Prioritization Frameworks Guide

Steal the best ideas from the best practices of the best thinkers and mix them with your specific goals.

In Criteria Pursuit

Prioritization is a must-have in any product's life. Yet it's an immense pain for all PMs. Though the process itself is rather intricate, we overspend our time on searching perfect criteria and determining their significance.

We had first given a thought to start prioritizing when our event marketing toolbox Tendee began facing a rain of feature requests. Being inspired by Des Traynor's speech at Business of Software, we decided to try Intercom's RICE. First, we couldn't understand if Impactful is about money or reliability, and how to measure Confidence, so we threw the I and C away. Then we discovered AARRR and took Acquisition, Activation, and Retention. Later, we found our Business Pain Point and North Star Metric. In the end, our criteria had nothing in common with original ones because we didn't hesitate to change or rename them for the team's better understanding and product fit. Against the odds, even the unadapted RICE affected our work from the very first day, making us think, then act.

The same goes for criteria weights. Start with +1 for every positive pull like impact on sales, and -1 for a negative pull like time and efforts. Change them when you feel they should have a greater or smaller impact on the company's course. Treat prioritization similar to the concept of MVP, so that criteria and their weight have just enough fit for your course of action.

Here we've highlighted several popular prioritization frameworks for you to consider. You can try them all in Ducalis.
A 55 seconds example how easy it is to customize your ideal prioritization criteria at ducalis.io

Best popular prioritization frameworks

RICE prioritization framework

RICE is an acronym for the four factors used to evaluate project issues. It stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort.

  • Reach—How many people will this affect within a defined time period?
  • Impact—How much will this impact each person?
  • Confidence—How confident are you in your reach and impact scores?
  • Effort—How much time does it require?

Introduced by Intercom, the RICE helps teams to measure the impact of the issues on their product and company goals. This framework is great when you need to seriously restrict your budget because you can focus on points with the highest impact and lowest effort. Though the RICE is very flexible, and each project can interpret these criteria in its own way, it may be hard to use in large teams with multiple product lines or components.

Best for prioritizing product feature ideas, marketing efforts, company's next step hypothesis, etc.

Customizable RICE in Ducalis


REAN prioritization framework

The REAN model is used to measure and understand the efficacy of marketing efforts. It stands for Reach, Engage, Activate, Nurture.

  • Reach—Are the measures you use to attract people to your site effective? Can be measured in terms of impression metrics.
  • Engage—How are customers or prospects interacting with your brand? Helps to create better content marketing strategies.
  • Activate—Are users taking specific actions on your website, or following a particular path? Can be measured through conversion metrics.
  • Nurture—Are you encouraging your visitors to return to your site and consume more of your content? Are your remarketing efforts working?

The REAN model was popularised by Steve Jackson in the Cult of Analytics, who presented the framework as a way of understanding the measurement of activities.

Best for prioritizing marketing efforts, map marketing activities, plan measurement frameworks, set goals for marketing teams, and map digital marketing channels, etc.

Customizable REAN in Ducalis


AIDA marketing framework

The term AIDA and the overall approach are commonly attributed to American advertising and sales pioneer, E. St. Elmo Lewis. This acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

  • Attention—Will consumers become more aware of a product or brand?
  • Interest—Will consumers become more interested by learning about brand benefits? Does the brand fit with lifestyle?
  • Desire—Will consumers develop a favorable disposition towards the brand?
  • Action—Will consumers form a purchase intention, engage in a trial, or make a purchase?

The AIDA model is widely used in marketing and advertising. Some of the contemporary variants of the model replace attention with awareness. It is sometimes modified with post-purchase stages or feature adaptations to redress some of the model's deficiencies.

Best for prioritizing marketing messages, ad campaign ideas, landing page structure, blog posts, etc.

Customizable AIDA in Ducalis


HEART prioritization framework

The HEART framework was designed by Kerry Rodden, Hilary Hutchinson, and Xin Fu, from Google's research team. It stands for Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, Task success.

  • Happiness—How do users feel about your product?
  • Engagement—How often are people coming back to use the product?
  • Adoption—How many people complete the onboarding process and become regular users?
  • Retention—What percentage of users are returning to the product? 
  • Task Success—Can users achieve their goals or task quickly and easily?

The HEART is used to evaluate the quality of the user experience, and help teams measure the impact of UX changes. You can devote your attention to just those areas of the user experience you believe will have the most significant strategic impact on the product.

Best for prioritizing ideas for product's UX improvements, features, product strategy, etc.

Customizable HEART in Ducalis


AARRR growth framework

Developed by Dave McClure from 500 Startups helps product managers define success metrics for any product or feature. It stands for Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue.

  • Acquisition—Where/what channels do users come from?
  • Activation—What percent have a "happy" initial experience?
  • Retention—Do they come back and revisit over time?
  • Referral—Do they like it enough to tell their friends?
  • Revenue—Can you monetize any of this behavior?

This framework helps you simplify the customer lifecycle, enables you to measure your funnel, and optimize it for the better. It's meant to help startups find their most important growth metrics.

Best for prioritizing product and marketing ideas.

Customizable AARRR in Ducalis

Add your business-specific custom criteria

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all framework. Your top priorities must consider business goals. Why not include them to your framework.

OKRs

The development of OKRs is generally attributed to Andy Grove, the "Father of OKRs," who introduced the approach to Intel during his tenure there and documented this in his 1983 book High Output Management. OKRs are:

  • objectives—clearly defined goals
  • key results—specific measures used to track the achievement of the goals.

To use your OKRs for prioritization, you can simply come up with a set of questions that the issues should go through.

Let's assume that one of your team's objectives is to increase the number of link clicks by 60%. To achieve it, you will probably need to increase the amount of website traffic in general, so, when considering some new features, you might ask yourself a question: Will this help me to increase traffic? And your other objective is to lower the cost per conversion by 20%, and when considering marketing tools, you might ask yourself questions like: Is this tool/service expensive? Is this tool/service efficient?

For these reasons, you may come up with such criteria:

  • Traffic— Does this bring a lot of users to the website?
  • Cost— Does it cost a lot?
  • Conversion— Does it help to convert visitors into buyers?
  • Time— Will it take a lot of time to complete the task?

North Star Metric

The North Star Metric is the fundamental measure of success for the product team in a company. To find your North Star Metric, you must understand the core value your customers get from your product and try to convey it as a single metric. Famous examples of unique metrics are Airbnb "Nights booked" and Facebook "Daily Active Users."

Why add it to your prioritization framework

If you know your company's North Star Metric, add it to your prioritization criteria. It will stimulate your teammates to think about how the next brilliant idea helps your company enhance its customers' core value a lot more. Lead the initiatives through a question: 

  • Does this feature help us grow "the special metric"?

After a few cycles of evaluation, you'll see how much the ideas are misleading to your North Star Metric.

In a Nutshell

To conclude everything mentioned above, there are dozens of different metrics you can use to prioritize your features. You can try them all at Ducalis.io. Create multiple boards for the same set of issues to evaluate them from various perspectives, or start with one framework and improve it over time.

Mix popular frameworks and create custom evaluation criteria for different people in Ducalis

Regardless of the prioritization framework, the most important in the process of issue evaluation is the teams' synchronization and conversations you have. Trying to understand the product from every angle and the impact of everything you develop will make you work as a single entity and perceive feedback and requests unusually. 

Start it simple, involve, discuss, and argue, and you will see how those ideal prioritization criteria appear themselves.
  1. In Criteria Pursuit
  2. RICE
  3. REAN
  4. AIDA
  5. HEART
  6. AARRR
  7. OKRs
  8. North Star Metric
  9. In a Nutshell

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