How to Create a Product Backlog? | 5 Quick Tips to Create Effective Product Backlog

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How to Create a Product Backlog?

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The Product Backlog is a list of all the updates and requirements required to develop the product. It acts as a single source of requirements for all the changes that have to be made to the product. A Scrum professional called the Product Owner is responsible for handling the Product Backlog, which includes the content, availability, and ordering of the Product Backlog items. A Product Backlog is always unfinished and is never complete as the new Product Backlog items are regularly added to it. Initially, it contains the basic requirements necessary for the product to function and release it in the market during product development. 

The requirements entirely depend upon the customer's preferences, along with advice from the stakeholders regarding the competition of the product in the market. The environment and the product are directly related to the evolution of the Product Backlog. As the climate and development evolve, and many changes come about, the Product Backlog grows and accommodates the changes. Hence, the Product Backlog is dynamic and changes continuously. The Scrum Team can determine the features required for the product to be appropriate, useful, and competitive in the market. The Product Backlog has to be created whenever a product is made.

The Product Backlog has estimates, order to items, and details being added to it. This addition is called the Product Backlog Refinement. The Developer and the Product Owner collaborate on the details of the Product Backlog items that have to be added to the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog items are reviewed and revised during the Product Backlog refinement. Many Scrum Teams may develop one product. However, the Product Backlog for all the teams remains the same, and the items in the Product Backlog have to be cleared for the product to be fully developed. The Scrum Master coaches the Product Owner with techniques on how to do Product Backlog Management, helps identify what is valuable, how to order etc.

What is the importance of Product Backlog?

Whenever a product is being developed, the work's ideas can come from anyone and from anywhere. The customers, the Developer members, and the Stakeholders may have great ideas that would contribute to the product's success. However, few ideas may also be not so great and could not add more value to the product. To differentiate the incredible views from the not-so-great ones, a person has to collect these ideas and store it such that the Scrum Team can later analyze all the images and select the best for their product. A Product Backlog is a tool that can keep all the pictures that are brainstormed, which can be later be revised or reviewed for the product to work out in the market. Some of the few essential features of a Product Backlog are:

  • It is an organized list that can easily be changed.
  • It is more straightforward to prioritize the items on the Product Backlog.
  • It allows for easy changing of priorities whenever required.
  • Dependencies can easily be seen and can be ordered.

The long-term vision of the product can be seen apart from only the immediate needs of the patient.

What are the contents of the Product Backlog?

The Product Backlog items specifically contain the features or items that have to be developed in the product. It should not manage unnecessary to-do lists of the team. The Scrum Guide advises that the Product Backlog should contain features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes. The Product Backlog is not just a to-do list for Product Development. It should add value to the customer, prioritized, and be estimated. The team should avoid adding low-level tasks such as sending emails and focus, making the document alive by rearranging it regularly.

How to create a Product Backlog?

The Product Owner creates a Product Backlog as the whole responsibility of the Product Backlog is on them. A common initiation to create a Product Backlog is by using spreadsheets. However, spreadsheets are not the ideal choice for organizing the Product Backlog as it is not designed for moving the rows and columns always. Hence, using the spreadsheet needs a tedious effort and an ample amount of time. 

Creating a Product Backlog using a flexible software or Lucidchart has many benefits for managing the Product Backlog items. Lucidchart is one of the most straightforward software that can be used for creating a Product Backlog. It is a living document that could be rearranged; however, the need arises and is easy to share with the Stakeholders. 

These are some of the necessary steps that are required to create a Product Backlog.

1. Adding ideas to the Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is nothing but a list of ideas that are brainstormed while creating the product. It contains all the statements that may be great or not-so-great, given by all the Scrum Team members and the customers and Stakeholders. Adding ideas after discussing with the customer about what kind of product they are looking for is one of the first steps in Product Development. Initially, only limited ideas could be added to the Product Backlog. Still, as the product is developed, new ideas could be added, keeping in mind the competition and market relevancy of the items added to the Product Backlog. Hence, the first step in creating a Product Backlog is adding all the types of ideas given by all the members and stakeholders.

2. Getting clarification

Once any Stakeholder approaches change to any addition or fix the product, it is crucial to clarify the fix or addition. To understand the importance of the addition, the Product Owner and the Scrum Team must clarify three basic questions.

  • What is the reason behind the fix?

This question answers what the problem is caused in the product and how it would help solve the specific issue or problem. 

  • What value does it contribute to the product as a whole?

Apart from the short-term benefit, the Scrum Team should also analyze whether the addition contributes to the whole product and enhances product quality. The addition should ideally increase the product's value by improving the business value and return of investment.

  • What is the specification of the item?

The addition or fix must be thoroughly studied by the Developer to understand the exact feature added to the product. The item's specification must be clear to the Developer so that they do not face any impediments during their development process.

3. Prioritization

Once the Product Backlog items are added to the Product Backlog, the Product Owner's responsibility is to prioritize the things from the highest priority to low priority. This step should be based on strategic analysis of data and not only the gut feeling of the Product Owner. Having a proper structure of the Product Backlog would enhance communication among the teams, Product Owners, and the Stakeholders and help the Product Owner get its approval.

But on what basis would the Product Owner prioritize the backlog items? There are specific criteria based on which the items are prioritized. They are:

  • Revenue: Any item or feature that will generate a high income for the business should be kept a high priority. The articles should be prioritized based on the return of investment it could offer. A strategic and detailed analysis of the feature should be done to understand the revenue it may generate for the company. 
  • Market uniqueness and market fix: If a feature is unique in the market, it gives a more challenging competition to other products and would be highlighted in the market. Also, if the same quality could solve the users' existing problems, this feature is ensured to give a bang for the buck and increase the opportunity for the product in the market.
  • Complexity: The proposed feature should also be examined for the overall complexity and the time it may take to execute the product. The Scrum Team should analyze the shortest possible delivery time with the maximum value the product feature can bring. The team should also explore the other functions this feature can impact and also the hidden costs associated with the quality. 
4. Update the Product Backlog regularly

The Product Backlog should be treated as a living document; hence, it should be regularly updated by the Product Owner. The process of prioritization, refining, and keeping the Product Backlog up to date is an integral part of the development process. The Product Backlog will contain hundreds of ideas that have to be refined, and few ideas which may not seem relevant may be discarded. Eventually, the Product Backlog items are prioritized, and the items are arranged according to their priority. The Product Backlog item will first get listed as a high priority and then taken into the Sprint Backlog from which it is ultimately developed into a feature in the product. 

5. Maintenance of Product Backlog

As a new Sprint is planned, the team takes few Product Backlog items into the Sprint Backlog. The Sprint Backlog is the list of things which has to be developed during a particular Sprint. Both the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog are updated so that any items that may not be useful can be removed. Here the team analyses whether any item whichever is not relevant can be eliminated so that newer ideas can be prioritized. After every Sprint planning is done, the list must be revised so that the higher priority items are arranged accordingly. Whichever items are completed, it should be labeled as done and archived under the master backlog.

Conclusion

As we have seen, the Product Backlog becomes the backbone of any product development process and is one of the most crucial tools for the Scrum Team's success. It is a tool that can store brainstormed ideas, prioritize the user stories efficiently, save time, and increase the team members' productivity. Proper use of Product Backlog can also keep the stakeholder updated and the Scrum Team updated about the projects or user stories that have to be developed. An excellent and strategic prioritization of the features would allow the team to create features relevant to the market and increase the company's revenue and brand value, which ultimately increases the return of investment. Hence, creating and maintaining a Product Backlog becomes one of the primary tasks for the Scrum Team's success and that of the organization's as well.

References:
  1. https://scrumguides.org/scrum-guide.html#artifacts-productbacklog
  2. https://www.scrum.org/resources/what-is-a-product-backlog


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Author

Priyanka Datt

Has nearly 15 years of experience as a practitioner in the areas of Agile and Scrum. She delivers training and coaching programs for organisations and teams across the globe. She is helping budding Scrum Masters and Product Owners to learn and grow in their careers.