Agile is a software approach for software development that improves collaboration, results, and the quality of work.
The most famous project framework for undertaking the Agile methodology, of course, is Scrum, and the key component of Scrum is its product backlog.
A product backlog is essentially a list of the desired features in a project sorted according to their priorities. This product backlog can be used whether it is software that we are developing or any other kind of product.
A product backlog can be considered synonymous with a to-do list that we maintain in our day-to-day lives. It essentially lists the tasks that need to be completed to complete the project in its entirety.
The product backlog in a Scrum is usually first defined by the stakeholders and the product owner who are guided by their vision of the project. All of the important features of the project that can be thought of at that very moment are noted down in the product backlog.
In the first sprint backlog, this list is fed for an understanding of the product for the Scrum team. The product backlog is then revised and grows along with the project throughout the lifecycle. The most common and integral part of the product backlog are user stories.
User stories, the short bits of functionalities of the project that are described from the user's perspective. The product backlog also contains bugs, knowledge discovery stories, and EPICs- the stories that are needed to be broken up into smaller and more understandable user stories.
In the Agile development model, requirements rule all the planning of the software project. The user stories in the product backlog are sorted with respect to priorities. But, even before this is done, it is important to itemize the user stories with considerations of acceptance and collaborating with the development team to develop estimates for each of the user story.
Holding meetings with the software developments to understand all that is being implemented and revised is also imperative. Asking the right questions at the right time can save a lot of efforts and cost in the software development project. These discussions invent some new and fresh perspectives and open up newer ways of looking at the same features in the project.
The product backlog should be highlighted with priority and capacity considerations. A proper segregation of the product backlog items into releases and grouping them in a general priority is a must.
The key advantages of religiously maintaining a product backlog-
- Simplicity and open discussion - The simple list gives a window for discussions and collaborations within the project team. As Agile focuses on interaction and individuals, product backlogs, therefore, lie at the very core of the methodology practice. Several schemes of communication with the customer have been devised so as to leave no room for miscommunication and misunderstandings.
- The customer gets the control - The product backlog is all about what the customer needs. The requirements as mentioned in a product backlog are easy for the customer to understand as they are written in a non-technical and simple language. In this manner, the customer is able to participate more in the development process and are able to prioritize requirements according to his own understanding.
- Changes in product backlog - The product backlog is not a one-time document that is sealed after the creation. It allows for changes and revisions throughout the project's lifecycle. Coarse estimates are added to the functionalities in a product backlog, but since these are higher-level estimates, developers and the team should not be held accountable if the actual development time exceeds a bit. As time passes, a product backlog is allowed to evolve according to the customer's understanding.
- Inspection and review - The product backlog is up for review typically every month. Incorporation of any new knowledge about the product, and adding some left-out goals are carried out in this phase.
- Dependency resolution - In a product backlog, the items that are dependent on some other items are placed below the items they are dependent on. This way, it is easy to recognize the dependencies when considering and analyzing changes, and to resolve the dependencies without the complex dependency graphs and charts.
- Long-term planning - A product backlog can be grouped coarsely into much larger chunks to represent the future sprints. It allows to add some meaning to the path ahead and provides a bit of a visualization for the future.
Your agile backlog can make release and iteration planning easier, and help you broadcast all the things that you would want your team to spend time on. The internal work of the development team, that is never noticeable to the customer can also be managed using a product backlog. This helps in setting the right expectations with the stakeholders and the customer.
A well-maintained product backlog ensures that the project has been undertaken and implemented according to the best understanding of all the people involved. The mechanism of a product backlog, its way of prioritizing items, the ease of use associated with it, and the level of the customer's involvement, all come to ensure that a product backlog can reduce the hassle in a software development process and drive some sense out of chaos.
About Author : James Warner is a business intelligence analyst and cloud application developer at offshore software development company NexSoftSys.