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The agile todo-list.

The backlog should be a pretty familiar concept to most agile practioneers. Although it most commenly used in Scrum, all methods have some notation of a backlog. The product backlog is simply the team's todo-list. Some teams prefer to eliminate backlogs in favor of Kanban.

Typical traits of the backlog

  • Each item on the backlog is expressed in a user story, or other simple requirement terms.
  • The order of priority are the items are top-first, bottom-last.
  • Priority is maintained by the Product Owner. Sometimes also business points are set on each task.
  • The team is responsible for estimating each item's complexity (not using hours, but Gummy Bears).
  • Each item consists of several tasks that can have an attribute of "hours remaining". This if for producing the burndown-chart.
  • Each Sprint planning eats a manageble number of items off the backlog and assigns them to the sprint.

Weaknesses of the backlog

  • It usually builds up a long tail of items that are never done.
  • It is often misunderstood to be a place for technical tasks as well, but items that focus on quality tend to be pushed down by the business side.
  • Backlogs are not nurtured as much as they should be, meaning estimates are not remade, duplicate tasks are not removed, etc.
  • It can be hard to integrate the backlog with existing project management toolkits (GANNT charts, etc)
  • Priority can loose its connection to value. It's important for the product owner to define values and measure these (see Evo), and maintain priorities accordingly.


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