What is a Product Backlog?

How do you know what needs to be completed unless you start with a list.  A product backlog is list of features and changes to be done.  The product backlog list must be ordered in the priority they should be completed.  Usually the business owner and scrum team will meet to list out all these items and build the product backlog.  Having a good product backlog will help you get your work ready for the first sprint or the next sprint.   Each item needs to be clearly defined and we need to understand what systems will be touched and who will complete the work.

You also need to discuss the why.  “Why do we need this?”  This can help you work on prioritization.  Some tasks may have preliminary items that need to be completed.  Outside dependencies can be a big issue.  When I was at Scrum Master training, I spoke to a few people from Nationwide Insurance.  They have Agile teams dependent on non-Agile teams that may have a six-month lead time.  So you need to get your request in early.  Each item needs the requirements or user story of what the completed feature will do.

Working at Dice our first foray into Agile was cut short by not having a well defined product backlog.  Amanda McCurdy, Jim Blankenfeld and Scott Stogdill worked hard to capture the items the business owners wanted.  The problem they ran into was getting the right people involved.  When I was in sales they always told me to “talk to the decision maker”.  They ran into an issue where at Dice they had too many decision makers as well as some people would not get involved.  The product backlog lacked some key items.

Some good resources:

http://agilebench.com/blog/the-product-backlog-for-agile-teams

http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/scrum/product-backlog

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