The Product Backlog: The right way to Construct and Prioritize It

A product backlog is among the important components of the product improvement chain, a prioritized checklist of product options that leads from the corporate’s and product’s imaginative and prescient by way of execution to a full launch. It’s a highly effective software, because it converts a high-level imaginative and prescient into the working particulars of making a product. A product supervisor has the important thing accountability to create, prioritize, and keep a product backlog. Let’s dive deeper into the step-by-step course of and core parts of constructing a wholesome product backlog.

A product backlog is list of product features that leads from vision through execution to a full release

Cut up the Backlog Into Two Lists

Earlier than making a backlog, outline its scope, whether or not it ought to apply to a product line, a gaggle of merchandise, or all the firm’s merchandise—this can enable you to to handle the options.

I’ve discovered throughout a number of initiatives that it’s a wholesome apply to separate the backlog into two lists: long-term grasp backlog and short-term executable backlog (additionally known as a dash backlog as it could embody a number of sprints). The concept is to give attention to probably the most pressing gadgets with the intention to develop them promptly whereas on the identical time sustaining a giant image of all of the options within the grasp backlog.

At first, each backlogs begin as a high-level checklist of options. Nevertheless, a dash backlog normally is cut up into epics and consumer tales for simple execution, whereas the long-term backlog stays as it’s. As a product supervisor, you resolve which gadgets needs to be moved from one checklist to the opposite, and when.

Backlog Sources

The following step is to establish sources that may recommend potential options for a backlog. The supply could be consumer analysis, a particular buyer request, a survey, or detailed advertising analysis. When you’ve got related findings from one other product you’re employed with, they will additionally contribute as an important supply. Whereas these are the most typical sources, there are just a few others:

  • The QA group is a wonderful supply for backlog gadgets, as they use the product extensively and will have useful suggestions for enhancements.
  • Buyer assist suggestions. Within the case of {hardware} merchandise, a good supply could be a manufacturing drawback or points reported from the sphere.
  • Opinions of the product’s issues, points, or bugs may yield concepts of enhance it.
  • Requests from gross sales
  • R&D initiatives or concepts

Backlog sources can vary, the most common are product vision, user research, sales and support, and feedback from the QA team

Abstain from Blocking Options

product supervisor ought to personal the backlog and act because the gatekeeper who controls what options seem on it and are executed. A backlog is constructed in order that the high-priority gadgets seem on the high of the checklist, and the least essential ones are on the backside. Product managers are supposed to advertise the inclusion of things within the backlog somewhat than blocking them. Blocking ought to happen solely in excessive circumstances, when a product supervisor is absolutely assured {that a} characteristic is nugatory. As an alternative of blocking the gadgets, let the prioritizing course of do the filtering. It might sound irrational, however you possibly can even go so far as together with a characteristic that presumably received’t be developed for 5 years—having all potential options in a single place is a useful supply.

Dealing with the Objects

A backlog consists of high-level options that should be developed into epics, or consumer tales, or just entered with descriptions so they may seem within the backlog. When together with them, be sure you have sufficient info, however don’t overwork the small print. Be agile: Make investments time in composing descriptions solely when gadgets strategy the event stage. A product supervisor has to maintain a stability between seeing the massive image and never going too deep into the small print with the intention to save time and keep environment friendly.

Prioritizing the Backlog

Sorting the backlog is the core strategy of prioritization. It’s a extremely strategic step that focuses on knowledge somewhat than a intestine feeling. Though prioritization is usually the accountability of a product supervisor, it normally must be confirmed and authorised by senior administration. Having a construction in place lets you defend your prioritization selections. You want to have the ability to current the construction, talk it, and get approval for it.

One key requirement for sustaining a wholesome prioritization course of is to create well-defined weights and analysis standards for the backlog options. Totally different merchandise require totally different options relying on their nature. Within the subsequent part, I introduce sensible parts that can be utilized as a toolbox to create totally different formulation for efficient prioritization.

Outline Standards for Prioritization

Outline standards which can be important to your product and use them to grade every backlog characteristic. These standards needs to be included for any product:

  • Revenues. This criterion is about how a lot income the characteristic can doubtlessly convey and relies on suggestions from the shopper or the gross sales group. Until there’s already an agreed upon deal, the potential income will solely be a guesstimate. Regardless of that, it’s nonetheless a helpful metric for prioritization because it helps the product supervisor keep away from options with doubtlessly low return on funding (ROI).
  • Market match and market uniqueness. Market match exhibits whether or not a given characteristic is fixing an current drawback for the customers. Market uniqueness is a measure of how distinctive this new characteristic is with respect to your opponents. These two gadgets mixed will spotlight probably the most related options that haven’t but been developed by the competitors and thus pose an important alternative.
  • Complexity. This criterion combines estimated launch time and the general complexity of execution. What number of features is that this going to impression? What are the direct and potential hidden prices for every? Intention for the shortest potential supply time with the utmost worth that the characteristic can convey.

A product backlog funnel: features should be sorted according to the priority

Different standards for consideration relying on the product:

  • Confidence. How assured are you that that is going for use? This is a vital criterion for startups, and likewise when an organization is coming into a brand new market.
  • Danger. The upper the chance, the decrease the rating for this criterion. This criterion is carefully associated to the Confidence criterion.
  • Price. A excessive implementation value will get a low rating. It’s just like the Complexity criterion, nonetheless, there are circumstances when excessive value implies a brief improvement time.

Grading Methodology

Earlier than giving grades to every backlog characteristic, set three to 5 choices (very low, low, medium, excessive) and briefly describe them. For instance, with respect to characteristic improvement size, the Complexity criterion would have the next grades:

  • Very low. It takes just a few days to implement a characteristic. (This characteristic will get the highest grade.)
  • Low. Implementation takes lower than a full dash or one to 2 weeks.
  • Medium. Implementation takes one dash or two weeks.
  • Excessive. Implementation takes multiple dash. (This characteristic will get the lowest grade.)

Don’t give the degrees sequential numbers (that’s, don’t use 0, 1, 2, 3). As an alternative, use this method:

0 factors for Very low grade
1 level for Low grade
3 factors for Medium grade
9 factors for Excessive grade

When using this grading technique, you’ll get a transparent separation of the options’ sum. This makes a considerable distinction if you make use of it with 30 or 50 options and don’t wish to find yourself with 15 options having the identical rating—what you need is a clearly sorted precedence checklist.

Outline the Weights

The following essential step is to outline the weights or components for the chosen standards. By default, all standards contribute equally to the characteristic grades. Nevertheless, typically, standards have a considerably totally different impression, thus a extra strong contribution. For simplicity, let’s take a numerical instance with two standards: A and B. For those who sum factors as described above, every criterion will contribute half of the grade. Nevertheless, when criterion A is twice as essential as criterion B, you must give you a system like this:

Total characteristic’s rating = 0.66 * A + 0.33 * B

There could possibly be many alternative variations of this system, relying on the components’ weight that’s transformed into the quantity. The weights all the time have so as to add as much as one.

The weighting technique supplies flexibility for prioritization and aligns backlog gadgets with the corporate’s technique. For instance, if an organization is concentrated on short-term revenues, components associated to revenues may have the next grade within the weighting scheme than others. This manner, the options which can be anticipated to realize income will seem on the high of a backlog.

Refinement: Towards Consumer Tales

After the prioritization course of is accomplished, the subsequent step with the dash backlog is to create consumer tales. A product supervisor inserts preliminary characteristic descriptions and consists of the uncooked variations of the consumer tales into the backlog. Now could be the time to have interaction a scrum group to create new consumer tales to reply to customers’ wants. Backlog refinement (or grooming) is actually a results of teamwork. I get pleasure from brainstorming with a group by turning consumer shops into options, as that is when an summary imaginative and prescient shifts towards precise implementation. As a product chief, you may search to develop a exact consumer story—maintain this in thoughts, however keep open to the group’s concepts: In my expertise, the consumer story could be considerably improved by the group’s contributions.

The short-term backlog consists of three varieties of consumer tales:

  • Uncooked. These are freshly crystallized tales which can be being processed on the refinement stage. A product supervisor must be proactive and drive the group with the intention to push the most effective tales into the event stage.
  • Prepared. These are tales which can be prepared for improvement. At this stage, a product supervisor must be hands-on and assist execution by answering questions and eradicating bottlenecks.
  • Completed. These are accomplished tales which can be prepared for deployment and launch.

The short-term product backlog consists of three types of user stories: raw, ready, and done user stories

Sustaining the Backlog

Periodically, each backlogs—the grasp and the dash—needs to be revised. When the long-term checklist turns into overloaded with duties, assessment gadgets on the backside and resolve whether or not they must be eliminated or not. Additionally, be certain that to revise the backlog after composing a launch plan. With a refreshed prioritization, gadgets needs to be moved to the short-term backlog if their precedence modifications. After options are carried out and launched, label them as “completed” and archive below the grasp backlog. You may want them for dash retrospective and KPI measurement.

The sprint backlog is an executable list that includes one or more sprints

The right way to Talk a Backlog

For the reason that backlog is a significant product constructing plan, it’s essential for a product supervisor to successfully talk it to the group, CEO, or different stakeholders. Don’t current the checklist as it’s—there are too many particulars, and you’ll lose the viewers’s consideration. As an alternative, give attention to two points:

  • Precedence mechanism. Give the high-level presentation of backlog gadgets standards and weights and justify them with supporting knowledge. This manner, you’ll persuade the viewers that the backlog you constructed met all the necessities and is aligned with an organization’s imaginative and prescient.
  • Options. Current the backlog’s options from high to backside. The detailed stage needs to be viewers dependent, and also you may want to elucidate each the options and their grades.

A product backlog is a robust software for the product supervisor, because it represents a transfer from strategic pondering to day-to-day techniques. The abilities you develop as a product chief—to handle, prioritize, replace, and keep the backlog—will serve you properly in constructing nice merchandise and enhancing your organization’s general efficiency.