A Better Product Backlog
September 30, 2013

A Better Product Backlog

by Brian de Haaff

If your product backlog is like mine was, it is a mess. But that is not your or your team’s fault. (I am not a sloppy person and you probably are not either.) Mine was chaotic because there was not a good way to capture all of the incoming requests, sort them based on our goals, and then prioritize what should come next. We knew there had to be a better way. But the answer was not obvious.

In an ideal world, your product backlog is a well-organized, perfectly prioritized collection of features (epics) and requirements (user stories) that you continually nurture for your product or product portfolio. It consists of everything that needs to be done in order to successfully deliver a product that will be loved by your customers and bring great value to your company.

The product backlog obviously contains the what. The what defines the functionality that you want engineering to build based on your product’s business goals. You should start by ordering the features based on the value they will deliver to your business and their associated estimated effort. Sounds easy. But to do that, there first needs to be agreement on the major product objectives.

In Aha! we make it easy to agree on the why and take a goal-first approach to creating a brilliant roadmap. You can set your business strategy and create strategic imperatives that map to it, and then collaborate with the team to get agreement. Theses strategic imperatives can then be tagged to releases and features to create a bridge between your goals and the roadmap.

Once there is agreement on what you are trying to achieve with your product, it is possible to prioritize features to meet those goals. We achieve this by organizing features into “bins” first. Feature “bins” can be used to describe a similar characteristic of the features the “bin” contain. For example, some of our customers use “modules,” “functionality type,” or “perceived priority” to group feature requests.

In Aha! you can create these “bins” by adding a release and changing it’s status to “Parking lot”. You can change the status of a release by selecting it and changing it’s status on the Releases page.

Once you create a release and change its status to “Parking lot” it will show up there on the Features page. You can also move the “Parking lot” bins into different positions (within the “Parking lot”) to make it easy to pull out features into a sprint or release when you are ready to prioritize them. Simply hover to the right of the “bin” name on the Features card view page and a “drag handle” will appear. It allows you to change the order of where the “bin” appears.

Aha! provides a lightweight framework for better product backlog management and planning. It keeps you in control and ensures that your engineering team is efficiently working on building what matters.

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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