Product backlog

Update: See also section added

Product backlog in Scrum is simply a list of things needed to be done. As such it is a little different from many other to-do lists. The difference comes from the small peculiarities of the way you handle the backlog. Here some some things to note about the product backlog.

  • Product backlog always lists items adding value for the customer. It includes functional requirements and non-functional requirements. It can also include items required by the team, but only the ones that will eventually bring value to the customer, e.g. taking into use a continuous integration server in order to guarantee the continuous end product quality.
  • Product backlog cannot include concrete low level tasks and requests for building the intermediate artifacts. For example, it cannot include request for producing the design document unless customer has to ship it further for some purpose.
  • Product backlog utilizes the simplest and the most effective way for prioritizing requests – a simple list. Such a method does not allow for having 100 absolute max priority features and forces the product owner to actually make decisions about the feature priorities.
  • The higher the items are located on the product backlog, the more detailed they are. Items for the closest couple of months are usually quite detailed, while items that will be worked on in some 6-12 month can be defined very broadly and imprecisely.
  • When there are several interdependent teams in the company or department, typically they all have a single product backlog and pull their work from it.
  • Product backlog does not typically include the detailed requirement information. Usually the final requirement details are figured out with the help of the customer, when the requirement is being implemented.

Ease of use, clear and transparent purpose is what makes the product backlog so useful for seeing into the project status.

See Also

Do you agree with the properties above? Or are there any other important product backlog properties worth mentioning?

5 thoughts on “Product backlog”

  1. My management struggles with seeing Product Backlogs, Sprint Backlogs and Sprint Burn-downs instead of MS Project plans.

    I agree that to some extent, an MS Project plan serves some purpose, especially when one is constrained with an end date ,,, as once the tasks are noted, and the initial durations are entered, one can work backwards from a date to level things out. And that ends up the base data entered into the SCRUM tracking documents.

    How cool would it be to have MS Project and the SCRUM tracking spreadsheets “interoperate” so once the baseline project plan is done, it automatically populates the Backlogs, and then the SCRUM Master only tracks remaining effort.

    I know, I have gone mad ,,,,

  2. Oh well. Technically every product backlog can be automatically converted into an MS Project style Gantt chart though quite rudimentary with the next item depending on the previous one.

    Sometimes I even find such representation useful. Most of the time though the converted chart looks too tempting to assume that we know much more information on the dependency structure, than we really have.

  3. Hi,

    I saw the movie where you demonstrate how to use the Ms Excel SimpleProductBacklog and there is a moment where you click somewhere and the lines sprints and releases disappear to show only feature lines- the ones that have a number in the column Item#.

    How do you do that?

    I already have a list of more that 20 features and I would like to add the to your template. Is thre a way to copy/paste my lines and then move the release lines where I want them to be?

    I am thinking first of adding all the requirements and the group them by sprint


  4. I guess you mean this tutorial and the moment 1:45. In this particular video I just cut out the boring editing part. In general though you can rearrange your rows by shift-dragging the row selection as described, for example here

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