by Andreas Pelzer, Delivery Principal at Automation Logic

Why do we use metrics to define our success, but not to establish our priorities? Although we often find ourselves using metrics to determine whether we followed the right path after the journey is complete, qualifying value at both ends of the process would afford us more certainty. There are many reasons why we shy away from using metrics to shape our priorities. According to intercom.com, ‘it’s satisfying to work on pets you’d use yourself, instead of projects with broad reach’ and ‘it’s easy to discount the additional effort that one project will require over another’. Metrics represent a cold lens through which we can best calculate the value of a project before we embark upon it, removing the individual from the process along with any hope of interesting work. 

Why do priorities require metrics 

Without going full “1984”, isn’t that a good thing? Removing subjectivity enables a level discussion of the numbers rather than an emotionally led argument. Furthermore, having a quantified bedrock will automatically trigger a discussion over any disagreement about the numbers which leads to a better understanding of the task at hand. Above all, it protects us and our stakeholders by being able to demonstrate why we did what we did. That is all metrics are: a way to compare the potential value of each piece of work. Looking at it this way, the result is a lot less “SkyNet”, and a lot more of what we work towards every day — a shorter route to value and strategic goals, requiring less effort from all involved. 

What do we measure to quantify priorities 

“There are three interdependent variables that are essential for executing any initiative — objectives, resources, and timing. You can’t produce the desired effect of a project without precise objectives, ample resources, and a reasonable time frame. If you push or pull on one leg of this triangle, you must adjust the others.” Harvard Business Review 

Now that we know metrics are an essential part of prioritisation, we face a second challenge: What should we be measuring? Well, that depends… This might seem like a cop-out, but there are so many different methodologies/weightings that you can attribute to variables that you won’t know which suits your team until you have tried them. Below are three, well-regarded methods you can view as a starting point. 

However, one thing to preface each of these methodologies: There might be additional layers depending on the use case: i.e., for a product roadmap, the focus is likely to be on what to produce. Whereas a company initiative or investment decision will need additional layers and considerations (including but not limited to company culture, change management, capacity for change, and macroeconomics etc.) 

RICE Score  

Pioneered by Intercom, RICE represents the four criteria used to evaluate a potential project: 

-Reach: How many people will this impact? (Estimate within a defined time period.)

-Impact: How much will this impact each person? (Massive = 3x, High = 2x, Medium = 1x, Low = 0.5x, Minimal = 0.25x.)

-Confidence: How confident are you in your estimates? (High = 100%, Medium = 80%, Low = 50%.)

-Effort: How many “person-months” will this take? (Use whole numbers and minimum of half a month — don’t get into the weeds of estimation.)

Weighted Scoring 

Weighted scoring uses standardised numerical scoring to rank your strategic initiatives against benefit and cost categories. It stands out as a quick and easy-to-use method to compare the costs and benefits of competing projects based on multiple criteria of varying importance. 

Read the results as follows:

->15 = opportunity that should not be ignored.

-12-15 = “low-hanging fruits” ripe for improvement.

-10 and 12 = are worthy of consideration

-<10 = unattractive

Value Index 

The value index enables decision-makers to compare and rank the alignment and achievability of proposed initiatives using a single “value score”. Alignment is calculated using an agreed scale (1-10, 1-100, etc.) to score each initiative’s benefits based on pre-agreed critical success factors (CSFs). Achievability is then scored against financial, 

boundary, resourcing, and complexity factors, all of which are broken into pre-agreed subcategories (proportion of budget, capabilities within the team, etc.) and reconstituted to give a total score. The scores are then added together to provide the value index, 

Prioritisation in the real world 

In practice, prioritisation comes in various shapes and forms and can relate to many topics within a business. Using the right quantifiable prioritisation technique allows for transparency within the decision-making process and ensures that all opinions are heard and considered when prioritising. Which prioritisation method you use entirely depends on your use case and what you are trying to achieve. It is advisable for the team conducting the prioritisation to discuss the desired outcome first before diving into any specific technique or method. 

Building a product roadmap 

When we worked with product managers on their strategic product roadmaps, one of the main criteria was innovation in the form of key differentiators from their competitors (as this has been flagged by their sales teams and customers). Documenting those factors and pointing to them specifically when using one of the aforemtnioned methods (in this case, we emphasised the innovation value within the “impact” of the RICE scoring) was crucial in getting the buy-in from the team. 

Facilitating a prioritisation session 

When the goals are set, and the important factors/criteria are lined up, it’s time to run your prioritisation session. Here are two main things to consider when deciding on a quantitative approach: 

-First, make sure to vote/score anonymously. Most people tend to agree with the first score given. An anonymous approach will lead to different results, sparking important conversations and helping the team to understand the full scope of the topic.

-Second, allow time for a second review of the results after finishing the scoring with the team. While it might be counter-intuitive to go over all the topics discussed again, comparing the outcome and relating issues with each other might trigger additional conversations (when topics perceived as more important scored lower than others the team perceived as less valuable).

Setting business objectives 

To prioritise our internal business objectives, we scored them using the RICE methodology. Ultimately, our scores aligned with our teams’ initial expectations. Then, after reviewing the initiatives contextually and unpacking why some thought certain initiatives were more impactful, the team found a clear prioritisation that everyone could sign up to.  

This is the beginning, not the end  

As with every methodology and tool, it is only a starting point for your prioritisation journey. So, after trying one (or indeed two or three) of these approaches, be sure to get the team’s feedback, and feel free to adjust the methodology to fit your environment and company culture better. After all, one of the key goals is to get the buy-in and support from the whole business/team, so do not restrict yourself.

< Back