For some time now, we’ve been writing about checklists on our blog, and how this tool can help you increase your productivity. Now, we’ll turn to something similar: it is a kind of list as well, but one that is more specifically associated with IT, because it refers to the development of a product or system. Let’s look at what is backlog and how its use can make your management more agile.
What is backlog and who should administer it?
As we briefly mentioned, a backlog, also known as a product backlog, is a list that contains brief descriptions of all the desired features for a specific product. This list includes the project’s requirements, prioritized according to the value they deliver to the individual client.
In the ideal world, the product’s owner should manage the associated backlog. That is to say, it should be managed the product manager who is responsible for all aspects of the software under development, from the strategic objectives to details associated with the user experience.
But the list is not immutable; as the project progresses and as requirements are changed or discovered, the manager can and should expand the backlog. The important thing is that it contains enough information for the team to be able to make reasonable estimates regarding development times.
Runrun.it has a Backlog feature that consists of a task queue for each project. The members of the teams involved can complete the tasks according to their availability. To compose a project Backlog on Runrun.it, the user simply creates new tasks by selecting a responsible team – as opposed to a specific individual. Learn more about it in this article.
How does it work?
Customarily, the team and “product owner” write and prioritize the items that will initially comprise the product backlog. The premise here is that these first items should be enough for the team to start the first sprint – which is the act of repeating, of doing it again. At this point, we’ll have the sprint backlog, which is composed of the history of that specific iteration (sprint).
We have, as we’ve seen, two types of backlogs: the product and the sprint. But be careful not to confuse the two: while the product backlog is created once and updated throughout the project, a sprint backlog is created at the beginning of each sprint. While product backlogs are usually updated on a weekly basis, the sprint backlog is revised and updated daily.
We’d like to emphasize here that the backlog list will grow and change throughout the process as we learn more about the product and the needs of the customer who requested it.
>> Recommended Reading: Meet RR-Board®, Runrun.it’s intelligent kanban
How can a backlog be refined?
Sometimes product backlog refinement can be a considerable challenge. Various difficulties can arise during the planning of sprint backlogs, enormous or very small product backlogs, lack of understanding during a sprint, etc. These are a few of the obstacles that can confront product owners or managers.
This article from the DZone web portal has a wealth of suggestions to help you overcome challenges such as these. Let’s take a look at some of them:
According to the text, there is no single, correct way to incorporate product backlog refinement into a sprint. But one thing is certain: it is essential to formalize the refinement activities in individual sprints so that they are regularly conducted. So, take advantage of these events to inspect and adapt the backlog during reviews, and find out what works best for you and your team.
Only involve the people who need to be involved
In development teams, there is often an understanding that everyone should be involved in everything. But that’s not the case with product backlog refinement.
When we involve employees who should not be participating in these activities, we end up wasting valuable time and resources. Therefore, regularly talk to your team to establish who should attend a particular refining session. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t inform the rest of the team of changes; on the contrary, the whole team should be made aware of any significant changes.
Define what “Ready” means to your team
This point is fundamental. You must carefully establish what “Ready” means for you and your team. When we use “Ready,” we are talking about a small checklist of items that your team must complete before you can include a product backlog item in a sprint. The practice is of great help in setting some limits to what your development team will need to do to get an individual job done.
Don’t get ahead of yourselves
If you’re refining product backlog items that will be worked on by your development team many months in advance, stop. It’s a waste of your time. Requirements are often one of the most unstable aspects of product development. It is challenging enough to accurately comprehend a customer’s needs without first understanding the format you will be using or the amount of effort you will put into it.
A product backlog with outdated items means you wasted time on requirements that are no longer relevant. So keep up with the one or two items that can be set to “Ready” for your sprint backlog.
Similarly, don’t assume that every aspect of a product backlog item needs to be explicitly defined. Make room for conversations and the creativity of your team during a sprint.
An online tool to help with your backlog
Product and sprint backlogs are about prioritization. There are several ready-made prioritization matrix templates available to download on the internet, both spreadsheets and even applications. In this post on how to find the best project manager, we list some of the most popular.
However, if you’ve seen enough and want to jump right into the best available management software, try Runrun.it. Using it, you can carefully monitor your team’s activities, following the conclusion of each item contained in the backlog. No disarray, no wasted effort, our tool organizes and prioritizes your tasks automatically. Sign up now for a free trial: https://runrun.it
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