Product Owner Dilemma —Chaotic Backlogs

Understanding your backlog

Inundated with the backlog
  • Bugs
  • Tech Debt
  • Product
  • Analytics. How frequent it’s used and how many customers use it.
  • How valuable is the feature to the business? If it’s a core concept or a differentiation.
  • Quick write up on the analysis of the items in the bucket to detect trends. Reviewing 30–50 items is easier than the full backlog.
Making sense of your backlog

Product Development Flow

  1. Data (old backlog) that will support any work the development team will work on. I use a request issue type in Jira so it is different workflow to what a team works on.
  2. Roadmap that will give teams a strategy and path to success.
  3. The Team’s board (new backlog) which will give them focus on what they are working on now.
Product Development Flow from Idea to Reality
  1. Create epics as candidates of the roadmap from the analysis of the backlog. I link related requests to the epic.
  2. Prioritise the candidates using scoring techniques. Then move the top candidates to the Now, Next and Future columns. The epics will flow through the roadmap as things are done.
  3. All Epics in “Next” can be exposed to the team to discover the correct solution. Tasks can be created for activities for the team.
  4. All Epics in “Now” can be exposed to the team to deliver the chosen solution. User stories are created to break down the delivery of an epic.
  5. When we finish the epic I review all user stories and requests to either close them or move them back as a set of requests for future consideration.
Flow of an Epic

Systems and Habits

  • A user story for an epic that we are working on Now.
  • Linking to any epic in the roadmap as a reference to the problems to solve.
  • If the idea is big and quite valuable, convert it to an epic to be prioritized in a roadmap review.
  • If there is no epic related to it, I put the item in a bucket for future analysis.
  • Daily Triage — I spend up to 15 minutes a day to triage new requests.
  • Planning sessions — We meet up every one or two weeks to review the upcoming user stories ensuring they are correct and work towards our goals in the epic.
  • Product Review —Every two weeks we gather feedback on recent changes that will feedback new user stories on epics we are working on.
  • Roadmap Review — We meet monthly to review the roadmap priorities. This will move epics across the board.
  • Analysis of the backlog — Every quarter, I do spend time to see if there are new insights. Since my triage process is ensuring the buckets are up to date. New analysis is faster to do. New candidates can be created.
  • Use templates for Stories to ensure they’re created in the right format by any team member.
  • Automate scores with some simple input during the triage process.
  • Use dashboards to visualize the distribution of my backlog.
  • Bulk Actions — I would find all requests older than 1 year with and add a comment that it is stale. For all requests older than 2 years old and only had one customer requesting it, I closed with a comment to re-open if it’s still valid.
  • Teach the team to be a Product Owner. How to split stories, how to prioritize, how the system works.

Bringing structure around the chaos

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