How to Use the RICE Score Model to Prioritize App Features

5 min read

As a mobile app product manager, there’s a lot of pressure from developers and stakeholders to include as many features as possible within the app. But without a proper strategy to prioritize features, you have no way of identifying which features to work on first.

Frank L.
Frank L.
Published May 13, 2022

The RICE score model is a feature prioritization technique that helps you make better decisions for your roadmap based on various factors. Intercom first developed the method when it wanted to make better decisions in its product roadmap and manage its feature ideas.

The RICE prioritization method is an effective way to prioritize features in your mobile app roadmap. Why? Because it eliminates bias during decision-making and helps you choose the right features based on various important factors.

Here’s everything you need to know to get started with the feature prioritization technique:

What Is the Rice Prioritization Formula?

RICE is an acronym wherein the letters each stand for one of the prioritization factors: reach, impact, confidence, and effort. The RICE prioritization formula you’ll follow is:

Reach × Impact × Confidence / Effort = RICE score

To prioritize your features, you’ll calculate the RICE score for each of the features on your list. The feature with the highest score is the one you should prioritize first.

What Are These Factors?

Each of these four factors has an essential role in determining which features are the best to focus on. Here’s what each of these factors consists of:

  • Reach: The number of users that your new feature will concern. Which segment of your user base will benefit the most from this feature?
  • Impact: Identify the new feature’s positive effects on the mobile app experience. For example, will this new feature in your app improve your retention rate?
  • Confidence: How confident are you that the feature will have the impact you think it will have? Do you have any data that supports your estimates?
  • Effort: You must also think about how the new feature will impact other deadlines in your roadmap. Take a look at your resources — how much will you have to invest in time and money to integrate this new feature?

When you weigh all these four factors together and run them through the RICE formula, you can then decide which features you should prioritize in the roadmap.

How to Estimate Reach

First, you need to assess how relevant the feature is to your customers and how many users it’s going to concern. For example, if the feature you want to launch will only concern 3% of your user base, it’s probably not a priority for your development team.

To determine your reach, estimate how many users the feature will concern across a specific timeframe. That time period could be one month (30 days) or longer, such as a full quarter (90 days).

For example, let’s say you’re managing a photo editing mobile app, and you plan on making updates to your color saturation features. You’ll have to look at how many users used these features across the past 30 days based on your data. If 20 users used your color saturation features each day in the past 30 days, then your reach will be 20 × 30 = 600.

How to Estimate Impact

You don’t want to include a new feature in your roadmap just because it seems “good to have.” What’s truly important is the effect the new feature has on user engagement and how it aligns with your business goals.

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First, identify the impact the new feature will have on your larger goal: Is it to increase user retention? Or get more users to upgrade to a paid membership? Next, based on your impact goal, you can use the following scoring criteria from Intercom to measure the potential impact of a feature:

  • 3 = Massive impact
  • 2 = High impact
  • 1 = Medium impact
  • 0.5 = Low impact
  • 0.25 = Minimal impact

Let’s say that you’re managing an ecommerce mobile app, and your goal is to improve user satisfaction. Via surveys, you find out that many users want the option to pay for products with PayPal, so you decide to include a PayPal integration as part of your app. In this case, you can give this PayPal integration an impact score of 2.

How to Estimate Confidence

Your confidence score is a measure of how certain your desired outcome will be. Usually, that translates to if you used data to measure your impact score, you can give yourself a high confidence score. But if you relied on “gut feeling” to determine your impact score, you’d have to give yourself a low confidence score.

Intercom recommends using the following scoring model to measure your confidence behind developing a specific feature:

  • 100% = High confidence
  • 80% = Medium confidence
  • 50% = Low confidence

Features with a score between 80% to 100% are the features you want to prioritize the most in your roadmap. If your confidence level is below 50%, then you can be sure that you’re making your decision primarily on “gut feeling” and not on actual data.

Let’s say you were Uber, and you wanted to measure how confident you were about the impact of a new feature that allows passengers to record conversations during rides for better protection. You could give yourself a confidence score of 100% if users frequently demanded more security features. But you’d give yourself a confidence score of 50% if you had no such feedback to support your feature.

How to Estimate Effort

Effort is the amount of money and time you expect it requires to create a particular feature. You want to estimate effort so you don’t invest in a feature that would prevent another (perhaps more or equally valuable) feature from being built.

You need to think about the time you’ll have to invest in building out the new feature because it could potentially impact your backlog and deadlines. To estimate your effort, you need to determine how many days/months it will take to develop the feature. The effort will vary depending on how complex the feature is to build.

Another thing to consider is how many people on your team will be involved in creating the feature. The more departments that have to be involved in order to develop the feature, the more effort is required.

According to Intercom, you should estimate your effort as a number of “person-months,” which refers to the amount of work an individual team member can do within 30 days. For example, if it’s going to take two weeks for your design team to sketch out the potential feature and two weeks for your engineering team to develop it, then you’ll have an effort score of 2 person-months.

Create a Better App Roadmap With RICE Prioritization

The RICE method helps you make better decisions in your mobile app roadmap, which helps develop a better mobile app that engages and retains more users.

As part of your mobile app product roadmap, in-app messaging and activity feeds need to be some of your top priorities. These features offer the possibility to create a sense of community within your app, improve user engagement, and announce important updates to your audience.

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