Dmitrii Ilenkov on The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire

“How can the RICE method help me manage features and projects?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire.

P3express.com founder Dmitrii Ilenkov joins Appfire’s Kerry O’Shea Gorgone to talk about RICE, a prioritization method that can help you decide which features or projects your team should focus on.

About the guest

Dmitrii Ilenkov is the founder of P3express.com and a project management practitioner with more than 10 years of experience.

About the show

The BEST Work Management Show by Appfire features smart leaders sharing their secrets for optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. Get the goods on how they handle everything from setting up workflows to automating processes. Every episode is 10 minutes or less, packed with insights you can use right away to supercharge your team’s productivity.


For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

Kerry:  Today we’re going to talk about the RICE method and how it can help you choose the right projects. To answer that for us is Dmitrii Ilenkov, tech entrepreneur, founder of PM Club and P3express.com. Stick around for 10 minutes of valuable leadership advice.

Dmitrii, thanks for joining. What is the RICE method and how can it help me choose the right projects for my company?

Dmitrii:  The RICE method is something beautiful and something really simple. Because we need it and it’s simple. The problem is always here if you are working as a scrum master, project manager, you need to prioritize your backlog, project backlog, sprint backlog. But if you are a CEO of a company, the problem is still here and it becomes much worse. You still need to pick out something valuable and put your effort into it. Now you are not responsible only for your project, you are responsible for everything. 

You are responsible for your customers’ satisfaction, you are responsible for your company’s profits, and you are responsible for your employees’ wellbeing. Everything is here, everything is at stake. So, how do you pick up the right projects? It’s always hard because some ideas are beautiful, you just want to test them.

Kerry:  Pet projects we call them.

Dmitrii:  Yes. They’re always in place, they’re always here. Sometimes you are smart and you have those strategic goals, and you try to fulfill them, but compliance is never a strategic goal. Right? That doesn’t mean that we do not need to undertake projects not to face problems with compliance. Can we ignore it? No, we can’t. It’s still here. What about our customers? They are always asking for something more. How do we pick up the right stories and meet their expectations? We need something simple. 

Kerry:  Right. Because you’re in charge of the strategic direction of the company, people are going to pitch you ideas for things all the time. You need a way to evaluate them and figure out which are worth pursuing and which are not.

Dmitrii:  True. People can be really loud. That’s a good thing that they are passionate about their ideas, but it really makes it even worse for you. 

So, there is a company Intercom, I’m pretty sure that everybody has encountered their beautiful products because they’re creating live chats for websites. 

Kerry:  The thing that pops up and it’s like, “Do you need some help?” Those?

Dmitrii:  Yes. “We’re here to help you.” That’s it. So, they are pretty big and they are pretty successful. They created these frameworks for themselves.

Kerry:  They created the RICE method? 

Dmitrii:  Yes, to prioritize projects and features. It can really work for big companies and for small companies, on the team level and the company level. 

Let’s get down to business. RICE is not about food, it’s about four letters; reach, impact, confidence, and effort. 

Kerry:  Reach, impact, confidence, and effort.

Dmitrii:  Yes. To calculate the RICE, we need to consider all four factors. Let’s start by explaining with some examples. 

Reach. How many people does this feature or this project really have impact on? How many people will notice it? 

For example, you have a website, and let’s say it has 20,000 visitors a month. You know that half of them use mobile devices. Some people are complaining that your website doesn’t work well on their mobile phone. How did we get this problem? Do we really need to do it, or it’s just how people are always complaining? If you know that you have 20,000 visitors and half of them use mobile phones, then reach is 10,000 people. Ten thousand people sounds big to me.

Kerry:  Half of your site visitors is pretty big.

Dmitrii:  Yes. This is how we got 10,000 as the first factor, reach. Second impact. How big, how massive is the impact of a feature on your customer or employee, but from which point of view, and how does it impact your targets? 

For example, once I got a brilliant idea from one of our customers and site visitors. They said, “You have articles on your website and we enjoy them, but I prefer listening, not reading. Can you add this feature where I just press the button and it plays all of the articles to me and converts it to audio?” Sounds smart. I don’t argue. But which goal can it probably impact? No idea. I really have no clue. Probably reach here is big if you have many people visiting your blog, but it doesn’t really impact any of your goals. 

Imagine another problem. Something works wrong in the registration process, people cannot register on your website or people cannot buy your product. For example, the payment system doesn’t work to a particular country. Wow, that’s bad. That’s huge. If you manage to change the payment system or to improve your registration process, then you win. For example, I had issues with registration for my course, so people had to do it two times instead of one, and I lost half of the users in this process.

Kerry:  Because it undermined their confidence in it, do you think?

Dmitrii:  Well, I think that they just got lost somewhere along the way. They pressed the registration button, then they received a letter, and then they had to go to the registration again on my learning management system. Half of them just said, “I don’t want to do that.” Maybe they just didn’t even read the letter. That means the impact is very huge. If half of the people get lost, that’s bad.

Here, you use metrics like 0.5, for example, for slight impact, 3 for huge impact. Again, the numbers are on you. You can check the Intercom article for their numbers, but that’s not really important. The important thing is to come up with your numbers and continue your calculation.

Kerry:  Okay.

Dmitrii:  So, we have two things, reach and impact. Then you have this confidence thing, and it’s pretty important. If you have metrics and if you have them calculated, you know all of the numbers and you can feel confident about them, it’s good. But what if your confidence is built up on a couple of interviews that you performed with your users, can you say that’s enough to say for sure that people really need this feature? 

Kerry:  So, how sure are you about your data?

Dmitrii:  Yes, exactly. How sure are you about reach? How sure are you about impact? Do you have any proof that this feature will really impact anything?

Finally, the last thing is effort. You have to put effort into any feature. You can’t just skip it. Intercom is using person months, like one-person month, two-person months, three-person months. If you need to involve your designer and your developer, and it takes two weeks for them, then all together it’s four weeks, it’s a month. 

Kerry:  Okay. 

Dmitrii:  Honestly, in my case, I don’t use person month. It’s person weeks. You can use anything to compare one project with another, just do it the way you like.

Kerry:  So, a lot of time or a little time is basically what you’re trying to figure out.

Dmitrii:  Exactly. It needs to be something comparable. In the end, when you get all four factors, you just use a simple formula. Reach multiply impact, multiply confidence, and divided by effort, and you get this RICE score.

Is it important as itself? No.

Kerry:  You decide yourself what the score is, what merits and what doesn’t, you set the score? 

Dmitrii:  If you calculate RICE for one project, it’s nice because RICE framework is not about very accurate scores. It’s about a call for discussion and it’s about a framework to make this discussion productive. You’re not just shouting out loud, “Pick my project. It’s the most important. It’s the most valuable.” No. It’s an open call so that people can make some calculations or some assumptions even. It’s not that it’s good for the start. 

It’s good, but if you compare several projects with the RICE score calculated in the same manner, then you’re able to compare and to build a prioritized list. That’s what helps. 

Kerry:  Business resources are finite, so it makes sense to allocate them in the most strategically valuable way. Dmitrii, thanks for talking about the RICE method. If you would like to learn more about it, I’ll put the link to the Intercom post in the show notes for this episode of The Work Management Show. 

If you’d like to see more episodes of The Work Management Show, you can find them at Hub.Appfire.com. We’ll see you next time.

Last updated: 2022-11-22

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