Prioritized Product Backlog – the Backbone of a Scrum Project

November 6, 2013

The Prioritized Product Backlog is the basis on which the direction of the project proceeds. If the project is a film, the Prioritized Product Backlog is like the Script.

So what does the Prioritized Product Backlog contain and how is it made?

The Product Owner develops a Prioritized Product Backlog after developing Epic(s) and Personas. The Prioritized Product Backlog contains a prioritized list of business and project requirements written in the form of Epic(s), which are high level User Stories. The Prioritized Product Backlog is based on three primary factors: value, risk or uncertainty, and dependencies. It is also referred to as the Risk Adjusted Product Backlog since it includes identified and assessed risks related to the project. It also encompasses all Approved Changes that can be appropriately prioritized in the Prioritized Product Backlog.

It is the Product Owner’s responsibility to ensure delivery of those requirements that provide the highest level of business value first. Even an extremely valuable product may not be part of the first release if there are other products of even higher value that are sufficient for a first release.

The more uncertainty exists in a project, the riskier the project is. Therefore, it is important that riskier products in the Prioritized Product Backlog are given higher priority. Products carrying a higher level of risk will also require risk mitigation actions. When these risk mitigation actions are prioritized against the backlog, the result is a Risk Adjusted Product Backlog. Dealing with risks early in the project does not guarantee that the project will be successful, but it does enhance the team’s ability to deal with risk.

It is usually not possible to create a Prioritized Product Backlog in which there are no dependencies between User Stories. Functional requirements often depend on other functional and even non-functional requirements. These dependencies can impact how the User Stories in the Prioritized Product Backlog are prioritized. Two of the most common ways to resolve dependencies are to either split a single story into multiple parts or combine interdependent stories.

High level estimates for Epic(s) are also available in the Prioritized Product Backlog.

The Prioritized Product Backlog is an important input for the Conduct Release Planning and the Create User Stories process.

The Prioritized Product Backlog is groomed during the Groom Prioritized Product Backlog process. This happens in Prioritized Product Backlog Review Meetings. The intent of the Prioritized Product Backlog Review Meetings is to ensure that User Stories and Acceptance Criteria are understood and are written properly by the Product Owner so that they reflect the actual stakeholder (customer) requirements and priorities.


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