The Healthiest of Backlogs
What is a Product Backlog?
A Product Backlog is a list of features that need to be built or improved upon by the team. It provides a tactical way for stakeholders to align on the priority and scope of the work continuously.
Why is it important?
A well-maintained Product Backlog ensures that everyone involved in the product development process is aligned with the product vision. It guides the team's efforts and helps them stay on track.
Creating a Backlog of Features
At Lofty, we approach the creation of the backlog through a discovery process called Ignition. This process involves a deep dive into the business needs and the end-users requirements to define the product vision. The primary output of Ignition is the product backlog, which includes a comprehensive list of all the features and functionalities required to achieve the product vision. These features are then prioritized based on their business value and development complexity.
Refinement of Items
While Product Managers rely heavily on their product judgment and experience, aligning with client stakeholders and users is critical. Adherence to the product roadmap is paramount, but we are all aware of how quickly business needs change, unknowns are uncovered, and assumptions are exposed. We routinely refine the backlog with our client stakeholders to ensure continued alignment. This provides a deep understanding of the balance of feature value, development scope, and complexity for all invested in the product's success.
The Product Manager is ultimately responsible for the backlog, but the entire project team should be aware of its status and deeply engaged in its emergent items.
Prioritization of Backlog Items
Backlog items of lower priority or unrefined may only require part of the team's attention. For these items, the Product Manager, client stakeholders, and select relevant resources from the project team should work to understand the value and feasibility of the items. That way, further research (user interviews, technical feasibility, etc.) can be conducted to understand the proper priority.
Avoiding the Backlog Black Hole
Adding all feature requests, design flaws, technical debt, etc., to a backlog can be very convenient to ensure never having to say "No." But a massive list of items that will never see the light of day in your product can lead to a sense of overwhelming for your team, unrealistic expectations for stakeholders, and a lack of focus for all. A healthy backlog should be ruthlessly prioritized and pruned to ensure an accurate representation of roadmap initiatives and goals.
A Product Backlog is a great way to plan feature development. However, it's important to remember that it's a living document that will change over time. A well-maintained backlog ensures that everyone involved in the product development process is aligned with the product vision and helps the team stay on track.