What is a backlog?
Backlogs are lists of more minor activities that must be accomplished within a project or sprint, referred to as a “to-do” list in software development. User stories, issue fixes, and product updates are all standard components of this process. Notably, a backlog is structured in priority order, ensuring that teams are always aware of what they need to concentrate on next.
Think of a product backlog as a “live” document that updates as the project progresses. Essentially, it is a constantly updating list of action items, some of which may be eliminated in the future and replaced with more relevant tasks.
The backlog is used by all teams involved in the development cycle to keep track of and prioritize their tasks as they work towards the delivery of a finished product. The specific charges listed in the backlog will vary from project to project, but in general, you should expect to find the following items:
These will range in complexity, but owners will need to expound on them when they rise to the top of the list and become action items.
Bug fixes that have been implemented.
Errors happen to everyone and can occur at any stage during the development process. You should report any bugs you find to prioritize them according to their severity within the backlog.
Existing features are being improved.
If you have a product already deployed (such as SaaS platforms), you will need to arrange feature updates through the backlog.
The Importance of A Backlog
When it comes to product development, even when teams use the agile methodology, it is critical to have a single source of truth that can be relied on to guide them through the process.
Yes, the product roadmap serves as a point of reference for the overarching vision of a development project overall vision. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that the roadmap comprises several more minor activities. This is known as the product backlog, and it’s often considered more important than the actual roadmap itself.
Backlog Pros And Cons
There are various reasons why backlogs are so beneficial to the development process. The most significant of these is increased efficiency and project focus:
Keeping teams engaged, prepared, and on track can be achieved through backlogs. Product managers and owners will always be aware of
A) the projects that teams are now working on and
B) the projects that those teams will be working on next.
This type of insight can be invaluable when cross-functional teams are dispersed across geographies or time zones. Backlogs can also aid in the development of an overall strategy and vision. The capacity of a backlog to explain the strategic plan for the total product is another essential aspect of its worth.
Unlike product managers, who are across the entire development process, aligned with the how and why of each milestone, development teams most often are not.
Because these divisions can be categorized at times, the backlog serves as the connecting tissue for the entire project, providing everyone with an opportunity to see the big picture.
Backlogs can motivate teams, keep them engaged, and encourage them to work more collaboratively. With shared goals and more engagement, individuals become laser-focused on their respective areas of expertise. Backlogs can make it easier to assign tasks and serve as digital conversation starters, enabling cross-team discussion about the project’s timeline.
When working with a backlog, the following are the most common challenges that you may encounter:
The backlog is either too large or has lost its concentration.
We’ve all heard the term “scope creep,” and a backlog is a terrific way to see this phenomenon in action firsthand. A team member will add any new ideas that come to mind to the backlog, but these ideas could be off-scope, overly ambitious, or wholly forgotten if not adequately managed. What’s the solution? Hold regular sessions to ensure that each job is correct, relevant, and prioritized appropriately.
Backlog assignments lack the requisite detail to be actionable because they lack the relevant point. To be successful in collaborative working and inventive thinking, team members must contribute their ideas in the form of user stories to the project, and it must be controlled. Team members can’t — and shouldn’t! — begin development until they have all of the necessary information. The solution, in this case, is to establish user story submission rules to ensure that all team members understand how to communicate their messages effectively.
Great ideas are being lost, resulting in a decrease in the drive.
Some product managers enjoy nesting their backlog items into tiers. However, this nesting method can lead to its own set of challenges. The more complex the backlog configuration develops, the more likely teams will lose sight of their contributions, decreasing team motivation, and productivity. Who will ever see a fantastic idea if it is buried at the bottom of a long list of thousands of other ideas? Once again, maintaining a lean backlog (and reducing the number of sub-backlogs) can help to avoid this issue from ever arising.
How to use a backlog
One of the most important aspects of backlogs is that it is organized by priority, which helps provide strategic direction to the entire project. The value of a backlog is determined by the accuracy and amount of its contents and how they help the product team prioritize future work. It is the central repository for all legitimate requests, ideas, and possibilities for the product, product extensions, and even totally new offers.
Backlogs can soon become overwhelmed because they’re frequently utilized to capture every idea for product-related tasks. They’re used as dumping sites for everything that doesn’t require immediate attention and an easy excuse for stakeholders to wonder where their flashy object or pet project is (“it’s in the backlog, we’ll get to it someday”).
Backlogs are beneficial in the software development toolbelt; they need to be monitored and carefully considered. Like most things, they require clear and cohesive communication between all those involved.