The Lowdown on Agile Product Backlog Prioritization

by Ivana Janakieva

6 min read·

What Is Product Backlog in Agile?

The product backlog is a simple prioritized list of deliverables. You should think of it as a list containing some new features or as a wish list that has everything you'd like to see in your product.

In short, it's a set of tasks containing some short descriptions about the features the product owner wants to see in a product.

The product backlog in Agile is a crucial aspect of development. It will help you estimate how much time it takes for implementation, refining the process, and prioritizing everything you want to get done.

We can safely say that product backlog is a decision-making document, or a collection of multiple source feedback, i.e., from users, sales, and other developers.

Tips for Product Backlog Management

We already established that Product Backlog prioritization is the most important thing that will guide your Agile team. Why? Because it does a great job at breaking down the requests or feedback into a set of more manageable tasks.

Here's how the product backlog management might go:

  • The product owneer clearly describes the tasks and expectations without tech specifications.
  • The backlog is reviewed and discussed in backlog review sessions, where the developers (Wordpress, Java, React.js, React Native, iOS developer, or any other kind), estimate the items that are of importance at the time being or the items that are necessary to make a decision about.
  • The items are prioritized so that the most important things needed to be done first are singled out.

The developers' estimations are essential because they are the ones that will define the number of items from the backlog list that are going to be selected for the upcoming sprint. 

Product backlog management is a rather complex process in which the product owner collaborates with other people to make sure that when the product comes into the hands of a customer, it will be in the most perfect form. Moreover, this is done by adjusting and grooming the backlog while prioritizing the product backlog. 

 Managing a Product Backlog

Best Tips on Managing a Product Backlog

Start Having the Vision of Your Final Product in Mind

To ensure proper product backlog management, it's best to start developing the product with the final result in mind.

However, it's important to mention that the product vision might change due to a range of factors, such as industry changes.

For example, you may start with one vision for your product but make major changes once you gather feedback and test the market.

Once you have your product strategy ready, it will be much easier to develop your product vision or at least improve it. Why? Let's say that you create your product strategy. After conducting market research and competitor analysis, you might see that your target customers need a different version of your initial product.

Make the Backlog Manageable Again

One of the most common mistakes made when creating a product backlog is an exhaustive list with hundreds of items. Your product backlog becomes unmanageable and loses in transparency.  

Improve the Collaboration Between Teams

Instead of just the product owner creating the backlog, it would be best to encourage frequent communication between the product owner and the Agile development team. In this way, you'll get the most successful backlog management possible. 

Agile Backlog Management Challenges

Product backlog prioritization is the primary way to manage roadmap and gain predictability in an Agile dev organization.

However, keep in mind that if your product backlog grows uncontrollably, then the value it is supposed to provide may diminish proportionately.

An unnecessarily long product backlog can weaken the team and ultimately become unmanageable and irrelevant.

Speaking truthfully, product backlog prioritization isn’t something one must do, but it's one of the easiest ways to control your product backlog from becoming unnecessarily long. 

With an unnecessarily large product backlog, the only thing that will be achieved is the lost sight of the long-term goals the product owner had in mind. 

That's why a better option would be to have those significant long-term goals of the project split up into a set of smaller tasks that will ultimately lead to the successful achievement of the long-term goals. 

Some of the issues caused by an unreasonably long backlog are:

  • Reduction on the value
  • Inhibited innovation

It’s important to note that such issues can be avoided if the PO manages the backlog properly. Everything should be clear enough and only top prioritized items should be discussed with the team.

Here are some additional tips for successful Product Backlog Management: 

  • Consider using some tools that have been shown to be very effective in visualizing the strategy you’re going to use for your product. 
  • A good connection between the product management, product owners, and the product development team is vital for a successful product backlog management
  • Although the product owner is one of the most important individuals that should be up-to-date with everything, the other stakeholders shouldn’t be kept out of the loop. Moreover, the product owner must provide all the backlog information, the latest updates, as well as full transparency regarding the backlog allowing the stakeholders to review the data and provide feedback.
  • Hold “grooming” meetings where the current backlog will be discussed in great detail.
Product Backlog to Sprint Backlog

Product Backlog vs. Sprint Backlog: What Is the Difference?

When it comes to sprint planning, a product backlog is a list of the tasks or requirements that need to be done before launching a product.

Sprint backlogs are lists of work the team commits to do within the sprint. The product backlog may never be completed, but it is continually updated and refined as new features are added or old ones removed.

A sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog and contains one week's worth of work.

Conclusion

To guarantee the success of the Agile Project, Scrum teams need to grasp core business imperatives and work efficiently to keep the focus on priority issues with the most extensive business impact, even under changing conditions. 

Product backlog prioritization is one of the most important things on the product owner’s checklist. Also, in both methodologies, the Product Backlog, as well as the Sprint Backlog, the most important thing is the communication between the product owner and the product development team.

The product backlog delivery must likewise be kept targeted. In particular, each need during prioritizing is analyzed to see whether it is essential for the technological architecture or to provide value to the company. 

It gets moved into the lowest end of a backlog or may even be deleted if it does not fall into any of these categories. This helps guarantee that only mandatory applicants are included in the backlog.

Ivana Janakieva
Ivana Janakieva
Content Editor
Expertise

Ready to start?

Get in touch or schedule a call.

Talent Profiles

Work with hand-picked talent, evaluated with our thorough screening process