Building a Better Backlog

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1 Building a Better Backlog Strategies for long-term success in Agile development Angela Druckman Certified Scrum Trainer

2 Overview What is a Product Backlog? Writing Product Backlog Items User Stories an Overview Grooming the Product Backlog Adding Detail Estimating Product Backlog Items A brief introduction to relative estimation Business Value Refining Prioritization Granularizing the Product Backlog Product Backlog as Living Artifact 2

3 What is a Product Backlog? A prioritized list of physical and intellectual property a Product Owner is asking for. This could be: New features Enhancements to existing features Prototypes Documentation Bug fixes Training Note a list of the above items is not a Product Backlog until it is prioritized. Until then, it is simply a wish list If it s not on the Product Backlog, it doesn t exist. --Jeff Sutherland 3

4 How to Write Product Backlog Items A simple statement of what is desired: Provide user documentation for the Accounts Receivable module Or a description of actions to take place A customer service representative can log notes from a customer call. Many people find the user story format a convenient one for creating Product Backlog items. One popular format for creating user stories is: As a <type of user> I want to <take some action> so I can <achieve some result>. For example: As a Customer Service manager, I want to know average queue wait time so I can provide adequate call center staffing. 4

5 What Are the Benefits of User Stories? They allow the Product Owner to create requirements that are implementationindependent They allow requirements to be written from the perspective of different kinds of users They get people to stop talking about the system and start talking about how people will user the system They are a promise for a future conversation They can be linked to more extensive documentation later if desired They can be written by both technical and nontechnical people 5

6 What are the Characteristic of a Good User Story? I independent N negotiable V valuable E estimate-able S small T testable Good user stories are about the what not the how 6

7 Where do User Stories Come From? Product Owners work with stakeholders to define and write the user stories. This can be through: Individual meetings with stakeholders The Product Owner s team, which may be comprised of requirements experts like business analysts, requirements analysts, etc The Scrum team Story Time meetings Anyone can add items to the Product Backlog but the Product Owner alone determines the final priority 7

8 Holding a Successful Story Time session The goal of a Story Time session is to leave the meeting with a better product backlog than you arrived with. Story Time sessions can be used to: Write user stories (you can even use this meeting to create the backlog for the first time) Improve the quality of user stories Breaking down epics Size stories Add acceptance criteria to stories See and discuss what is coming up for future sprints Most teams (especially early in a project) benefit from regular Story Time sessions 8

9 How Much Detail Should the Product Backlog Have? Sample Product Backlog

10 Adding Acceptance Criteria Acceptance criteria: Form the boundaries of the story (what is/ is not in scope) Are negotiable Help us know when a story is complete Come from the dialog between the team and Product Owner in Story Time and Planning meetings Require the ability to ask good questions 10

11 Estimating Product Backlog Items Teams use a variety of methods to estimate stories: Hours Ideal days T-shirt sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XXXL aka epic ) Fibonacci series style (i.e. 1,2,3,5,8,13,21 ) Teams estimates of user stories are often converted into story points, a scale unique to each team The average number of story points delivered by a given team each sprint is called the team s velocity Teams that use T-shirt or Fibonacci scales are using a concept called relative estimation. 11

12 Why Relative Estimation Works Humans are terrible at absolute estimation but quite good at relative estimation It is generally faster It gets a team thinking (and talking) as a group, rather than as individuals It encourages spending analysis time appropriately It is cost-effective Remember: estimation is a means to an end. The ultimate goal is an achievable sprint commitment 12

13 Compare Absolute versus Relative Estimation Estimate the weight of the following animals in kilograms vs Rank the animals below from lightest to heaviest Tiger Rabbit Squirrel Elephant Impala 13

14 Relative Estimation - continued Some questions you may have asked yourself in the last exercise: Do I have a sense of what the lightest creature is? How about the heaviest? Do I know what an impala is? Or do I know someone who does? (ie expert knowledge) Of the remaining animals, how do they compare with one another? Relative estimation is a cost-effective way for teams to make a sprint commitment with confidence 14

15 Determining Business Value Adding a business value metric to your user stories can give the Product Owner additional information to assist with prioritizing the backlog. Business value is a organization-specific metric and may include: Return on Investment Cost savings Labor reduction Growth opportunities First-to-market Opportunity costs Cost of not doing 15

16 Use Estimates and Business Value to Prioritize For example: User Story Story Size Estimate (xs, s, m, l, xl) User Story #1 Large 10 User Story #2 Large 16 User Story #3 Small 16 User Story #4 Medium 12 Business Value (1 20) Knowing the value of a backlog item and the effort it will take to deliver helps the Product Owner make good choices 16

17 Granularizing the Product Backlog Product Backlogs can grow quite large. It is therefore useful to granularize or chunk the backlog to help the team understand the Product Owner s long term vision. Some chunking ideas are: Product Backlog A September Release PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n December Release PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n March Release PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Product Backlog B Financial Accounting PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Materials Management PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Production Planning PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Product Backlog C Front Burner PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Back Burner PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n Freezer PBI #1 PBI #2 PBI #n 17

18 The Product Backlog is a Living Artifact! Product Backlogs require continuous attention and grooming to: Refine backlog items Add new items Remove outdated items Be realistic about how much time this will take being a Product Owner is a full time job! 18

19 Thank You!

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