Skip to content

Technical stories - are they included on the backlog?

January 11, 2010 by Jack Milunsky

Introduction

If you're not already a member of the Scrum development group on Yahoo, you really should join. There's a fortune of information changing hands and you can learn so much from the interactions. Just recently there was a huge debate on the topic of technical stories.

The question

The underlying question the team debated was should technical stories appear on the backlog.

If they are on the backlog, it means the technical stories are to be prioritized by the PO. This may not be such a good idea considering that PO's are generally going to be biased towards prioritizing features and functionality over technical stories. Examples given were "Installing Cruise Control", upgrading DB from MySQL to Oracle, Setting up VMWare etc. Most thought leaders on the forum argued that technical stories should not appear on the backlog, overwhelmingly so in fact. But some rightfully point out that all work requiring development resources should appear on the backlog.

What does Scrum say?

If you take a look at the definition from the Scrum Guide on Scrum.org, it states:

"The Product Backlog represents everything necessary to develop and launch a successful product. It is a list of all features, functions, technologies, enhancements, and bug fixes that constitute the changes that will be made to the product for future releases."

"The Sprint Backlog consists of the tasks the Team performs to turn Product Backlog items into a “done” increment. Many are developed during the Sprint Planning Meeting. It is all of the work that the Team identifies as necessary to meet the Sprint goal."

So what's the right answer?

Well, my answer is it depends and it depends on the context. For example, if your definition of done includes unit tests, automated tests etc then these work items don't need to be specific items on a backlog. This is stuff that gets done by the development team and there is no negotiation. Estimates need to include the time required to complete all of these elements of the definition of done.

But what about the type of story asked by one of the members "As a development team member, I want the existing unit tests to run under CruiseControl, so that I know if anything breaks". Where does this belong?

Well this is a perfectly written story but the story really has no ultimate value for the end user at least not directly. In this particular case I'd therefore suggest the following:

This type of story definitely doesn't belong on the product backlog but would be a perfect task that could exist on the Sprint backlog assuming you're tracking tasks. I am still in the Scrum camp on task breakdown as opposed to the XP folks who prefer to work just at the story level. If you're doing task level breakdown during the sprint planning meeting then this type of Story or work could exist on the Sprint Backlog as a task and the time associated with doing this can be tracked on the burndown. Most XP folks will say this is just micro-managing all over again.

To quote Ron Jefferies: "Technical stories have been found to be an inferior idea by many practitioners who have tried both ways. I don't know of a single one who would go back." Now Ron is a really smart guy and has ton's of experience and it's hard to argue against his opinions or any of the other smart folks on that forum.

In conclusion

I suggest you decide how to handle this as a team and do what you (the team) think is best. I will state however that the XP folks appear to be the most progressive in forging new ground in agile efficiencies and techniques so watch what they say carefully and even consider what they say.

About the Author: As COO and Scrum Master, Jack Milunsky heads software development at Brightspark. Jack is an early adopter of Scrum and has a great passion for early stage startups. Jack is co-creator of Agilebuddy, a next generation Scrum Application SaaS. Jack combines over 18 years of experience managing software development teams both large and small. You can follow Jack for great tips on Agile at http://twitter.com/agilebuddy

Comments

overhead plus techincal improvement list

January 16, 2010 by Tungano (not verified), 4 years 40 weeks ago
Comment id: 5137

Putting technical stories on the backlog is a good way to make sure they never get done. Can't really blame the PO for not understanding and thus not caring or not enough at least, they have their own sense of urgency.
The effort and time needed to try and prove the value is best spend elsewhere (or put technicians in PO roles).

What could be an option is to just have a fixed percentage time budget for technical issues. The team could then maintain a 'technical improvement backlog' of their own that doesn't have to be seen by the PO; he/she may suggest to pick some of this backlog when the team finishes early during a sprint though.

Even if the 'TI' time budget is small they could perhaps be allowed to save it up over a few sprints and then make use of it.

Other option is just go for "encapsulation", don't mention it at all, don't ask for permission, just do it.

Technical story

January 19, 2010 by Sebastien Lachance (not verified), 4 years 39 weeks ago
Comment id: 5182

I agree that a technical story should not belong on the product backlog. But they should definitively be done somewhere. As a team we often use time we have left at the end of a sprint to do them or like Tungano said we do them them at the same time of another story if it seems relevant.

architecture and infrastructure.

January 21, 2010 by Kieryn Phipps (not verified), 4 years 39 weeks ago
Comment id: 5203

I think this post actually touches on one of the (if not the) biggest weaknesses of the agile process. It frequently allows you to miss those critical tasks and design steps that might increase development efficiency or allow better scalability simply because they do not translate into comprehensible end-user stories.

Recently at an agile conference, I heard the metaphor of the development of a house described in an agile way to illustrate the point of making sure that a product was thought of as a whole to ensure earlier functionality. It goes like this: Avoid building each component separately in sequence (eg. build the foundation, then the walls then the roof) because that way the product is not usable until entirely completed. Instead, start with basic usability and improve - so you would build a simple shack, add an extension, improve the walls and add an extra floor, install furniture etc, so the product is usable after each small step.

Expanding the metaphor, the problem with this method is, that you are never ever going to build a skyscraper that way, and sometimes a skyscraper will be needed. The other problem is that as a technologist or developer you may clearly see the need for a skyscraper, but conveying this need to someone that doesn't understand technology is extremely difficult. Also, trying to convert it into end-user stories is going to leave out all the critical details.

I think the solution in cases like this might be some kind of hybrid method where the architecture required is identified and developed in separate projects (possibly managed in a none-agile way) with the usable features being prioritized and built on top using agile.

I haven't figured out exactly how this might work yet though.

Technology stories are crucial

March 28, 2010 by Maritza van den Heuvel (not verified), 4 years 30 weeks ago
Comment id: 5964

I'm the PO on a fairly complex enterprise-level server-client authoring tool in the e-learning industry. In our team, technical stories are kept on the backlog. We believe it's important that they should be, since it gives them visibility beyond just the technical team. Very often, if business is not aware of pressing technology needs, there will be no support to do them.

By having the stories on the backlog, I am making stakeholders and non-technical people aware that they have to pay the piper. Fast-delivered features are not free - there is always technical debt to pay off. And often, by prioritizing a particular technical story, it enables us to pre-empt support issues. And support issues can derail sprints, so the less of those we have to deal with, the better. The value in actually tackling the technical stories transparently, is really that we are protecting our other sprint goals and over time continuing to build in quality in the product.

But I don't prioritize technical stories on my own. I do this in conjunction with the Scrum Master and one or more technical leads to ensure that I get the complete picture.

Technical stories for agile development

July 8, 2010 by Sam Thomsett (not verified), 4 years 15 weeks ago
Comment id: 7465

Martiza makes a good point there. The end goal is a solution that satisfies user requirements and if these technical issues that are overlooked then they threaten the project. As they don't have a technical story then it jeapordizes the process. Best to try and get it all out on the table first i think. I imagine this topic is going to run and run.

Windshield Stickers

January 25, 2012 by buxum (not verified), 2 years 39 weeks ago
Comment id: 20823

I think the option in situations like this might be some type of multiple strategy where the structure necessary is determined and designed in individual tasks (possibly maintained in a none-agile way) with the useful functions being prioritized and designed on top using nimble.Windshield Stickers

Expanding the metaphor, the

February 6, 2012 by sam (not verified), 2 years 37 weeks ago
Comment id: 20891

Expanding the metaphor, the difficulty with this method is, that you are never ever feat to frame a skyscraper that way, and sometimes a skyscraper will be N10-004 required. The otherwise difficulty is that as a somebody or 642-902 developer you may understandably see the necessary for a skyscraper, but conveying this pasteurization to someone that doesn't understand technology is extremely sticky. Also, trying to persuade it into end-user stories is 642-813 exploit to move out all the severe details.

At this point in our Agile

March 2, 2012 by NOnn (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment id: 21106

At this point in our Agile implementation we rely solely on story position for estimation and release plannig . Team pulls from the backlog during the sprint planning and there is no command and control on how much they pull. team know about the avreage velocity and more or less pulls the story points based on the velocity and if they wrap up story points during the Sprint period they take up additional tasks if it can be finsihed during the Sprint cycle.
We are defnietly following the 5 points you notes about . So how can you tell if your team has embraced Flow? sosh forfait sans engagement forfait illimite forfait sms illimite forfait mobile internet forfait bloque rio sfr rio orange rio sfr rio bouygues rio virgin calcul imc portabilite

Scrum has not only reinforced

March 8, 2012 by jaffa (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment id: 21296

Scrum has not only reinforced the interest in project management, but also challenged the conventional ideas about such management. Scrum focuses on inexperienced project management institutions where it is difficult to plan ahead with mechanisms for process control, where feedback loops constitute the core element of traditional command and control oriented management. Thanks.
Regards,
reverse email

In critical studies of

March 14, 2012 by jaffa (not verified), 2 years 32 weeks ago
Comment id: 21380

In critical studies of project management it has been noted that several PERT based models are not well suited for the multi project company environment of today. Most of them are aimed at very large scale, one time, non routine projects, and currently all kinds of management are expressed in terms of projects. Thanks.
Regards,
car insurance in Texas

from the dean

March 14, 2012 by anny (not verified), 2 years 32 weeks ago
Comment id: 21385

Martiza makes a good point there. The end goal is a solution that satisfies user requirements and if these technical issues that are overlooked then they threaten the project.
jawbone polarized sunglasses

Thanks, I was looking for

March 21, 2012 by Anonymous (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment id: 21444

Thanks, I was looking for information and your blog really helped me.
i beam supplier

There are plenty of

March 27, 2012 by woru (not verified), 2 years 30 weeks ago
Comment id: 21513

There are plenty of information about this topic in the net & some are definitely better than others.
Small Flour Mill Machinery

At this point in our Agile

May 21, 2012 by JennyH (not verified), 2 years 22 weeks ago
Comment id: 22261

At this point in our Agile implementation we rely solely on story position for estimation and release plannig . Team pulls from the backlog during the sprint planning and there is no command and control on how much they pull. team know about the avreage velocity and more or less pulls the story points based on the velocity and if they wrap up story points during the Sprint period they take up additional tasks if it can be finsihed during the Sprint cycle.
We are defnietly following the 5 points you notes about . So how can you tell if your team has embraced Flow? rio orange

Agile methods break tasks

June 2, 2012 by MissMonica (not verified), 2 years 20 weeks ago
Comment id: 22707

Agile methods break tasks into small increments with minimal planning and do not directly involve long-term planning. Iterations are short time frames (timeboxes) that typically last from one to four weeks. Each iteration involves a team working through a full software development cycle, including planning, requirements analysis, design, coding, unit testing, and acceptance testing when a working product is demonstrated to stakeholders
Best Regards,
S Buckinghams

I am really impressed by

June 4, 2012 by wandybrad (not verified), 2 years 20 weeks ago
Comment id: 22761

I am really impressed by reading this article. Interesting post and I really like your take on the issue. I now have a clear idea on what this matter is all about. Thank you so much.
Custom Home Builder Austin TX

Social Media

June 8, 2012 by Diga Lign (not verified), 2 years 19 weeks ago
Comment id: 22834

very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

Just stumbled upon and I am

June 10, 2012 by adrwinlee (not verified), 2 years 19 weeks ago
Comment id: 22858

Just stumbled upon and I am absolutely happy because of this certain idea that will help me a lot.

iphone keyboard

awesome

June 15, 2012 by Austin Wedding DJ (not verified), 2 years 18 weeks ago
Comment id: 22924

Very interesting post... something really informative... I wish to read something like this again... we keep coming back to your blog..

Scrum

June 18, 2012 by Jennfa (not verified), 2 years 18 weeks ago
Comment id: 22965

I am still in the Scrum camp on task breakdown as opposed to the XP folks who prefer to work just at the story level. If you're doing task level breakdown during the sprint planning meeting then this type of Story or work could exist on Carlmontpharmacy the Sprint Backlog as a task and the time associated with doing this can be tracked on the burndown.

News

June 20, 2012 by Sree (not verified), 2 years 18 weeks ago
Comment id: 22973

Sales tax percentage varies from state to state and municipality to municipality. If you are selling items, you may want to include the sales tax in the item's price to make the price a whole number. If you have priced your items with sales tax included, you'll need to figure out how much tax is owed on the items sold. Thanks a lot.
Regards,
professional translation service

japanese fashions Thanks for

June 21, 2012 by japanese fashions (not verified), 2 years 18 weeks ago
Comment id: 22991

japanese fashions Thanks for sharing this useful information! Hope that you will continue with

thanks

June 24, 2012 by Lipozene (not verified), 2 years 17 weeks ago
Comment id: 23028

Technical stories - are they included on the backlog? Well somehow I got to read lots of articles on your blog. It’s amazing how interesting it is for me to visit you very often. Lipozene

In more traditional methods

June 28, 2012 by Sonam (not verified), 2 years 17 weeks ago
Comment id: 23093

In more traditional methods of software development, meticulous planning is done before the project even begins. This phase can last anywhere from a whole week to months, depending on the scale of the project. While it IS true that agile methods do not employ such lengthy planning periods, planning is present all-throughout the agile software development process. web design newcastle

Hello there I am so grateful

June 30, 2012 by Katherine (not verified), 2 years 16 weeks ago
Comment id: 23145

Hello there I am so grateful I found your website, I really found you by error, while I was searching on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the great work.

Business Listings

thanks a lot for your

July 2, 2012 by rockskhan (not verified), 2 years 16 weeks ago
Comment id: 23191

thanks a lot for your valuable sharing ,right from the beginning till end it was really very informative .i can witness the experience and steps you have taken to accomplish this wonderful work.
JOCURI DE LOGICA

Reply to comment | Agile Software Development

July 15, 2012 by penile extender (not verified), 2 years 14 weeks ago
Comment id: 23356

Hello to all, it's really a nice for me to go to see this website, it consists of important Information.

Michael Kors

July 18, 2012 by Michael Kors (not verified), 2 years 14 weeks ago
Comment id: 23400

Thanks for sharing! The fashion Michael Kors UK has constantly been evolving making many brand Michael Kors HandBags more challenging to maintain up with all of the newest Discount Michael Kors styles. As we all know, well-known brand are always popular around the world. And owning a luxury Michael Kors Hamilton seems to be a dream for all the women.

When it comes to 2012 new style Longchamp Bags, somebody would choose get online and find out some latest Longchamp Le Pliage Handbags. There are undoubtedly one of Hollywood's most favoured Discount Longchamp designers. The unique design Longchamp Hobo Bags attacted numerous of girls.

awesome

July 18, 2012 by emon2010 (not verified), 2 years 14 weeks ago
Comment id: 23413

I think you’ve made some truly interesting points. Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did. I’m really impressed that there’s so much about this subject that’s been uncovered and you did it so well, with so much class. Good one you, man! Really great stuff
Seven Oaks Home Listings

awesome

August 2, 2012 by emon2010 (not verified), 2 years 12 weeks ago
Comment id: 23626

yes thats a grate idea i will try this . i will reply you after try keep working good job thanks"
555 Condos

awesome

September 3, 2012 by emon2010 (not verified), 2 years 7 weeks ago
Comment id: 23712

Surfing the net for some information I came across your blog. I am impressed by the information you have on this.
Tvorba webových stránek

Techinical story can be made

September 8, 2012 by David (not verified), 2 years 6 weeks ago
Comment id: 23757

Techinical story can be made backlog but at thatbtome it is useful for backlog and also useful information to other people who visited and tried to get some points
Thanx for sharing and quite usefull
Online forex trading
http://www.forexbulls.com

Nice

September 8, 2012 by Prostate (not verified), 2 years 6 weeks ago
Comment id: 23765

The thoughts are very well laid out and it was refreshing to read. I was able to find the information that I was looking for. I just wanted to leave a comment as a token of appreciation. Thanks for sharing this on the Net. Prostate

Great Blog

September 10, 2012 by Winnebago Hire (not verified), 2 years 6 weeks ago
Comment id: 23776

I think this is one of the most significant info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The website style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

The thoughts are very well

September 11, 2012 by ali (not verified), 2 years 6 weeks ago
Comment id: 23796

The thoughts are very well laid out & it was refreshing to read. I was one N10-005 exam time able to finding the knowledge that I was one time looking for. I desired to N10-005 practice tests leave a comment as a token of appreciation.

I will be bit motivated from

September 18, 2012 by tivate (not verified), 2 years 5 weeks ago
Comment id: 23928

I will be bit motivated from your blog representation.mortgage calculator

thanks

September 22, 2012 by Raspberry Ketone (not verified), 2 years 4 weeks ago
Comment id: 23987

This is what I have been searching in many websites and I finally found it here. Amazing article. I am so impressed. Could never think of such a thing is possible with it...I think you have a great knowledge especially while dealings with such subjects. Raspberry Ketone

nice

September 22, 2012 by Hydroxycut Reviews (not verified), 2 years 4 weeks ago
Comment id: 23992

Hey that was great to read. Thanks for the great post .Loved every part of it. Hydroxycut Reviews

fantastic

September 23, 2012 by Green Coffee Bean Extract (not verified), 2 years 4 weeks ago
Comment id: 23995

Pretty cool post. It’s really very nice and useful post.Thanks for sharing this with us!it’s my first visit. Green Coffee Bean Extract

nice

September 26, 2012 by Lipozene (not verified), 2 years 4 weeks ago
Comment id: 24062

Thanks so much with this fantastic new web site. I’m very fired up to show it to anyone. It makes me so satisfied your vast understanding and wisdom have a new channel for trying into the world. Lipozene

Inventure India is a

September 27, 2012 by Invent (not verified), 2 years 3 weeks ago
Comment id: 24093

Inventure India is a management consulting firm has an unparalleled depth of knowledge and resources combined with functional and industry expertise for geographical reach. We help leaders make distinctive, lasting and substantial enhancement to the performance of their organizations.
Franchise company
New Franchise in india

thanks

September 30, 2012 by photos (not verified), 2 years 3 weeks ago
Comment id: 24129

There really is alot of good things Youve got some mad skill here, man. I just hope that you dont lose your style because youre definitely one of the coolest bloggers out there. Please keep it up because the internet photos

http://www.genesishealthinstitute.com/

October 6, 2012 by http://www.genesishealthinstitute.com/ (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24223

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It is the old what goes around comes around routine.

http://www.genesishealthinstitute.com/

October 6, 2012 by http://www.genesishealthinstitute.com/ (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24224

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It is the old what goes around comes around routine.
http://www.genesishealthinstitute.com/

Good thing i stumbled by this

October 6, 2012 by Sumera (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24228

Good thing i stumbled by this site I was moved and learned a lot thanks for all the information. Tegl

Emaar is one of the world's

October 6, 2012 by Robin (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24237

Emaar is one of the world's leading real estate companies, having developed approximately 89 million square feet of real estate across residential, commercial and other business segments and with operations in 14 countries.
Emaar mgf new launch
bestech projects in gurgaon

Gangaur Realtech is a

October 6, 2012 by Shopia (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24238

Gangaur Realtech is a professionally managed organisation specializing in real estate services where integrated services are provided by professionals to its clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate.
Commercial projects in gurgaon
Residential projects in dharuhera
Residential plots in gurgaon for sale

There are many successful

October 6, 2012 by micheal (not verified), 2 years 2 weeks ago
Comment id: 24247

There are many successful companies today that sell only software products, though there are still many common software licensing problems due to the complexity of designs and poor documentation, leading to patent trolls. Thanks.
Regards,
seo affiliate

thanks

October 24, 2012 by Lipozene (not verified), 2 years 22 hours ago
Comment id: 24270

I desired to thank you for this exceptional read!! I absolutely enjoyed every single small little bit of it. I’ve you bookmarked your internet site to look at out the new stuff you post.
Lipozene

Short Curly Hairstyles

October 24, 2012 by Short Curly Hairstyles (not verified), 2 years 21 hours ago
Comment id: 24272

I would totally invent a teleportation device. Through blogging, I know people all over the world, but there are so many people I have known for years and have never met in person.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <b> <i> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <br> <blockquote>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • You can enable syntax highlighting of source code with the following tags: <code>, <blockcode>. Beside the tag style "<foo>" it is also possible to use "[foo]".

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Best of AgileSoftwareDevelopment.com