Today I’d like to talk about product backlog.
The product backlog is a list of work that is ordered in a single rank
order, often from highest priority to lowest priority. It’s often assumed
that the work in the product backlog is all of the same granularity, but it
isn’t the case. What we would like to see is that the top 20% of the
product backlog is fine-grain work, the next 20% of the the product backlog
is course-grain work, and the remaining 60% of the product backlog is large
bodies of work, also know as epics.
We don’t particularly want to break down these large bodies of work, so we
leave them, sitting at the bottom of the product backlog until we need
them. As the work raises in terms of priority order, as they get towards
the top of our product backlog, only then do we break down the large epics
into course-grain work and then course-grain work into fine-grain work.
This on-going activity of breaking down course-grain work or epics into
fine-grain work is often described as grooming the product backlog. I can
recommend that teams spend 10% of their time working as teams grooming the
There are a number of ways of maintaining product backlogs, and here are a
few examples. My favorite way is use index cards, and then simply
prioritizing with index cards in single rank order, from highest priority
to lowest priority. This is surprisingly easy and effective.
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