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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 to align with the Product Goal. The Product Owner uses the Product Backlog to adapt to emerging requirements, customer feedback, and market changes.

Estimated time for this course: 5 minutes
Audience: Beginner
Suggested PrerequisitesScrum Framework, Scrum Fundamentals

Upon completion you will:

  • Understand who is responsible for the Product Backlog
  • How the Product Backlog is used to create the Sprint Backlog
  • Know how the team contributes to the Product Backlog
  • Qualify for PMI PDUs. See FAQ for details
Product Backlog Overview:

The Product Backlog contains all the work to be done to achieve the Product Goal. 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 or job stories. 

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.

Commitment: Product Goal

The Product Goal describes a future state of the product which can serve as a target for the Scrum Team to plan against. The Product Goal is in the Product Backlog. The rest of the Product Backlog emerges to define “what” will fulfill the Product Goal. A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract. The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.

View and Download Class Slides

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Read more about 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. They use 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 should also work with the Product Owner to make sure the stories accurately reflect the work that needs to be done. This will help the team focus and understand 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 on 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.)