Too much stuff in your Product Backlog?

Too much stuff in your Product Backlog
Chris Bexon
Chris Bexon – Professional Scrum Trainer, Professional Agile Coach CPCC, ICF-ACC, ORSC
cpcc professional coaching badge Professional Scrum Product Owner logo
Discover Product Management Skills and Practices
  1. When there is no product vision and/or product goal there can be a distinct lack of focus in the order and contents of the product backlog.
  2. Let’s be realistic. If the number of items arriving in your product backlog is greater than those departing then it will naturally grow. This causes the product backlog to get a little stale if we hold on to everything.

Here are a few tried and tested tips to bring focus to your product backlog.

Product Vision

A product vision, or product vision statement, describes the overarching long-term PURPOSE/mission of your product for everybody inside and outside the company. Vision statements are aspirational, emotional and they communicate concisely where the product hopes to go and what it hopes to achieve in the long term.

Do you have an inspiring product vision? Does it offer direction?

Here are a few real world examples of great Vision Statements

Tesla: Tesla’s vision is to create the most compelling car company of the 21st century by driving the world’s transition to electric vehicles. Their mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

Ikea: The world’s largest furniture retailer’s vision is to create a better everyday life for many people. 

Sonos: Fill every home with music.

Google: To provide access to the world’s information with one click.

Instagram: To capture and share the world’s moments.

Uber: To evolve the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.

LinkedIn: To connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful.

Why is a Product Vision important?

To understand the importance of having a vision statement, consider how difficult it would be to develop a strategically sound product without one. How would an agile team know where to focus, and which product backlog items to order? On what strategic basis would a Product Owner make decisions?

Discover how to create compelling Product Visions in practice on our Product Owner class or try our Agile Coaching service

The Product Goal

A Product goal describes the future state of the product that can serve as a target for the scrum team.
Helps drive the emergence of the product backlog

The Product Goal serves as a shorter term focus as we work towards our product vision

Lets say our product vision is to run a marathon but we are currently on the couch. Its feels like an insurmountable strategic goal and you could easily get lost on the way.

Taking smaller strategic steps towards the vision helps us focus on the bigger picture whilst creating highly valuable outcomes for our customers along the way.

Make goals FAST

FAST goals are part of a goal-setting methodology that follows the acronym for FAST. This stands for frequently discussed, ambitious, specific and transparent.

A Product Goal helps build the connection between the Vision and the Product Backlog.

The product backlog becomes more focused on achieving the intermediate product goal

Smaller tactical sprint goals guide the evolution towards the Product Goal by creating a Useful Valuable Increment every sprint to test our assumptions.

Practice creating Product Goals on our Product Owner class or try our Agile Coaching service.

Limit the Size of the Product Backlog

limiting the size of the product backlog creates focus oN the importance of the product backlog items with respect TO the vision, THE product goal or other objectives
Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is limited to 50 in this example. Limiting the size of the product backlog works to keep the content fresh and focused on the current Product Goal. Agile Team collaboration becomes more focused and able to better manage for value. This could form part of product backlog refinement activities.

Our classes include in-depth agile coaching to help discover many practices that can be used with Scrum to maximise value. Come and discover more in one of our Product Owner classes or try our Agile Coaching service.

The Product Backlog Funnel

in the product backlog or in the bin?

As a further enhancement to the practice of limiting work-in-progress, a Funnel, Filter, or Sorting Hat can be used to first assess potential product backlog items against the product goal and product value. These backlog items may be assessed by balancing product value against risk exposure.

There are many practices available to help connect product backlog items to product goals. We use a range of these – analysing business strategies, vision story-telling, user story-mapping, product value metrics, developing user-personas, impact mapping, designing and learning from experiments, and many more. These all help to assess the potential value of product backlog items.

For more advanced practices join our Advanced Product Owner class or the UX and Scrum class

Product Backlog Refinement

the product backlog is continuously refined by the Agile Team by adding detail, size and ordering

Try keeping the Product Backlog up to date and inline with the vision and product goal and other objectives in real time.

If the Product Goal is refined or changes – is the product backlog still relevant?

Flow of Value

Optimising the flow of value. This is a more complex subject and a core topic for our agile coaching service or our PSK class/

By limiting work in progress, understanding and visualising the flow of value, understanding and visualising the state of the work in the flow as well as optimising work size and reducing unwanted variability in the flow, we can further understand how to experiment with the Product Backlog size, structure and contents in order to aid optimisation.

During B-Agile training classes you get much more than simple content delivery. We will work with you to deeply understand your needs – in your business context and using your business examples as part of an agile coaching conversation. This approach results in deeper learning, actions and experiments. Find our Product Owner classes here or try our Agile Coaching service with your team

Take some time to reflect… Take some notes.

What will you take away from the blog?

What is emerging for me?

What has changed or is changing in the way you think about the Product Backlog?

What experiment will I design with my agile team?

What have I learnt? What will I pursue?

What action will you take?

What questions do you have for B-Agile?

Many thanks and hope to see you soon!

Tags: ,

Stay in the loop on all things agile

Make sure you do not miss out on any news! Join our mailing list for a monthly newsletter bursting at the seams with need-to-know information about b-agile and the industry!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

By completing this form you are agreeing to our privacy policy