Make the Product Backlog DEEP

They are also responsible for backlog refinement, which ensures all backlog items are organized, have appropriate details, and are ready for any upcoming sprint planning. Typically, many of these work items are epics; however, they should be still small enough to fit in a release cycle and can be completed over two or more sprints in a release cycle. Feature-epics are divided into stories – small enough to fit in a sprint – before the sprint in which a story will be implemented. Sprint backlogs are quite similar to product backlogs, but they serve a different, more specific purpose.

deep backlog

She felt overwhelmed all the time, and she couldn’t manage her time effectively since she was spending much time on items that were not a priority for the team right now. The Product Owner can form a prediction on when a set of PBIs may be ready for delivery to the customer. Again, this is a risk mitigation strategy that allows the Product Owner and customer to engage in conversation far ahead of any due date commitments. To help the team determine the amount of effort required in order to deliver the item.


For those new to agile practices, ensure that work in the product backlog leads to small advances in functionality for the product or service being developed then present it to the customers. Teams can challenge themselves to build out various options for the customer to consider. This leads to rich feedback from the customer and increased customer engagement. Small advances in the evolution of the product can lead to small change management cycles. Consider a customer that is running a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operations centre.

deep backlog

Because a product backlog evolves, it’s easy to add new stories and items—or remove them—as new information arises. Changes in business requirements, market conditions, or technology may cause changes in the Product Backlog. It continuously evolves as the product and the project environment evolves. Requirements of a project is never stop changing, so a Product Backlog serves as a living Scrum artifact . Description — what’s the primary purpose of the product backlog item.

How DEEP is your Product Backlog?

PBIs that are very large and cannot be completed in a specific timeframe may need to be broken down further into smaller units of value. This decomposition of work acts as a risk mitigation technique in agile practices. The smaller the work item is, the sooner the team can get feedback on it from the customer and make adjustments if necessary.

A product backlog represents all of the goals and desired outcomes within the development of a product. They are the specific tasks a team hopes to complete when they set out to design or improve upon a product. The Product Owner will naturally let lower priority items fall to the bottom of the list as they focus on getting clarity around near-term Product Backlog Items at the top.

Make sure to keep things concise within an hour or two to avoid losing focus on what’s essential (and don’t let anyone’s topic dominate the conversation). Note that epics and stories are conceptually different, and should not be mixed or aggregated while developing a rank order. Given that an estimate is a guess, it will only be accurate if we get lucky. backlog refinement techniques So we’re not worrying about precision; we need an approximate estimate based on our current understanding of the feature request. Toward the end of the semester, my professor dropped the last three assignments from the class requirements as we approached the holiday season. I remember my relief that I had devoted nearly no time to those assignments.

Some tasks cannot begin until another dependent task is completed. These dependencies can halt team members and delay progress if not identified or managed. Make sure to identify any dependencies when backlog grooming.

Release planning horizon, work item granularity, estimation, and rank order

Don’t refine or polish the backlog of the current sprint until it ends, even if there is time left. You might feel tempted only to refine commitments to requirements right before they are due. That’s not a good idea, as that doesn’t leave room for potential gameplay that might increase or shift your product vision.

deep backlog

After seriously considering dropping the course, I accepted my fate and decided to make a heroic attempt to pass this class. Human memory is unreliable, so over some time, you’ll be glad to see documented proof of a good or bad decision and will be able to measure the touchpoints with which an idea has played out. Address the high-priority tasks first, save less important tasks for the future. How does the feature line up with the priorities of stakeholders? Ensure to consult with the stakeholders regularly and keep their interests in mind. While executive stakeholders may want to oversee progress, they usually do not need to be present during grooming meetings.

This estimation can be done by comparing relative sizes of large epics. The refinement process adds details where needed and prioritizes items based on the current information a product owner has from team members and stakeholders. A DEEP backlog refers to the grooming characteristics a product backlog has. DEEP is an acronym for detailed appropriately, emergent, estimated, and prioritized. While a plan with stated goals is critical to intelligent backlog grooming, that doesn’t mean it has to stay the same. The product owner must keep an open mind and listen to what others in their team say to make changes as required.

What Is a DEEP Product Backlog?

Items in the backlog should contain enough contextual information for your cross-functional team to understand and discuss. Higher-priority user stories will have greater detail and context and be clearly defined. Move low-priority items to a separate list, making the Backlog list shorter and easier to understand. There will be different opinions about prioritizing and organizing the team during development.

Over the time horizon of multiple release cycles, INVESTing in stories has even poorer returns compared to INVESTing in stories for a single release cycle. This kind of INVESTment will not yield expected results as stories are very likely to change over a much longer duration of multiple release cycles. The product backlog should be sorted with the most valuable items at the top and the least valuable at the bottom. By always working in priority order, the team is able to maximize the value of the product or system being developed. Thorough estimation should be focused on high-priority items that will be tackled soon. As you refine your backlog and add more details to top-priority items, you can improve your estimation.

  • I ask the team to show me its product backlog, and I ask a few questions to assess if and to what extent it isDEEP.
  • Sometimes teams are afraid to change the product backlog because this will affect the plan too, and they will not be able to meet the deadline.
  • This process can lead to valuable insights and provides the Product Owner with the information they need in order to properly place the PBIs in a stack ranked order.
  • He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course.
  • While a plan with stated goals is critical to intelligent backlog grooming, that doesn’t mean it has to stay the same.
  • This can cause a messy and chaotic backlog with many outdated items.

At the beginning of a Scrum, the product owner arranges the product backlog items that are to be completed by the Scrum team in that sprint. The items at the top of the backlog have more accurate estimates. The lower priority items are estimated at high level and can bere-estimated as team gets more information. User stories story point Emergent Product Backlog is not static, it is in constant change. As the project progresses, more and more information and knowledge are obtained, and the user stories in the product Backlog are also added, removed, or rearranged.

Once the team has prioritized their Product Backlog, they should start at the top of the list and work down. Prioritization only works if the team follows through on their commitments. Estimate — the estimated effort needed to complete the task. Many ideas are thrown into the mix, as with every other team meeting. If you review your projected plan beforehand and make sure all members know their roles – this should be clear straight up.


It’s all of the work a team will tackle in the future, but it’s also a flexible, living organism that evolves as a development team learns more about the product and its stakeholders. What makes a product backlog so effective is its agile nature. Backlogs are in constant evolution, changing and adapting based on the current needs of stakeholders and customers. To keep a backlog up-to-date and in its most effective form, it needs to be continuously refined and adapted. This process takes time, but there are simple, powerful strategies for maintaining a quality backlog.

If we get to the next user story and no one remembers what it’s for, it probably wasn’t that valuable. It’s not a miss that we didn’t detail it enough; it’s a good thing that the Product Owner spent their efforts on more valuable items. DEEP identifies four key attributes of a high-functioning product backlog. It’s a simple tool that product owners or product managers can use to manage the product backlog and user stories effectively. The Product Backlog lists all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that needs to be developed for the product release.

Scrum Master

Better sprint planning and retrospectives with user story maps in Jira. The product backlog should instantly reflect the effects of new developments and changes to a product’s market conditions. The Product Backlog is prioritized when the highest priority items are on top. The Product Owner determines priority by considering both risk and customer value. The individual teams attempted to follow an agile process, but leadership wanted to manage the program using a traditional methodology.

Items on the lower priority are big items with high level estimates. As the team gets more detailed information on lower priority items, these items are further split in to small items. The Development Team is responsible for the estimates of the items in the Product Backlog. Learn how agile release planning can help you with your software development and agile project plan.

Epics, Features and User Stories

The advice for the team is to capture enough detail relative to the priority of the Product Backlog Item in the backlog. The higher the item is in priority then the more information that will be required as the team will be involved in conversations on how to implement the requirements. For PBIs that are lower in priority then the detail in them will be much less precise.

Turn every software project into a successful one.

They do not know all of the information they need to successfully deliver a perfect implementation of the requirements. Creative endeavors that lead to a product which you can hold in your hand or load on your computer may have gone through many iterative stages of development and feedback. As the team and customer complete PBI work from the backlog they will learn new things about the problem they are trying to solve. Market conditions may have changed since the team started to produce parts of the product. Legal frameworks update, social norms adjust, technology improves, political landscape changes, among other things. It is critical to emphasize that a backlog should never be considered as finalized.

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