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Ajay Shenoy 2 articles
Residence: IN Bengaluru, Karnataka,
Project | Program Consultant | Agile Consultant | Digital Applications

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The Unified Project Management Dictionary


A program is a collection of related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed as a group to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.

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Factors To Help Prioritize Your Scrum Product Backlog

Efficiency: something we all strive for, but often have a hard time accomplishing. However, when it comes to software development, efficiency is what sets apart the project that flops and the one that goes on to be the next big thing. Thankfully, Lean and Agile Methodologies can help you to prioritize your product backlog and put your best foot forward when it comes to improving the efficiency of your software development.

The Purpose of the Product Backlog

In order to better prioritize and organize your product backlog, it is important that you understand the purpose of the product backlog. The reason we mention this is far too many Agile teams believe that anything related to the project should be put up into the product backlog, creating a dis organized mess

Instead, your team should see the product backlog as a way to keep track of what needs to be done in order to create a working product as efficiently as possible. Thankfully, when done correctly, this is exactly what the product backlog does. Unfortunately, this takes a good deal of effort in maintaining or “grooming” the backlog in order to keep everything running smooth.

Smart and experienced product owners know that a product backlog without prioritization can lead to bad decision-making, wasted time, and can even breed distrust among the team. Don’t let this happen to you. Take heed of these five factors to help prioritize your product backlog. Because this is a post on prioritization, the factors are listed in priority order.

How does each item contribute to your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

What is the minimum viable product that can be shipped to customers? In terms of prioritizing your backlog, the keyword is “minimum.” While features may be valuable, it doesn’t mean they are necessary, and the distinction between the two becomes more important when you’re timeboxed with limited resources. Have an understanding of resources you have at hand and then categorize items into three buckets: Must Have, Nice to Have, and Won’t Have. You can also use the MoSCoW analysis and separate items into four categories:

  1. Must Have
  2. Should Have This If Possible
  3. Could Have This If Possible
  4. Won’t Have This At This Time But Would Like In The Future


Product backlog prioritization, sometimes called grooming or product backlog refinement, is a necessity in any software development project. Not only will new items constantly be added to your product backlog throughout the process, but the priority of those items will change and shift as you better understand your audience and product.

The following five tips will point you in the right direction and give you the knowledge you need to better groom your own product backlog. By simply taking the time to prioritize your work and follow these best practices, you can save both time and money for your organization.

1. Only put top priority items in the backlog

Prioritizing your product backlog starts with keeping your list of to-do items small. While it can be tempting to put everything for the entire project on the product backlog, this can overwhelm your team and make it more difficult to choose what items to tackle. Especially if you are using a Scrum Methodology, as the list will be revisited often.

A good rule of thumb here is to only put items that can be accomplish in the next 2 or 3 sprints on the product backlog, while keeping a separate log or roadmap for any additional items that need to be accomplished. Keeping your backlog as lean as possible will help you keep the focus on what is important and avoid distractions.

2. Where Are Your Users In Their Product Journey:

In a perfect, simple world, a majority of your active users will scream at you for not building a certain set of features. In reality, feature prioritization isn't that straight forward. When you look at your feature backlog, it probably varies from a simple "add image filters" to a more complex "an engagement report of all picture uploads".

What do you do when the varying feature requests leave you wondering why users with similar profiles have needs that have nothing in common?

Take a step back and look at where your users are on their product journey.

A user goes through different stages in their lifecycle before becoming an engaged user of your product. And every feature you build should help your users cross over to the next stage effortlessly, so they can quickly achieve their goals with your product.

“A lot of times what you’re creating when you’re creating software is less of a tool and more of an environment for accomplishment.” ~ Samuel Hulick

3. Constantly re-order backlog by relevance

Another reason for keeping your product backlog lean is that as the project progresses you will need to re-order the backlog by relevance. For instance, a task put on the backlog at the beginning of the project may be rendered irrelevant by product testing. Whereas, a seemingly random item may need to be moved to a higher priority.

Due to the fast-paced, shifting nature of the Agile development process, we recommend constantly cross-checking your backlog against the needs of your project. Unless you take the time to do this, you may end up adding weeks or even months to the process.

4. Impact Of A Feature

Not all feature requests carry the same impact. There are features that will make your users a caped superhero. And there are features that a high paying customer will want, but in reality, they're just another set of nice to have features.

Now, so far, we have mainly been talking about different processes for ordering the product backlog, but unless you are sure of the priority of each item, how do you know you are choosing the best path forward? This is where data, testing, and user feedback come into play. Our advice is to always follow the data.This all goes back to UX design and taking the needs of the user seriously. Often, developers will run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out their audience, when they could simply ask them. By conducting thorough testing and working with a product manager who understands the end-users, you will make better decisions and end up with a better end-product.

4. Avoid scheduling grooming too late or too early in the process

Another common pitfall that Agile and Scrum teams fall into when grooming their product backlog is either trying to make changes too early or late in the process. When changes are made too early, it can alter the project significantly and put you off course. On the other hand, when changes are made too late, it can often be futile as there isn’t enough time left to implement them.

This is why Scrum Masters will recommend that you only prioritize and groom your backlog in the middle 60% of the project and avoid doing so at the first and last 20%. Not only does this give your team the time to jump into the product upfront, but it also ensures that you meet deadlines closer to the end of the project. Even if you feel that a change needs to be made near the end, talk with your team first to see if it possible considering other factors.

4. Effort And Complexity:

The final step to ensure you prioritize the right feature and put a smile on your customer’s face is further filtering your backlog based on the effort required to see the feature come to life.

After all, every time your team works on a new feature, your design team will have to spend time doing research and customer interviews, and your engineering team will have to think through technical complexities and pick up knowledge of new technologies. This is crucial as it ties down to your most scarce resource - time.

Once you’ve figured the effort required to build the features in your backlog, you can now map all your features on a value by effort 2x2 matrix.


Takeaway: Build features that deliver maximum value at minimum cost/effort.

Published at pmmagazine.net with the consent of Ajay Shenoy
Source of the article: {Linkedin} on [2019-03-21]