Best Practices for Creating a Strong Product Backlog

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At the core of every successful agile project lies a well-defined product backlog. This list includes all the items that need to be delivered as a part of the solution, and it is typically made up of features, requirements, or user stories. These items are ranked in order of importance to the customer or the business. Think of it like a shopping catalog, where you circle the things you want, but not everything is guaranteed to be delivered.

The product backlog can be stored in a variety of formats, such as a spreadsheet, a requirements management tool, or even a physical list. What’s important is that it’s consistently maintained and adjusted as needed. A well-defined product backlog ensures a smooth flow of work and helps to prioritize tasks in order of business value. It also helps to eliminate unnecessary work by identifying items that are no longer required.

To ensure that your product backlog is well-defined, keep in mind the acronym SMART:


Each item on the product backlog should be specific and clear, outlining what needs to be accomplished and why it’s important. For example, instead of listing “Improve website usability,” you might list “Reduce the number of steps required to complete a purchase on the website from 5 to 3.” The more specific your item is, the easier it is to determine its relevance and priority.


In order to track progress and prioritize work, each item on the backlog should be measurable. This means that you should be able to quantify the work required and estimate how long it will take to complete. For example, you might estimate that reducing the number of steps to complete a purchase will take 2 weeks of development time. By estimating the time required for each item, you can accurately predict the completion date and make more informed decisions.


While it’s important to dream big, each item on the backlog should also be achievable within the constraints of your team and resources. Make sure that each item is realistic and can be accomplished with the time and resources you have available. Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and ultimately, project failure.


Only items that are relevant to the project’s goals and objectives should be included in the product backlog. This means that each item should be tied to a specific business need or customer problem that needs to be addressed. By keeping the backlog relevant, you can ensure that your team is working on tasks that are aligned with the project’s goals.


Finally, each item on the product backlog should be time-bound and have a clear deadline or target completion date. For example, you might set a goal to complete the website purchase improvement project within the next 3 months. By setting clear deadlines, you can motivate your team and ensure that each item is completed in a timely manner.

By following these guidelines and creating a SMART product backlog, you’ll be well on your way to delivering a successful project. Remember, a well-defined product backlog is an essential part of any successful project, and it ensures that your team is working on tasks that are aligned with your project’s goals and objectives.

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