Illustration of the product backlog concept

What is a Product Backlog?

The Product Backlog (or Product Backlog) is the first of three key artifacts of the Agile Scrum project management framework; the others are the Sprint Backlog and the Product Increment. It centralizes all the features, technical needs, and fixes to implement to achieve your product vision and your business objectives.

The Product Owner is in charge of creating the Product Backlog and continuously fueling it in the light of new data from the market, users, or other stakeholders. In addition, the elements of the Product Backlog, which generally have the raw form of ideas, Features, or Epics, must be regularly refined to transform them into User Stories ready to be developed and added to the Sprint Backlog.

How do I determine which items to add to the Product Backlog?

Determining the elements to add to the Product Backlog requires a clear vision of the business and product issues. When translating business issues into backlog items, you can use Impact Mapping. Regarding product consistency, User Story Mapping allows you to map user needs and respond to them optimally. The MoSCoW Method will help you prioritize the different versions of the same product very effectively.

Impact Mapping

Impact Mapping is a method that helps to establish and visualize the relationship between a specific business goal and the means for achieving it. This includes identifying the actors (aka, key stakeholders) involved, the unique role each actor plays (and the impact they make), and what deliverables they use to drive that impact.

The deliverables resulting from the Impact Mapping workshop are all elements you can add to your Product Backlog and will contribute directly to achieving your objectives. - Impact Mapping Example

Learn more about Impact Mapping →

User Story Mapping

User Story Mapping consists of projecting the user into the different paths of a product to determine the coherent and optimal functional scope that allows the user to achieve his goals and test a new product or a new feature as quickly as possible.

This coherent set of User Stories is generally grouped under MVP for Minimum Viable Product and MMF for Minimum Marketable Feature. - User Story Mapping Example

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The MoSCoW Method

The MoSCoW Method provides a clear framework for approaching and iterating different versions of the same product through the lens of 1) targeted user needs, 2) technical constraints (i.e., security, reliability), or 3) internal constraints (i.e., industry regulations, organizational dependencies). - MoSCoW Method example

Learn more about the MoSCoW Method →

How to prioritize the elements of its Product Backlog?

Once you have identified the functionalities to develop and documented them in your Product Backlog, you still have to select those you wish to implement during the next sprints. The prioritization exercise can be tricky, especially when managing requests from diverse streams: users, competitors, salespeople, founders, etc.

Fortunately, several prioritization techniques will help you objectively select the next features to develop. In this article, we present two techniques but know that there are many others.

Prioritization Matrix

The Prioritization Matrix is a simple and effective way to sort the features of a Product Backlog. The abscissa axis represents the feasibility of the functionality, i.e., the reverse of the complexity, and the ordinate axis represents the value.

To determine feasibility and value, the workshop should bring together all relevant stakeholders: business owners, developers, etc. - Prioritization Matrix example

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ICE Framework (Impact x Confidence x Ease)

The ICE Framework makes it possible to calculate a score that aggregates three complementary aspects:

  • The estimated Impact the feature will have on the product, and more specifically, on the indicator you want to improve;
  • The Confidence that you have in this feature will have an impact on the indicator that you want to improve;
  • The Ease of implementation of the feature, i.e., the inverse of the amount of effort and resources required to deliver it.

You should evaluate each parameter on a scale from 1 to 10. The ICE score is the product of these three evaluations. The higher the score, the higher the priority for the feature.

Learn more about the ICE Framework →

How to refine your Product Backlog?

Once you have selected the priority Features, the role of the Product Owner is to write the User Stories, i.e., first, to document them – description, acceptance criteria, functional and non-functional management rules, etc. –then, with the help of the development team, to estimate them. This is the purpose of Backlog Refinement (or Backlog Grooming) sessions.

A User Story should be implementable within a unique sprint. Of course, a feature can be broken down into several User Stories. The estimation of a User Story is generally expressed in Story Points and is carried out through Planning Poker.

The Planning Poker

Planning Poker (or Scrum Poker) is a workshop that helps to estimate the workload associated with implementing a User Story. This method is generally used during Backlog Refinement (or Backlog Grooming) sessions in preparation for the Sprint Planning session. It makes it possible to size the backlog items and possibly refine the User Stories, i.e., split them into two or several smaller User Stories. - Panning Poker - Round 1 with polling booth mode

Learn more about the estimation process and Planning Poker →

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