What is the Product Backlog?

The Product Backlog in Scrum is a prioritised list of what is needed to improve or develop a product or service.

The Product Backlog in Scrum is a prioritised list of what is needed to improve or develop a product or service. Through this, it maps out the items the Scrum Team must deliver. The most important items are shown at the top of the Product Backlog so the team knows what they need to deliver first. Work is pulled from the list by the team during the Sprint Planning meeting.

The Product Backlog is constantly evolving as the Product Owner and the rest of the team discover new needs and features for the product. It also acts as an important connection between the team as work is reprioritised, new requirements added and feedback incorporated. Although it’s important to note that any changes shouldn’t interrupt the current flow of work for the Development team.

Keeping the Product Backlog up to date

The Product Backlog must be regularly reviewed and kept up to date. As we touched on, the Backlog is continuously evolving and the Product Owner should be responsible for overseeing this. Reviewing the Backlog is particularly important before planning meetings to ensure the team has clarity and everyone is on the same page.

Regular review of the Backlog is often referred to as “Product Backlog Refinement”. As the Backlog continues to grow, Product Owners should group items into near-term and long-term items. Again, this will help the team in understanding what is to be delivered first.

What is a Product Backlog Item?

A Product Backlog Item (PBI) is a single unit of work that exists within the Product Backlog. They can range from specifications and requirements, to use cases, bugs or time-boxed research tasks, but most commonly they are formulated as User Stories. These are the individual items that need to be reviewed and prioritised by the Product Owner. And they are also the units that the Development Team pulls from the system to deliver on.

Having an individual PBI is beneficial as it helps to identify the work required to complete the Sprint. It also helps to anticipate when an item is likely to be delivered.

Product Backlog

What is Product Backlog Refinement?

Product Backlog Refinement is the process of breaking down and defining Product Backlog items even further into smaller, more specific units. This could include adding additional detail such as description, order and size. Attributes vary depending on the nature of the product and work.

A collaboration of the whole Scrum Team and sometimes if relevant, the stakeholders is necessary for refining items and ensuring they are in a ‘ready state’. This essentially means the Development Team agree on the two following statements:

  1. The item is clear enough. Meaning the Development team has a clear understanding of what the stakeholders are asking for and why.
  2. The item is small enough. The Scrum Team are responsible for the sizing. They should agree that each item is small enough and that it can be completed within the Sprint. An item is small enough when the Sprint Goal consists of six to ten items.

Product Backlog Refinement should also include reordering items according to their priority in terms of business value and effort required.

This activity takes time but is beneficial as doing it right can help to save time in Sprint Planning. Without clear refinement and a shared understanding, you risk implementing the wrong thing, wasting effort, and having to rework the implementation to get it right.

What is Product Backlog Refinement?

It is crucial to understand the Product Backlog, Product Backlog Items and the Refinement process in detail if you are using Scrum. Every individual who has started to work on agile methodology must know about the practices and processes of the Scrum framework. It might therefore be a good idea to consider a scrum course to make sure you are up to scratch.


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