[Product Owner] – Top 10 Backlog Tips

Lists rock. They’re even better when someone has put together an awesome list for public consumption. Upon thinking about how to better use your product backlog as a Product Owner, consider the following helpful guidelines [distilled for a quicker read].

Top Ten Backlog Tips

  1. One product at a time – Derive your product backlog from the product vision or the product roadmap.
  2. Detailed – Make your product backlog as detailed as possible.
  3. Be structured – Group similar items items into themes.
  4. Visible – Put your backlog up on the wall.
  5. Focused backlog – Start with many, but have the courage to weed out other items over time.
  6. Capture functional requirements – Start with large, coarse-grained stories and progressively decompose them over time into detailed ones utilizing customer feedback.
  7. Start with risky stories first – Use risk/uncertainty, dependencies and releasability to decide how soon an item should be implemented. Addressing risky items early on allows you to fail fast.
  8. Manage global nonfunctional requirements carefully – Describe them precisely upfront. Capture operational qualities such as performance, robustness and interoperability as constraints; describe usability requirements visually, for instance in form of sketches, mock-ups, and screen shots.
  9. Housekeeping – Groom your product backlog regularly and collaboratively. Run weekly grooming workshops with the team to ensure that your backlog is in good shape. Involve stakeholders including customers and users as appropriate.
  10. Be ready – Make sure the top items are always “ready:” clear, feasible, and testable. This allows the items to flow into the sprint and facilitates a firm commitment.

[VIA: Roman Pichler]

11 Responses to “[Product Owner] – Top 10 Backlog Tips”

  1. Paul Boos
    March 22, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I could see a Scrum Master also being involved in these as a facilitator. (In the OpenAgile paradigm, this would be the Growth Facilitator that is the PO and facilitated by the Process Facilitator.)

    One thing that David Bulkin has discussed is using a Kanban flow process to get stories for the Spring backlogs in a ‘ready’ state.


    • peter
      March 22, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Agreed. The ScrumMaster should be facilitating (always!)

  2. Robb Dempsey
    March 22, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I’ve seen multiple posts recently about “grooming the backlog”. How involved are these grooming sessions? Are you re-estimating at this time?

    • peter
      March 22, 2011 at 9:54 am #

      Grooming a backlog can come in many sizes and shapes.
      1. Re-estimation based on better information (either before a sprint or during as needed)
      2. Re-prioritization with a Product Owner
      3. Shifting themes or features to different developers or to a different team
      4. Assigning themes or features or better story grouping

      They can as long as a “discovery session” or a “sprint planning” as needed. I’ve done backlog grooming that’s taken half a day!

  3. Ken Lin
    August 1, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I cant help but stress how helpful pivotal tracker has been for that.

    • peter
      August 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

      PT is #win for this too


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