The product backlog is a list that contains and prioritizes the details of every little task you require to include in your product. If you want to make any changes to your product, then product backlog is the only source of requirements. As a product owner only, you will be responsible for its availability, content, priority, and ordering of the product backlog.

A product backlog never completes; you have to work on the product backlog list continually. The product backlog continuously evolves to recognize what your product requires to be perfect, useful, and worth the competition.

As the development team executes on the roadmap’s bigger picture, the product backlog should communicate what comes next on the team’s to-do list. If you want to make your product backlog perfect, then first you have to make it DEEP. DEEP is the acronym of Detailed, Estimated, Emergent, and Prioritized.

What Does a Product Backlog Include?

It is a tricky question because what belongs in a product backlog varies from team to team. However, In general, a product backlog includes some typical items like bug fixes, user stories, and other tasks like:

  • New features
  • Enhancement to existing functionalities
  • Technical debt
  • Infrastructure update

In most of the cases, the items are break down into user stories. In a product backlog, the most important things are placed on the top. It helps to know the team what they should deliver first. These items are not just a to-do list. Each of these items is prioritized, estimated, and adds value for the customer.

Who is the owner of the product backlog?

Who is the owner of the product backlog

The product owner is the only owner of the product backlog. But, the whole cross-functional team together works on the backlog. When it comes to maintaining and organizing the product backlog, the product owner holds complete accountability.

While ordering the backlog, the product owner may get influenced by customer priority, difficulty in relative implementation, the urgency of receiving feedback, etc. An efficient product owner will look for feedback from the development team, customers, and designers to optimize product delivery.

Here’s a heads-up. You can allow other cross-functional team members to contribute items to the product backlog.

What are the Characteristics of Product Backlog

  • On a single product backlog, multiple teams can work together.
  • Every product should have one product backlog. A product backlog can have a set of large to very large features.
  • You can rank the features based on technical and business value, strategic fitness, or risk management.
  • Top-ranked items are divided into smaller user stories during the release planning.

Agile & Scrum Assessments

Why is a Product Backlog Important?

The product backlog is a way to put all the product planning and to brainstorm into action. While innovating a product, you’ll come across multiple pieces of feedback from your customers or stakeholders. They will share different ideas to improve your products.

But you can’t use all the ideas, because some of the ideas may not be valuable. So, it’s essential to have a product backlog as it will help you differentiate between a good idea and the ideas that would only waste your time.

Here is some other importance of product backlog:

  • A product backlog is prepared to plan the product roadmap.
  • The product backlog helps to give estimates to each feature.
  • You can change the product backlog as the priories change.
  • With the product backlog, you can think long-term about the product.
  • It helps you to re-rank the product features according to values.
  • Product backlog allows your team to decide what to prioritize and rank the item accordingly.

How You Can Create a Product Backlog

How You Can Create a Product Backlog

  • Add Ideas – Your stakeholders or customers will approach you with their different ideas for product development.
  • Clarify the Idea – After getting the ideas about an addition or fix from stakeholders, ensure that you have clarity about the reason behind the fix or addition. Also, get a clear idea about the specification of the item. And, overall, how it contributes to the product.
  • Prioritize – The product backlog should be defined clearly with top-priority items. High priority items are refined and add more significant value to the product. The low priority items should be at the bottom as they add no or less value.

When the items progress to the top priority list, they can add to the next sprint cycle. Here’s a pro tip: you can colour code the blocks to recognize an item is refined properly. When an item is prepared for sprint planning, you can colour it green. Also, identify the low priority items with red and mid priority item with another colour.

Update the Backlog

You have to update the product backlog constantly. You will have loads of ideas in your backlog for improving your product. But most of the ideas will require refinement to make their way to development. So, refine, prioritize, and always keep the product updated.

Backlog Refinement Sessions

An effective product owner continuously refines the product backlog to make it more reliable. These backlog refinement sessions are also renowned as backlog grooming sessions. The primary objective of these refinement sessions is to prepare the stories to discuss in the sprint planning. In refinement sessions, sometimes it becomes necessary to break user stories into smaller stories. The backlog refinement or grooming process happens regularly and includes:

  • Analysis and design discussion
  • Splitting/ Decomposition of big stories/Epics/Features
  • Removing irrelevant stories
  • Creation of new stories following the newly discovered requirements.
  • Adding new features/epics, then setting estimates for features/epics.
  • Correction of estimate following the newly discovered need.

Sprint Planning and Product Backlog: What’s the Relation?

Sprint Planning and Product Backlog What's the Relation

A product backlog makes sprint planning way easier. Because the to-do items are already defined in the backlog and, the best part is you can move them in the scrum board.

There are some differences available between sprint planning and backlog refinement, theses are:

  • Backlog grooming or refinement is not part of the scrum events. It is referred to as a GASP (Generally Accepted Scrum Practice), which means it is common practice on various scrums, but it’s not a needed task for the scrum team. On the other hand, sprint planning is part of the scrum events.
  • Sprint planning works on the tasks a scrum team decides to do during the upcoming sprint. In contrast, backlog refinement tends to enhance the understanding of product backlog’s work items.
  • Backlog refinement focuses on a long time horizon, and sprint planning is all about a short time horizon.


Final Thoughts

A product backlog helps you get a clear picture of the upcoming items to add to your product. The best part about the product backlog is its power to refine, organize, and define items, allowing you to add value to your product. So, what’s the wait? Start building your product backlog today to update, share, and improve your product development’s important components.

Check the Essential Elements Of Product Backlog described by Naveen Kumar Singh

Author's Bio

Businesses transform when they realize that the current ways of working can no longer address the fast-changing market dynamics and rising user expectations. Agilemania, a small group of passionate Lean-Agile-DevOps consultants and trainers, is the most trusted brand for digital transformations in South and South-East Asia.