The ICE Scoring Model is an agile prioritization tool, assessing projects, ideas, and features via three-set measurements: Impact, Confidence, and Ease. Unlike weighted scoring systems, ICE uses only these parameters and gives each a relative score from 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high). Simply multiply all three scores, and you’ve got your ICE result.
As you’d expect, the project, idea or feature with the highest ICE score should be prioritized first. ICE is a quick and easy way of deciding where to focus your energies, but it suffers a little from being highly subjective.
Agile environments are fast-paced and during short development cycles decisions must be made quickly. Decision makers need to consider as much information as possible without overwhelming themselves. This is a delicate balance to maintain, but the ICE Scoring Model does a fair job of giving teams a snapshot of the most valuable activities.
ICE stands for Impact, Confidence and Ease and these are the 3 metrics on which projects are scored.
Impact refers to the potential for a project to support the main business objective. For example, if your focus is on getting more people to use your app, anything that could encourage a boost in sign-ups would have a high Impact score.
Confidence tempers the Impact score a little by making you consider how confident you are that this impact would be realized.
Ease is somewhat self-explanatory: how easy is the project or test to complete? There are no fixed parameters here, all the scoring is done relative to other ideas on the table.
Here we have created an example using 3 possible projects that have been scored using the ICE method.
Project 1 will have a huge impact and we are confident of this. However, it is complex and long and scores low for ease, which drags the overall ICE score way down.
Project 2 has a middling potential impact, but we are not confident we can actually achieve this. It also scores low, despite a high ease value.
Project 3 is low impact, but carries high confidence and ease scores, meaning it can be completed quickly and is guaranteed to have a positive result.
So, under the ICE model we should prioritize project 3 and then once it has been delivered, return to the table to decide on the next project.
Without a scoring method like ICE, we may have been tempted to go after the alluring impact of project 1. But after scoring all three projects together, we can see that other activities should be done first.
Sean Ellis, CEO of GrowthHackers is widely credited with inventing the ICE Scoring Model. Ellis is an angel investor with significant experience helping to grow businesses.
He owes his success, in part, to divergent thinking followed by quick prioritization. The ICE Scoring Model gave him a way to do that; sifting quickly through a long list of ideas, with a good degree of accuracy.
ICE is a quick and easy way to decide which projects should take priority. Because it is so simple to do, you might expect the model to be oversimplified.
But as the values are multiplied together, each of the 3 criteria has an equally large influence over the end result.
This amplifies the difference between a 7 and an 8 for confidence by a huge factor and means the final ICE scores will give a more accurate picture of how your projects rank relative to each other.
This assumes the values are accurate though, which is where the ICE Scoring Model hits somewhat shaky ground.
The main drawback of the ICE model is how subjective the scoring is. Different people could assign wildly different values for Impact, Confidence and Ease to the same project or feature.
For example, a business owner could view adding a new feature as very easy, but the head of the development team will know more about the coding hours required. It is possible for people to score their own ideas more favorably than others, too.
The ICE Scoring Model really comes into its own when decisions need to be made quickly and — crucially — where a ‘good enough’ level of accuracy is acceptable. This tends to be in fast paced, high velocity development environments and high growth stages.
Sean Ellis’s team at GrowthHackers define ICE as a “minimum viable prioritization framework” — minimum viable meaning you can get what you need, with the least amount of effort.
If you choose to adopt the ICE Scoring Model, then over time you will develop a keener sense of what will have a meaningful impact, a more honed confidence instinct, and a better grasp on how easy it is to get certain things done. This will go some way towards removing the disadvantages of the model, and help you make better decisions faster.