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Introduction to backlogs

Introduction to backlogs in Agile product management.

Backlog is defined as an accumulation of uncompleted work or matters needing to be dealt with. Although ‘backlog’ can conjure up negative connotations, within the Agile environment and Scrum framework, it refers to an integral component of the project management methodology. The main artefacts that are part of the Scrum framework are product backlog, sprint backlog, and product increment.

An integral part of Agile management is good communication and meaningful feedback. The feedback should be written down directly into the backlog, either as a new task or a comment on an existing task. This will assist with the natural process of backlog refinement/grooming. Important to note is that backlog refinement is an ongoing process.

Previously we looked at the Scrum framework that consists of the product backlog, sprint backlog, and product increment. Let’s delve deeper into these and review the Scrum framework introduced earlier.

Graphic shows the overview of the Scrum framework. The process starts with the "Product backlog" to "Sprint planning" to "Sprint backlog" to "Daily scrum" with 1 scrum team to "Sprint review" to either "Increment" or back to "Product backlog". From "Increment" it then goes to "Sprint retrospective" then back to "Sprint planning".Click to enlarge

We will now look at the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the increment in more detail.

Product backlog

The product owner, with the support of the Scrum master, is responsible for prioritising, curating, and maintaining the backlog. The product backlog consists of an ordered list of enhancements, new features, and bug fixes, tasks or other requirements that need to be built into the product. They’re compiled from a variety of sources including customers, customer support, competitive analysis, market analysis, and other sources.

The product backlog is a living artefact and is constantly evolving as new information is received or surfaced. It contains upcoming or planned work, as well as work that was once in scope within a sprint and then was deprioritised to the backlog.

Sprint backlog

The sprint backlog is revised as part of sprint planning, as the team determines what’s required to deliver on the product backlog item and who will be doing what. It is a collection of tasks that are needed to deliver on an item within the product backlog and is also a living artefact that is updated on a daily basis.

For example, when a new team member starts to work on an activity that requires them to ‘develop a new product’, the product backlog item would be: ‘Create a new product’. There are multiple tasks required across different functions to create the new product. These multiple tasks would fall within the sprint backlog. These are the tasks that are considered ‘in scope’ or ‘planned’ to complete within the sprint.

Product increment

A product increment is the sum of all product backlog items completed during a sprint in addition to all the increments of previous sprints. The scope of the product increment is agreed upon with stakeholders and defined by the product owner. Note that the increment should deliver a business value, and it isn’t just a part of the technology stack. Therefore, at the end of a sprint, the increment must be marked ‘done’ before a new increment can be started.

Backlog in practice

There are plenty of examples of what tools to use as well as the dos and don’ts of backlog management. Read the following two articles on the subject:

Read:

Backlog Grooming [1]

Backlog management examples [2]

Share your thoughts

Think back to the two articles and answer one or two of the questions below:
  • Is backlog an important part of Agile management?
  • Can effective grooming of backlog(s) assist with Agile management?
  • How can I perform essential backlog management?
  • Would I be able to perform backlog management in a virtual, but Agile environment?
Share your answers or thoughts to these questions in the comments below. You might learn something from your fellow learners or assist them with a question.

References

1. Agile Digest. [Internet]. Backlog Grooming; [date unknown]. Available from: https://agiledigest.com/agile-digest-tutorial-2/product-backlog-grooming-n/

2. Karlsson J. [Internet]. Need an Inspiring Product Backlog Example?; [2018]. Available from: https://www.perforce.com/blog/hns/need-inspiring-product-backlog-example-here-are-6

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Introduction to Agile Project Management

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