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How to use RICE to prioritise your engineering team

adamhopkinson profile image Adam Hopkinson ・3 min read

Prioritising work coming in to your team is tough. For half of you reading this right now, it's not even officially your role - but just something you have to take on.

Everyone thinks their idea is the best and most important one you've ever heard. Nobody can understand why you won't just drop everything else to prioritise what they want.

What you need is a process - one that is inarguable, one that they can be a part of.

You need RICE.

I first read about the RICE method on this Intercom article by Sean McBride. I was struck by it straight away, and took it back to my team and the wider business.

The four key measures

RICE stands for reach, impact, confidence and effort.

You'll need to decide how you measure each of these for your business - but by the end of this article you'll be on the first step to solving some of your prioritisation issues.

Reach

Reach is how much of your customer base (or audience) the suggested feature will affect. I'd suggest using a percentage.

Impact

For the customers this feature reaches, how big of a positive impact is it? High? Medium? Low? Hopefully not no impact.

Confidence

What's your confidence in actually being able to achieve the goal? It might be, for example, that the hypothesis isn't proven. High, medium or low.

Effort

How big a job will it be to implement? Prioritisation is there to protect your resources - so how much resource does this take up? High, medium or low.

How do we use these measures?

This is where you'll need to have a think about how to apply these measures to your business.

Broadly, you have three high/medium/low measures which can be treated as positive/neutral/negative levers and reach.

Say you use the following:

  • Divide reach by 10 to get a score of 1-10
  • Treat impact and confidence as high=5, medium=3, low=1
  • Treat effort the other way round; high=1, medium=3, low=5

Your formula might look like:

reach * impact * confidence * effort

A working example

A new feature request comes in - the business would like to soft-launch in a new international market, by replacing all the phone numbers on the site with country-specific numbers for visitors from the new region.

Analytics tell you that 20% of your current audience comes from this market, so reach is 2.

The visitors to your site from this region aren't being serviced adequately, so for them impact is potentially medium/high - maybe 4.

We have potential market, but are not sure that geographically-relevant phone numbers is enough to swing the sale - maybe we need to look at shipping rates too. Confidence is medium, so 3.

With services like Twilio, it's not as hard as it may have otherwise been to provision new numbers. Effort is low/medium, so 4.

The priority score for this feature is 2 * 4 * 3 * 4 = 96!

Using RICE in your business

The best approach to implement RICE in your business is to let the rest of the business drive it.

Create a Google Form which for each measure has a description, a drop-down for the rating and a text field to allow supporting evidence.

Don't immediately provide the score, but communicate back and agree with users any adjustments you've made and then use the score to place the request in the context of other requests you've received.

Discussion (2)

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nicolasini profile image
Nico S___

This is a good way to prioritise work to get the biggest bang for your buck.

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adamhopkinson profile image
Adam Hopkinson Author

Thanks Nico, glad you found it useful!