Digital Marketing Strategy

How using the ICE Model for prioritization can sharpen your strategy skills

How can a professional climb up to a CMO role through marketing operations? For starters, MOPs professionals need to show strategic thinking when dealing with executives and other senior stakeholders. This can rather difficult as many practitioners are in the weeds of drip campaigns, website configurations, pixels, etc., which are all very tactical. 

MO Pros community leader Mike Rizzo recently suggested on his podcast using the ICE Model for project prioritization in order to show strategic vision.  It is certainly a recommendation with merit, so this week I’m breaking down what that entails.

The ICE Model

The model is rather simple, which has its advantages.  According to ProductPlan: “ICE Scoring is one of the many prioritization strategies available for choosing the right/next features for a product. The ICE Scoring Model helps prioritize features and ideas by multiplying three numerical values assigned to each project: Impact, Confidence and Ease. Each item being evaluated gets a ranking from one to ten for each of the three values, those three numbers are multiplied, and the product is that item’s ICE Score.”

The model’s simplicity seems like one of its greatest strengths.  Executives and other senior leaders have a lot going on and don’t have the time or need for anything other than high-level information.  Simply presenting ICE scoring for numerous initiatives – or a project one is proposing – is a quick and easy way to help make decisions.

Considerations to bear in mind

ProductPlan points out several factors to consider when using this model. Nothing is perfect after all.

A significant factor is that the model requires one to make a lot of assumptions. These range from headcount (which may fluctuate), resource availability, the progress of other projects, funding, and many other things. These are considerations for any estimation tool of this kind. 

However, it’s important to consider the objective. For example, according to the Scrum project management framework, team members score tasks by using points or t-shirt sizes (small, medium, and large) in order to compare tasks in the backlog to each other.  What if each team member gives a different answer?  That’s an excellent question. MarTech contributor Stacey Ackerman, an agile marketing specialist, recommends keeping estimation at the team level instead of focusing on individuals. When conducting an ICE score analysis, it may make the most sense to involve the people who will actually perform the proposed project. 

A related factor is determining who is qualified to make these assessments. That’s tough. Estimates are educated guesses, whether they’re from software developers or real estate contractors. I have rarely seen any project in virtually any part of my life go exactly to plan. This is an important factor to consider, but it’s prudent to understand that it shouldn’t delay or derail progress.

Further, due to its simplicity, the model is best suited for making assessments against a single goal. All organizations have more than one of those. Expanding the analysis to involve multiple goals will quickly thwart the power of the model’s inherent simplicity. It will likely not assist senior leaders make decisions in an efficient manner.

It’s also important to have reasonable expectations for this model. As it’s simple and high level, there’s a place for it – but it isn’t suitable for every situation. When a decision-maker has numerous potential projects or a long backlog, ICE scoring serves as a good tool to decide what’s worth pursuing in comparison to the other options. For instance, when considering two different competing tech products, it is helpful to have an educated guess on how each one can perform given the company’s unique circumstances and stack. The same goes for competing projects for a constrained budget. ICE doesn’t replace project management, but it can determine if a project is worth pursuing or not.

A useful tool

The ICE Model is one of many potential tools a marketing operations practitioner can employ to show that they can think strategically, even if they’re focused on tactical needs. This is certainly pertinent when interacting with senior level managers. They’re looking for people they can trust to make prudent and at times bold decisions. They don’t have time for all of the gory details, but presenting information using a tool like an ICE Model analysis of various options demonstrates that you’re sufficiently considering requisite and necessary factors.

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