Ordering the Product Backlog effectively is probably one of the most important challenges that organisations and teams face, and even though there are a million ways of doing it, the main goal is to find what is the most effective for you. 

So, What Is The Product Backlog? 

The Product Backlog is an essential tool in software development, and is used to manage and prioritise the features and requirements of a product. It consists of a list of items that need to be developed, including user stories, bug fixes, and technical improvements.

This backlog serves as a communication tool between the Product Owner and the Development Team, ensuring that everyone is aligned on the product vision and goals. The backlog is typically organised based on priority, with the most important items at the top and the least important at the bottom.

You could think of it as a living document that evolves as new information becomes available or as priorities change. Regular grooming and refinement sessions are conducted to ensure that the backlog remains up-to-date and actionable.

How A Product Owner Can Handle The Product Backlog Effectively 

In a Scrum Team, there are some key markers that we can look out for that can help us navigate the path of the Product Backlog. 

The first step is to make sure it is ordered with a numbered list. The next recommendation comes from a fellow Scrum Trainer Don McGreal, who suggests that you should keep your Product Backlog to no more than 100 items long. One of the reasons why we keep it as short as possible is because we want to ensure that we are able to address and take action on as many items on the list in the shortest time possible.

For example, I have experienced teams who have had over 100 items and then did not touch most of the items for another 10 years. Where is the value in that? Prioritising the items we have on our Backlog list is therefore paramount for getting the most value out of something. 

Create A Roadmap

If you are stuck and you are not quite sure how to prioritise or manage your Product Backlog, you could put together a roadmap. Although roadmaps are not really part of Scrum, they have been proven to be a valuable and forward-thinking method of managing the backlog of items. The key is to remember that the roadmap is not a promise but rather a visual model for you to understand and potentially present to your Stakeholder. 

How Do We Decide When to Release? 

The next most valuable path for us to take is to give some indication of when the releases might happen. Again, this is not a promise but rather an idea and forecast of items one to twenty (for example). This is also where you’d be wanting to spend the bulk of your time; refining the product in each  Sprint and striving to achieve a point of readiness. 

And when we talk about readiness in Scrum and Agile, we are referring to what and when something is doable and will be at a deliverable standard. Deciding on the time required to achieve this state of readiness can vary and since we are working in a complex environment, it is difficult to pin down how long it will take exactly. All we have are educated guesses in terms of probability metrics and must therefore be open to inspection and adaptation at all times. 

So what we actually have is a rough estimate, a ballpark figure we could say that can be augmented and adapted to the developing needs of the Product and customers. What I love about this is that this is actually how my brain works and I do think that people can really benefit from visualising the Product Backlog as a master list. 

The end goal emerges as you learn more about where you need to go with the Product, which requires flexibility and an open-minded approach. At the end of the day, perfection is not what we are after. What we want is to achieve something that we can get done, validate and deliver. Quality will come naturally as we adapt and learn from our processes. 

Interested in learning more about how to handle a Backlog effectively? 

Get in touch today and let’s work together on your journey to success! 

Pragmatic Shift is a Scrum Training, Agile Consulting, and Agile Coaching consultancy that specialises in delivering Scrum.Org certified scrum courses, and helping organisations increase their business agility and product development success through agile consulting and coaching.

We firmly believe that a shift to agile is a pragmatic shift. A natural evolution from traditional project management and product management. A proven, reliable, and resilient framework for addressing compelling problems and developing complex solutions.

Over a decade’s worth of experience as an agile practitioner, agile consultant, agile coach, and scrum trainer informs our pragmatic approach to change. Agile dogma has no value in the context of product development or organisational change.

Instead, we look to start where you are, work with what you have, and make meaningful interventions that align with the objectives you are trying to achieve.

Progress over perfection.

If this sounds like a pragmatic solution to you, visit the following pages for more information.

Scrum Training: https://pragmaticshift.com/training/
Agile Consulting: Coming Soon!
Agile Coaching: https://www.thescrumcoach.uk

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