Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of everything that might be included in a product. The Product Owner creates, maintains, and regularly re-orders the Product Backlog. The Product Owner uses the Product Backlog to adapt to emerging requirements, customer feedback, and market changes.

The Product Backlog is the manifestation of the vision and the business case for the product. The backlog is made up of Product Backlog Items (PBIs). PBIs can be anything from market requirements, to use cases, to specifications. However, the best practice is User Stories. Whatever the team decides on, it is critical to represent the end-user's perspective.

As Jeff explains in the video below, PBI's at the top of the Product Backlog should be refined and immediately actionable. Items further down the backlog need less definition and can reflect bigger ideas. These larger chunks will need to be broken down into smaller pieces as they approach the top of the Product Backlog.

The Product Backlog is constantly refined to reflect anything from changes the customer wants, new insights, or even competitors' tactical maneuvers. The Team estimates how much effort each Product Backlog Item will require. The Product Owner estimates the Business Value. He or she uses both estimates to decide on the prioritization of the backlog. Simply having one ordered list of everything that has to be done will dramatically improve team performance. The Team is focused and understands precisely what to do next (see slides.)

The Product Backlog is a living document. At any time it is the definitive list of everything that could possibly be included in the project. There is only one Product Backlog and the Product Owner is the only person responsible for it. This is true across multiple teams and even a portfolio of products. (See Scrum at Scale.) The Product Owner must have the knowledge and authority to grow and help execute the project over its lifetime. The Product Owner decides when enough value has been delivered to ship the product.

More features can always be added to project. The Product Owner must decide if the Business Value of those features  justifies the effort. Good prioritization of the Product Backlog will generate at least 20% more business value and directly affect revenue. Companies should hire the best Product Owner they can find and dedicate them to the Team full-time. (For a more detailed explanation of this research see “Software by Numbers: Low-Risk, High Return Development” by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang.)

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