The Product Backlog Speaks

“The Backlog Speaks” is a metaphor we use to get product development lifecycle information. At Bellese, the backlog is at the heart of our product development initiatives. We’ve found that having a transparent and well-groomed backlog that speaks to the team’s and stakeholders’ needs saves critical time.

Who Uses the Backlog?

A product backlog is a journal of activities to fulfill product development goals. At Bellese we define product backlog items (PBIs) to manage work. We manage our work using agile and lean methods that we call Lean Work Management (LWM). Work items include performing user research and design activities, developing APIs, and any other type of work required to meet product goals.

It is important to identify who will be using your backlog and what information is valuable to them. Users of your product, product owners, stakeholders, team members, delivery managers, and anyone that has an interest in the activities and outcomes of your product are potential users. Understand these users’ needs and determine what they want to hear throughout your product’s journey. The backlog should include information to support the planning, development, release, and maintenance of your product.

What Do Your Backlog Users Want to Hear?

First, identify the information each type of user needs. Product users will want to know when specific features will be available. Identify what information is important to manage your team’s work. Also, determine the information your stakeholders will need to understand the plans and status of your product development activities. The backlog should provide answers to frequently asked questions. For example, when will a feature be available in Beta? what team will deliver an architecture enabler for other teams?

What Specific Metadata is Essential?

Once you have identified what you and other stakeholders want to hear from the backlog, define the essential metadata required to capture this information. Over the past fifteen years, we’ve worked on various sized product development initiatives that have surfaced meaningful attributes that we’ve outlined in the table below.

Essential Metadata*What Does It Say?IDUnique identifier for the specific PBINameA short name describing the specific PBIDescriptionA detailed description describing the specific PBIDate NeededThe date a specific PBI needs to be completedPriorityA number representing the relative priority to other PBIsFunctional Area.The category of a functional area of the productRelease IDTargeted release ID for the productEstimate.The estimated size of effort in story pointsAcceptance CriteriaConditions needed to be met for the PBI to be considered completeParent Epic or StoryThe Epic or User Story ID the specific PBI is related toDependent PBIThe PBI that must be completed before this PBI can start (e.g., enablers)Team NameThe name of the team working on the specific PBIIteration IDThe iteration ID the work will be completed (e.g., Sprint ID in Scrum)StatusThe status of a specific item: Not-Started; In-Progress; DoneBlocked IndicatorAn indicator that the specific PBI is blocked requiring immediate action.Date StartedThe date the specific item was startedDate CompletedThe date the specific item was completed

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