease, then it is likely not a good idea to proceed with that option unless the tradeoff is worth the negative externalities imposed on customers.

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The RICE Scoring Model in Action

In order to demonstrate how the RICE model works within a real-life product prioritization session, let’s pretend we work at an organization called Giggly (a play on the word jiggly which means “to shake or wobble”) and we need to decide what directions our mobile app should head next.

Our organization is a gaming platform company that has recently released its first mobile app called Giggly GO (a play on the word gigolo which means “a man who devotes himself to pleasing women”) that allows you to connect with people nearby.

Now, due to the nature of our product’s use case, it’s possible for users to encounter sensitive information about other individuals, so security and privacy are important. With that said, let’s identify some feature ideas that could help us improve this aspect of our product:

Feature Idea #1 – Require all users to have their face detected before being allowed to chat

Feature Idea #2 – Allow moderators to scan profiles for prohibited images or words before allowing them onto the platform

Feature Idea #3 – Allow users to report other individuals for sending unwanted messages/pictures

As you can see, these proposed features vary in their reach (i.e. how many users they affect), impact (i.e. severity of implications on customers), confidence (the level of certainty we have about our changes), and ease (how complex it would be to implement).

The first feature idea mainly affects moderators which aren’t ideal since they are already overwhelmed with moderating content that is uploaded by all users.

The second feature idea has the potential to compromise the quality of data collected by our facial recognition algorithm, so this also should not move forward unless it’s tested properly beforehand.

Finally, the third feature idea directly affects individual users so it’s likely to be the most impactful of all three but without more information on how we would implement it, we just don’t know its full extent.

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The RICE Scoring model is a great way for teams and individuals to quickly assess the pros and cons of each feature idea before deciding which one(s) they should prioritize – especially when considering tradeoffs between them – and this is why we recommend using this framework during product prioritization sessions.

However, as David (the creator of the framework) mentions in his article, sometimes there will be cases where two features could obtain similar scores yet still provide very different value to customers; for those instances, you may need to define additional criteria such as:

Feature Idea #4 – Allow users to report other individuals for sending inappropriate content

This new feature idea affects all users on the platform so it’s likely to be even more impactful than the previous option. However, this feature would make people feel safer when using our app since they’d have the ability to self-moderate their behavior. This is why we’re adding ‘Safety’ as a criterion which could help us differentiate between proposals that are equally valuable but in different ways.

Things to keep in mind if you are just starting to use the RICE scoring model

If you’re just starting to use this model, it’s important that you and your team define the criteria together. This way, everyone can agree on what each means prior to using them within a product prioritization session. Like with any framework or tool for decision-making, there is no one-size fits all approach.

The criteria you use will be dependent on your product, customers, and team.

For example, if you’re working within an industry that is highly regulated then ‘Regulatory Risk’ could be an important criterion to consider. If the majority of your users are teenagers or young adults, then ‘Safety’ may also need to have a higher weight.

This is why it’s important to discuss this together as a team and come up with a scoring model that best reflects your product, customer base, and industry.

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As you begin to use the RICE framework, remember that there is no right or wrong answer. The key takeaway here is that it provides a set of guidelines for both PMs and teams to be able to quickly assess the pros and cons of each feature idea before deciding which one(s) they should prioritize – especially when considering tradeoffs between them.

What are the Benefits of using the RICE scoring model for product managers?

The RICE Scoring model is simple enough for non-technical stakeholders to understand which means it’s a great way to introduce the concept of prioritization and tradeoffs in product development.

It also encourages Product Managers and their teams to think about features holistically rather than just focusing on their technical complexity because as we saw earlier, there are many facets that go into assessing the value of a product feature.

This framework is especially useful when planning out your product roadmap because you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish within a certain time frame and how many resources it will take; otherwise, things might fall through the cracks or end up being half-baked.

Finally, the RICE Scoring model is also useful for making decisions about how to optimize existing features and identifying new opportunities that could help you improve your product by keeping track of feature requests from customers and other user feedback.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many different ways to apply the RICE scoring model, and depending on how involved your product idea is (and what kind of data you have available), you might need to make some minor changes such as adding or removing criteria.

Even still, this framework is a great way for teams and individuals to not only compare feature ideas but also prioritize them based on their potential impact and ease of implementation – something we highly recommend.

Until next time, happy product building!

 

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