Creating and Maintaining the Product Backlog
The foundation for a well run Scrum project is its Product
Backlog. The Product Backlog should be made up of features (or
stories) as opposed to task. It should be prioritised by business
value and have been estimated by the team using story points.
A key element in the success of a Scrum project is ensuring that
just the right amount of detail for just the right amount of items
from the Product Backlog. At CoreWorks we typically take
enough items for the first two sprints (iterations). This allows us
to have some "stretch tasks" ready should the Scrum Team be
finished early on a Sprint and it gives us a head start in planning
for the next sprint.
How much detail you need to go into when describing the items on
the Product Backlog and decisions on using user stories or use
cases is really dependent on the Scrum Team; if in doubt ask the
Scrum Team. Do not be afraid to discuss with the Scrum Team, how
much detail they needs; it will both improve the end result and
your relationship with the Scrum Team. The Product Backlog is the
the Product Owners responsibility and how well defined the items on
the Product Backlog are has a direct relation to how successful the
project will be. A well defined Product Backlog will save you time,
money and contribute directly to the success of the Scrum Team - in
other words it is very important.
CoreWorks recommends the following steps to get started on
the Product Backlog
- Write out a list of features that need to be delivered fro the
project to be a success.
- Prioritise the features by business value.
- Make a guess at a release plan for the features - which
features should be grouped into a release and when they need to be
- Select enough of the Product Backlog Items for a couple of
Sprints and in business terms, describe what the desired outcome is
for each feature.
- Arrange a meeting with the Scrum Team to discuss each of the
defined items on the Product Backlog and have the Scrum Team give a
high level estimate for each item.
- Review the estimated Product Backlog and if necessary, adjust
the priority and release plan accordingly.
Following these steps will allow you to have the input necessary
for the Scrum Team to start Sprint Planning for the coming
As a Product Owner, do not fall into the trap
of thinking that once the Product Backlog is created, your job is
done. The Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog and
should be regularly reviewing, maintaining, specifying the items on
it and ensuring that there is a well defined, prioritised and
estimated Product Backlog for the coming Sprint or two. The Product
Owner must have a well defined, prioritised and estimated Product
Backlog ready before the Sprint Planning Meeting,
otherwise the Scrum Team has the right to reject items on the
Product Backlog that are not well defined and in the most serious
cases the Scrum Team has the right to abort the Sprint
- Once the Scrum Team has built their Sprint Backlog and started
work on the Sprint, make it a point to review the Product Backlog
at least every other day.
- Be very proactive in maintaining items on the Product
- If items on the Product Backlog become a higher priority and
move into a coming Sprint - if they are not well defined and/or not
estimated then define the item and ask the Scrum Team estimate the
item before the next Sprint Planning Meeting.
- If new items appear on the Product Backlog then define the item
and ask the Scrum Team estimate the item before the next Sprint
- Once in a while check with the Scrum Team to ensure the Product
Backlog items have the right level of detail.
- Guard the Product Backlog with your life, if other tasks and
projects are causing disruptions or if too many new items are
appearing on the Product Backlog there could be a problem higher up
in your organisation that needs to be addressed - make sure you
Maintaining a Product Backlog is not easy - if it were it would
be boring! However, ensuring you have a well defined, prioritised
and estimated Product Backlog will play a tremendous role in your
projects success. In our opinion it is the most fundamental element
to a successful project and it is a task CoreWorks takes very
seriously on all its projects and it pays off big time. Be
aggressive and proactive in maintaining your Product Backlog and we
guarantee you will love the results.