Unpacking the prob­lem

Product Backlog

A prod­uct back­log is one of the most im­por­tant arte­facts when build­ing soft­ware. It is the what, why, how and when of fea­ture de­vel­op­ment.

Since re­quire­ments can be ex­pressed in sev­eral ways, there are a va­ri­ety of strate­gies for cap­tur­ing and un­der­stand­ing them. Whether it hap­pens ver­bally dur­ing a meet­ing or through a brain­storm­ing ses­sion on a white­board; it is vi­tal that all re­quire­ments are recorded in a back­log.

A com­monly used method for record­ing these re­quire­ments is to un­der­stand a user’s in­tent through epics and user sto­ries. Beyond epics and user sto­ries, other ticket types can arise such as tasks, de­fects and spikes both within scop­ing and ac­tive de­vel­op­ment. It’s also im­per­a­tive to cap­ture the ac­cep­tance cri­te­ria for each user story to en­sure that the team and prod­uct owner have a shared un­der­stand­ing of what makes each story com­plete. These is­sue types can typ­i­cally be de­fined as the fol­low­ing:

  • Epic: A high-level theme or fea­ture that is used to cat­e­gorise re­lated sto­ries, tasks and de­fects.

  • Story: A fine-grained re­quire­ment, writ­ten from a user’s per­spec­tive, that is small enough that it can be log­i­cally es­ti­mated and built within a short pe­riod.

  • Task: A work item that is­n’t writ­ten from a user’s per­spec­tive and is in­stead a tech­ni­cal item re­quired to achieve the ap­pli­ca­tions sto­ries.

  • Defect: A work item typ­i­cally re­lated to an epic, that has arisen as a re­sult of ap­pli­ca­tion test­ing, which can be a tech­ni­cal bug in the ap­pli­ca­tion or a us­abil­ity is­sue.

  • Spike: Typically, a time-boxed work item with a learn­ing goal as­so­ci­ated with de-risk­ing some tech­nol­ogy or con­cept.

Once the prod­uct back­log is com­plete and cov­ers all func­tion­al­ity shown in the pro­to­type and data­base model, the scop­ing team is ready to es­ti­mate the build.

Product backlog infographic

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