When you’re trying to figure out what the next project for your project team is, you can’t just have a quick brainstorming session or pick the next one on your list of things to do. Sure, you could, but the problem with that is that you risk taking on a project that isn’t going to help you meet your strategic objectives as much as it could.
That’s why, rather than randomly selecting the next project, business owners, stakeholders, and product managers rely on prioritization frameworks to make informed decisions and pick the most ideal project next. This way, you’re always pushing towards the greater goals for your company, rather than pursuing projects that might be fun, but don’t add a lot of value, you take the pressure off your decision-making process.
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What is the RICE framework?
The RICE framework is a project management framework that helps you prioritize projects based on specific criteria, rather than a gut feeling. For the RICE framework, the criteria that make up the acronym are:
In other words, the RICE prioritization method accounts for how many people are going to experience the final product, how much it will affect the business, how sure are you about your estimations, and how much work will be required to make it happen?
RICE framework formula
Each of these factors is calculated independent of one another, then dropped into the RICE formula:
(R x I x C) / E
How it works is that the answer tells you how to prioritize the project. The framework itself sits inside a document that looks
The nice thing about the RICE prioritization framework is that it bases the final score on factors that directly affect your business. This scoring system eliminates the risk of putting all your efforts into projects that might be cool, they might add value, and they might be things that your customers are asking for, but won’t actually use. Prioritization using the RICE method ensures that you’re not focused on all the wrong things.
How to calculate reach
Reach is how many people the project is going to, well, reach. Basically, what’s the audience for this? The basic way to figure out reach is to determine how many people will be impacted by this within a given period of time.
The amount of time is something that you determine on your own, but for the sake of providing an example, let’s look at a short-term goal of one month.
Reach has to be measured by a specific metric based on what you want to achieve. If you’re looking to gain more customers, then you have to measure by new customers. However, if you’re looking to gather leads, not customers, focus on that.
Let’s use new customers as our example. If you finish a project and, within one month, 200 new customers sign up to try it, then your reach is 200 people.
However, if 200 people signed up for a trial of a new product, but you have a low conversion rate and only 15 of those converted to new customers, then your reach is only 15 people. In this case, you’d focus on the project that captured 200 new customers.
How to calculate impact
Once you’ve established reach, it’s time to figure out the impact the project will have. Impact is somewhat less specific than reach because you’re not measuring a specific thing, per se. Impact is assessed on a scale somewhat similar to Small, Medium, Large, Very Large. Then, once you’ve established the basic scale, you assign a numerical value to each one. For this example, let’s assign small a value of 0.5, medium is 1.0, large is 2.0, and very large is 4.
Using the example from above, something bringing in 200 new customers is going to have a Very Large impact (or 4) on your business, especially if you’re a smaller or medium-sized business where it doesn’t take much to have a massive impact on your business.
How to calculate confidence
Confidence is a way to make sure that you’re using good numbers for your estimations above. This is a good way to make sure that you’re not just super excited about a project and accidentally use better numbers because of the excitement. Confidence is measured as a percent, similar to the way impact is measured. So, if you’re Very confident (High confidence) about something, you’d give it a rating of 100%. If you’re Confident about it, you might assign it 75%. If you’re Not confident (Low confidence), you’d probably give it a rating of 50% or less.
For example, if you know for sure that you’ll get 200 new customers from your project because you have the data to back it up, you’d rank it Very confident and work with a high confidence score of 100% for the rest of your calculations.
How to calculate effort
Last, but not least, we’ve got effort. The effort score is measured as the estimated amount of work one team member can do in a specific time period, usually one month (reported as person-months). When calculating effort, you need to factor in the effort of each person involved in the process.
For our example project, you’d have to determine the various stages of the project and how the number of people needed to do the work during that time. Let’s say it breaks down like this: two weeks of planning (two weeks), two weeks of coding for three engineers (six weeks), one week of design for two designers (two weeks). When you add that up, you get 8 weeks, or 2 person-months.
How to calculate your final RICE score
Okay. Now that you’ve done all the estimating, it’s time for the fun part - the math.
To calculate the RICE score, you use the RICE framework formula we mentioned earlier:
(R x I x C) / E.
So, for our example above, we’d be looking at (200 x 4 x 100%) / 2. When you do the math, that works out to a RICE score of 400.
Ideally, you’ll run through this process for each of the projects on your list, then you’ll be able to accurately compare the RICE scores to determine what project you should take on next.
5 Tips for better prioritization with the RICE framework
As we mentioned above, going through a prioritization process gives you a way to make sure that you select project ideas based on the positive impact they’re going to have on your business, rather than just focusing on things that you think are going to be fun. It doesn’t mean that you’re always going to end up making the best decisions, but RICE framework for prioritization helps guide you to the decisions that have your best interests in mind for the business.
1. Align priorities with your goals
It’s hard to prioritize anything if you don’t know what’s important to your business. That’s why you should always make sure that you've got a guiding light when prioritizing. For example, if your business needs to increase revenue fast, focusing on projects that add non-paying users isn't going to solve your problems. If, on the other hand, you want to start converting free users to paid users, adding more free users helps a lot.
It’s a good idea to sit down regularly, maybe once a quarter, and make sure that your priorities align with where your business is at the moment. Sometimes it’s a matter of adjusting between high-impact projects and low-impact projects when you want to focus more on adding new features (or other quick wins) as opposed to growth.
2. Unify all score scales
This might seem like an obvious one, but you need to make sure that you’re using the same scoring scale for everything. If you assign different values to your Impact scale each time you calculate it, you’re effectively comparing apples to oranges because your scale is different.
3. Compare individual scores
Sometimes things calculate out closer than you’d expect them to. It can be hard to determine whether something that scores 430 is better than something that’s ranked 432 or 429. To get a better sense of what’s a better priority, try looking at the individual pieces of the RICE framework formula. For example, if two new features are close, but one has a noticeably better impact score that also aligns better with your overarching business goals, that’s your best decision.
4. Visualize project influence with a RICE matrix
If you’re more of a visual person, you can drop everything into a RICE matrix (a grid that helps you rank priorities) to help you see the relationships between the different factors better. RICE matrix can also be helpful when you’re trying to compare individual scores because you can see everything at a glance, rather than having to examine each individual score.
5. Re-evaluate priorities
We’ve touched on this a little already, but you should regularly re-evaluate your priorities. You do this because you want to make sure that you’re still making decisions that have your business's best interests at heart. It might seem obvious, but these can shift over time and you may not even notice it because you’re so focused on serving the old priorities. This is a good thing to do a handful of times a year, maybe quarterly or bi-annually, whatever best suits your business.
👉 Get started with this RICE framework template.
Copy this template
After you copy this template, you can start utilizing this free RICE framework template for your prioritizing your projects.
Using Coda's RICE framework template for prioritization
table with a list of sample projects. You can clear the sample data by clicking Clear sample projects and start adding the actual name of your team’s projects. For each project, add an Owner so people know who owns the project.
Step 2: Fill out the RICE columns
Each letter in the RICE acronym has its own column in the
page. Feel free to adjust these values based on your team’s preferences. While the Effort column is supposed to be in “person-months,” feel free to enter in the estimated number of weeks the project will take. The final RICE score takes into account each column.
Step 3: View and sort your projects by RICE score
Now that you have applied the RICE framework to your projects, you can view your list in different ways. First, you can check off the Sort by RICE score checkbox at the top of the
view of your projects shows the exact same list of projects except it groups your projects by the Impact level.
RICE framework template FAQs
What are the pros and cons of a RICE scoring model?
The good thing about the RICE scoring model is that it gives you a way to understand how things rank against your business priorities. It gives you a way to prioritize your customer needs, it helps you understand which work in your backlog should be the focus, which product features to develop or which integrations to enable first, and it can be applied to as many or as few projects as you need. If you’re scaling up, you can easily run everything through the RICE matrix to see how they rank.
The downsides are that you’re not always using reliable data (which is where the confidence factor comes in), it’s a lot of work to rank everything (even with a RICE framework template), and you have to be willing to do the work. You can’t cut corners here because if you don’t calculate each factor for each project (R, I, C, E), you’re not evaluating everything on the same scale.
What is a scoring matrix?
A scoring matrix is a grid that helps you rank and assess different things. Ideally, you’re doing some calculations beforehand, so that your ranking system is weighted (meaning the numbers have a specific value). Scoring matrices are good for visually comparing things,
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