What is the ICE Prioritization Framework?

Marketing has historically been one of the fastest-changing industries, requiring practitioners to be adaptable and innovative to stay relevant. The advent of modern technology and its effect on advertising has only accelerated the speed of change, with digital marketing becoming an increasingly competitive field.

With so many ways to reach potential customers, navigating the turbulent landscape of digital marketing requires constant reevaluation of your strategies.

However, as any growth marketer knows, coming up with a new idea is not always the hardest part. With marketing commonly being a team effort that also required approval from members of the management team, there are many factors that need to be considered before implementing a potential campaign.

For decades, experts have been weighing the best ways to evaluate the potential of different projects or A/B tests, allowing you to know which one to prioritize. These methods vary by stage of business, accessibility, costs, product type, and more, which can make it cumbersome to find which one is the best for any given case.

After all, is there a method to prioritize the tool that will help you to prioritize?

Fortunately, there are methods that can easily be applied to multiple scenarios in a quick manner while still providing useful and reliable data. One of such methods is the ICE prioritization framework, a method that has survived the test of time and only continues to grow in popularity.

What is the ICE prioritization framework?

The ICE prioritization framework is a backlog prioritization framework developed and popularized by Sean Ellis, an entrepreneur that would later found and direct Qualaroo and GrowthHackers.

Ever since the method has become increasingly popular among those looking to optimize their workflow and prioritize marketing experiments without the need for product usage data.

If you have ever found yourself with limited time or resources and having to choose between two or more options, you are not alone. The simplicity of the ICE prioritization framework is one of the main reasons why marketing experts have found it especially useful when it comes to prioritizing marketing campaigns or related projects.


The ICE prioritization framework seeks to assign a numerical value to different elements to allow a direct comparison. To achieve this, three metrics need to be considered for each of the elements that want to be compared: Impact, Confidence, and Ease

When using this method, agile teams can improve their efficiency while ensuring that tasks are being prioritized accordingly. This makes the use of the ICE Prioritization Framework especially beneficial for companies on an early stage of growth or going through a strategic change that results in time being essential.

How does the ICE prioritization framework work?

As we said before, the ICE prioritization framework shines for its simplicity. Not only does it take a short time to implement but it also can result in insightful discussions that will ensure all options are being truly considered.

The formula that you will use when evaluating a strategy with this method will be:

ICE Score = Impact x Confidence x Ease

Considering these metrics is something that most marketing experts are already doing when considering a new strategy. However, the use of the ICE prioritization framework ensures you are evaluating all options in the same light, which can be extremely useful when it comes to working with other people.

Let’s take a look at each of the metrics you will be considered when using the ICE prioritization framework.

Impact

When looking at this metric you will be answering a pretty straight question: “How much does this contribute to the goal if it works?”. It is important to remember that you want to think about the best-case scenario when looking at Impact as it is all about the potential impact.

You will be giving this metric a value between 1 and 10 with their meaning being as follows:

  • 1: No Impact  
               
  • 3: Very Low Impact
               
  • 4: Low Impact
               
  • 6: Medium Impact
               
  • 8: High Impact
               
  • 10: Very high Impact

In the case of digital marketing, you will be evaluating the potential this strategy has to move your target across the funnel. This also means you can easily adapt the question to apply to a specific goal. Are you looking to improve your conversion rate? Increase traffic? Retain customers?

Confidence

For this metric, the question will be: “How confident am I that this strategy will work?”. Whereas Impact takes into consideration the best-case scenario, this metric represents how confident you are that this strategy will work.

Of all the metrics, confidence is the one that can be more affected by biases and subjectivity.

In this case, you will be using the following 1 to 10 scale:

  • 1: No Confidence
               
  • 3: Very Low Confidence
               
  • 4: Low Confidence
               
  • 6: Medium Confidence
               
  • 8: High Confidence
               
  • 10: Very High Confidence

This metric will be highly reliant on the data you have at your disposal at the time of evaluating, which can range from a “hunch” to results from tests you have conducted on the topic. While subjectivity is not necessarily bad, you want to consider as much data as you have at your disposal.

Thinking about similar strategies you have implemented in the past and their effect is a great way to get an idea.

Ease

Now that the Impact and Confidence have been evaluated, the difficulty of implementing the strategy needs to be addressed. To evaluate this metric you need to answer the question “How hard will this strategy be to implement?”.

Once again, this scale goes from 1 to 10:

1: Extremely Hard

3: Hard

5: Medium

7: Easy

10: Very Easy

A common mistake when looking at this metric is only considering the monetary value or the implementation itself. You should always try to consider all of the efforts that will go into the implementation.

This includes the design, development, test, launch, and maintenance. If you are working for a customer or with other people, you also want to consider the difficulty it will represent for them.

ICE score

Now that you have assigned a value to each of the metrics, it is a matter of multiplying them to get the ICE score. This value will range from 1 to 1000, with 1 representing the lowest priority and 1000 the highest.

While this value might seem arbitrary, its validity will depend on how objective you were when assigning a value to each metric. It is important to always keep in mind that the ICE prioritization framework can be fine-tuned but its ultimate objective is to provide you with a simple and fast process to relativize prioritization.

You will usually get ICE scores that are significantly different from each other, which will allow you to decide which task to prioritize.

However, it is recommended you use other methods like RICE if you get two scores that are very similar and need to choose between them. ICE scores are meant to be a good estimation that allows you to move quickly without having to go through the same experience as Buridan’s ass!

When should you use the ICE prioritization framework?

Don’t get us wrong, the ICE prioritization framework is not a perfect method nor is meant to be! Ironically, the method is usually criticized for its subjectiveness and for its lack of it. However, the subjectivity of your evaluations is not that relevant if you are using the same standards for all of the strategies being evaluated.

If you are working with a team, don’t expect this framework to solve disputes between you and your colleagues. The ICE score can be easily manipulated if a team member wants a particular suggestion to be prioritized. In this sense, subjectivity is a real problem.

You should also consider the timing at which you are using the ICE prioritization framework. While you might give a score of 8 to Confidence during a day you are feeling especially good, you might give it a 4 any other day. For this reason, it is important that you evaluate all of the options at the same time.

If you are looking for an easy method that allows you to quickly decide what strategy to prioritize without having to rely on the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) method, ICE can be a great prioritization framework to use.

ICE also allows you to engage in discussion with your team and client without losing momentum, which is particularly important when it comes to marketing. Basically, you want to apply the ICE prioritization framework when you are looking for the perfect balance between over-analyzing and not analyzing at all, as well as between objectivity and subjectivity.

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