ICE, RICE, WSJF or how to effectively organize a backlog
More valuable and shorter work first
Hello to all readers who want to competently build the most multitasking backlogs. My name is Fedor Gvozdev, I am the founder of HolySkin Korean cosmetics online store. I have been working on the development of this project for 8 years and have repeatedly faced difficulties with prioritization. In this article, I will try to share my experience and present the most “working” models that have helped us more than once in our work.
In any planning, there comes a time when a new strategy is required, prioritization. Many managers are faced with chaotic proposals and opinions, which leads astray and as a result – important features are abandoned or not started, goals are not clear, the team loses motivation.
A logical question arises –How to effectively prioritize team work?»
An effective organization is the key to the success of any project, but how to build it competently, excluding endless calls, disputes and presentations? Working with a backlog is not as easy as it might seem, and in order to achieve a real result, with minimal development costs, it is worth resorting to task prioritization. There are special mechanisms for this. They provide an opportunity to move from verbal skirmishes to quantitative assessments, matrices and charts that will lead the team to build a productive algorithm of actions.
In this article, we will look at the most popular task prioritization models and see why it is important to use them.
ICE – fast prioritization method
This model is one of the easiest tools for organizing goals and objectives. If this is your first time using these techniques, then this is a great place to start.
The first use of ICE is associated with growth hacking, a methodology based on the rapid assimilation of any skills, but has recently become popular in management for prioritizing features.
Consider the composition of the abbreviation:
Impact – the marker indicates whether the implementation of the initiative, technology will bring economic growth or an increase in another key indicator against which the tasks are evaluated.
Confidence – an indicator of confidence in the success of execution, often based on the two remaining criteria.
Ease – assessment of labor and resource intensity of the project.
The mechanism uses scale from 1 to 10 for each criterion, then when deriving the arithmetic mean of the three components, the final ICE Score, and all features are ranked by importance.
It is important to enter the relationship of the applied scale with your understanding of each position relative to the criteria. This is necessary so that the team speaks the same language.
We collect a list of tasks, and evaluate each on a 10-point scale, starting with the first column – impact.
Subjectivity, there is no objective assessment and calculation. The relativity of results can cause the loss of an important task or its removal from a higher position.
The system for evaluating each of the features according to four indicators included in the acronym. Results from this technique are more versatile and can be used for backlogs where structuring needs more attention.
Despite the similarity of the components of RICE and ICE, they differ not only in the level of objectivity of the assessment, but also in the components of the assessment process.
Let’s explain each component:
Reach – the number of audience reached by the feature or its implementation, in real numbers
Impact – benefits from the implemented feature to the final product or the entire project.
Confidence – an indicator of confidence in the success of execution. The RICE model measures in percentages and allows to correct the situation when there is no concrete evidence of certainty of influence.
Effort – characterizes the labor costs and is expressed in the people involved per month for the implementation of one project.
For clarity – if the project consists of stages – planning (1 person) – 1 week, design (1 person) – 2 weeks, development (1 person) – 3 weeks, then in total we get 3 team members for 6 weeks of work. Effort is two.
Further calculations are reduced to the use of one formula.
We evaluate each factor according to the method described above, and calculate the total number of points according to the formula.
Results by a wide margin and an obvious choice. The team agreed with the outcome and due to the presence of more clarifying criteria, we were confident in this prioritization.
The risk of needing to be reassessed. The result according to the RICE method cannot be considered final, since it is still a more systematized model of the team’s confidence in a particular feature.
The model can be considered effective in medium complexity backlog circumstances, but it is important to understand that prioritization can also be refined.
WSJF – Weighted Shortest Job First
The most versatile and most efficient prioritization model. Considers the optimal number of criteria, which allows you to rationally structure the work.
The name of the mechanism is an abbreviation of the phrase “Weighted Shortest Job First” – the most important and simple tasks are paramount, which is the idea of prioritization. After the assessment, you will receive a ready-made list in which tasks will decrease in terms of implementation complexity and effectiveness for your project.
Calculations when using this model are reduced to one simple formula, but the complexity appears in the component part of the numerator, since the cost of delay is the sum of three more evaluation criteria. It is this component that makes WSJF really effective.
Consider in detail all the components of the system:
Cost of delay (= User-Business Value + Time Criticality + Risk Reduction or Opportunity Enablement) – the technical complexity of the implementation of the work, which includes:
– User-Business Value (business value) – a criterion that evaluates how useful the idea is, the task will be for business.
– Time Criticality (temporary criticality or haste) – how important it is to do the task quickly or its execution can wait.
– Risk Reduction (risk factor) – evaluating this parameter, in fact, it is necessary to answer the question – “what risks can we protect ourselves from? “.
– Opportunity Enablement – the number of potential open opportunities.
Job size (resource consumption) – includes labor resources, terms of work, costs for freelancers.
For the most effective evaluation of features according to WSJF, StoryPoints or ScrumPoints are often used – a measure of the laboriousness or complexity of backlog tasks. It is based on the Fibonacci number series – a numerical sequence where the first element is 1, and the subsequent ones are equal to the sum of the previous two.
The numbers increase non-linearly, making the difference between tasks with 1 and 5 StoryPoints more obvious when scoring and making selection easier.
Since the method organizes the entire backlog at once, the evaluation process differs from previous prioritization models.
It boils down to creating a matrix with final grades. It is because of the matrix view that there is a strict padding rule:
Evaluate sequentially. one column, starting with the least significant, which is assigned 1 point. In every column must have at least one unit.
Subsequently, the list of tasks should be ranked based on the results obtained, where the highest WSJF score means the corresponding implementation priority.
As an example, let’s take a backlog with three features for our online store. The task is to evaluate for all instruments in the Cost of delay for each function. Let me remind you that the assessment is made according to the Fibonacci series.
The Job size is considered as a human resource cost – this algorithm was discussed in the examples earlier.
We get the following view:
In the WSJF model, the highest score means the priority of completing the task, as the most efficient in terms of time and resources.
In my opinion, this mechanism has an exhaustive number of tools and therefore is the most suitable for prioritizing any backlog – from the smallest to the most “terrible”. At the moment WSJF is the favorite of our team.
one-time prioritization of the entire backlog
effective rating scale
important and relevant criteria
The WSJF model works successfully and efficiently in most cases. It is suitable for organizing multitasking backlogs and the most primitive versions.
Prioritizing tasks is a complex and lengthy process. The framework in this case is an excellent assistant, but, despite this, it needs to be improved by the manager.
Mechanisms like RICE, ICE, WSJF, although they do not always exhaust the work on ranking priorities, are effective and can change the vector of work quite a lot – save you from financial losses and get rid of useless tasks.
RICE and ICE are great options for weekly team meetings to quickly bring clarity and motivation to work ahead.
WSJF is a more complex tool for multi-tasking backlogs, its effectiveness has been confirmed more than once in my personal experience. It can be used for projects where losses may be too high.
Reasons to use prioritization models in your work:
The whole team is involved in the decision-making process
Significant reduction in time
Get rid of endless calls, presentations and meetings
Effective formation of goals for Smart
Choosing a prioritization model is based on the complexity of the backlog and the goals of the manager. It is worth trying several mechanisms at work, then by experience you will be able to choose the most effective and understandable.