Product Backlog

The definition of Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is one of the 3 artifacts in Scrum. It represents the master list of all work that is necessary to improve the product. The Product Backlog is treated as the single source of work for the Scrum Team.

Items in the Product Backlog are represented in priority order. Meaning that those at the top of the backlog have the highest priority and the items at the bottom representing the lowest.

Items can be added or removed from the Product Backlog at any time. Since Scrum is designed to adapt to change the Product Backlog is therefore emergent.

Common items that you may find on a Product Backlog are:

  • New feature ideas
  • Feature enhancements
  • Defects
  • Usability improvements
  • Customer opportunities
  • Feature requests (from sales, stakeholders, other teams, customers, etc)
  • Technical debt
  • Infrastructure improvements
  • Etc

The Product Backlog must be aligned to the Product Goal. The Product Goal serves as a vision for the future state of the product and the Product Backlog serves as the how the team intends to achieve it.

The Product Owner is responsible for maintaining the Product Backlog and defining the Product Goal. They set the priority and ensure that the Product Backlog is refined and up to date. Although the Product Owner is responsible, they may enlist the help from others to refine the Product Backlog.

The Product Backlog should be continuously refined. This is the act of ordering, breaking items down, removing redundant items and adding in necessary details. Although there is no official backlog refinement event in Scrum, teams often found it useful to set aside time together to review the backlog. Remember that there is no guarantee that all items on the Product Backlog will be done and therefore we take a ‘just in time' approach to the Product Backlog where items towards the top (those which are the highest priority and next to be worked on) have a higher level of detail. Conversely, the items towards the bottom will have less detail and are often represented as a one-line description.