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Project Prioritization with RICE Scoring - Prioritization Template
Got a big ol’ list of projects, but not sure how to prioritize them? Similar to the four quadrants template for goal creation, RICE scoring can give you a quick gut check on which projects to do first.
Get the template here: RICE Scoring Example [Make a Copy]
Is this a perfect system? Absolutely not. Is this helpful for testing quick assumptions and getting some prioritization on paper? Absolutely yes. To break it down simply, RICE scoring assesses Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort to get to a final score which can then be compared against other project scores.
As with other templates, I like to remove numbers from the initial assessment. Instead, I like to use words that release data-minded folks from the shackles of being too analytical too early. Simply stated, RICE Scoring is like deciding on recipes for an upcoming family meal you’re responsible for cooking:
Reach is like the number of people you're serving. The more people, the higher the reach score.
Impact is like the taste/nutrition of your dish (depending on what your guests value the most). How much will this meal benefit your guests? The bigger the impact, the higher the score.
Confidence is like how difficult the recipe is. How sure are you that you can deliver this meal successfully? The more confident you are, the higher the score.
Effort is like the time and effort required to cook your dish. How much work will it take to cook this meal? The less effort required, the higher the score.
The template itself is adjustable for both words and their weight (numerical value) in the “Data” tab, so change as is appropriate for you and your teams. Associating the categories into a final score is quite simple and boils down to the following formula:
Simple, made even more simple from the spreadsheet which will convert everything into numbers for you automatically. Now that you have a sense of what RICE Scoring is, let’s take a look at each section.
When we talk about Reach in RICE scoring, we’re talking about the size of the audience we expect the project to affect. If you have an exact number, great, otherwise a rough approximation will do.
Something helpful, especially in early stages, is to think about your reach number in exponential quantities to help generalize the reach itself.
Small = 10 people
Medium = 100 people
Large = 500 people
Huge = 1000 people
You can adjust those numbers to whatever is most meaningful for you and your teams in the “Data” tab of the spreadsheet.
As long as there is some gap between the weight given to each category, it will be a meaningful data point.
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I deviate a bit here from the standard Impact scoring, leaning into a 5 as the largest impact and 0.5 as the smallest. Honestly, if the impact is less than 0.5, you’re probably never going to spend time or resources on that project anyway.
The numbers and terms for Impact assess the influence on the objective. Said a different way, Impact can, and should, reflect a quantitative goal of some sort and the impact of the feature on that goal.
In the template, I’ve got it broken down into the following:
Minimal = 0.5
Small = 1
Medium = 2
Large = 3
Mega = 5
A goal in trying to identify the Impact is understanding the goal of the feature itself and your proposed metrics. Something like the Impact score becomes a forcing function of getting tied to the proposed value and what outcomes you expect to achieve with the project itself.
How confident are you of the Impact you are aiming for? The higher the confidence, the higher your score will be. The lower the confidence, the lower the score will be. Makes sense overall. For this spreadsheet, I’ve noted the following categories: Unclear, Low, Medium, High, and Highest. These categories translate into percentages to use in the equation.
Unclear = 20% confidence = 0.2
Low = 40% confidence = 0.4
Medium = 60% confidence = 0.6
High = 80% confidence = 0.8
Highest = 100% confidence = 1
Go with your gut on this one. You should have a sense of how much of a moonshot the project is, and your confidence level should reflect as much. Think of it as confidence in the proposed Impact of the project, combined with confidence in the effort it will take to make it happen.
Remind your teams, this is purely an estimate. Once it is determined that you will do the work, deeper consideration should be made to the breakdown of the work itself. For RICE Scoring purposes, I like to break it down by weeks of work.
EZPZ = 0.5 weeks
Small Lift = 1 weeks
Mid-size = 2 weeks
Hefty Chonk = 4 weeks
Herculean = 8 weeks
If you’re laughing at me saying 8 weeks is a long time, consider that every week is critical to moving the business forward. Even if you’re not in the sort of environment that pushes that sort of thinking, treat each week as a sacred unit of time and do what you can to make it as impactful as possible.
I’ve worked in highly regulated industries (medical and insurance) and understand there are some items that you must do regardless of how helpful the project will be for folks. Don’t get trapped by thinking Impact and Reach are only for customers though, those assessments could also be indicators of protecting the company legally and the broad strokes of Impact there.
Set timeframes to revisit the data. The scoring itself should be reflective of a period of time you expect for the impact and reach, but continue to revisit over time to see if your assessments were correct.
Outside of those two considerations, remember that RICE Scoring is not a perfect system. It is intended to be a quick way to understand what you do and don’t know and how priorities stack based on that information.
How else have you used RICE Scoring in the past? Let me know below! Or, heck, tell me how I’m using this wrong so I can get better.