Ways To Improve The Product Backlog

Keep the Backlog at a Manageable Size 

A Product Backlog with hundreds of items clouds visibility and demoralizes the team that can not clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. What is even worst the cost of maintaining a huge backlog is so high that consumes the Product Owner’s time preventing her/him from working in more important things.

For the reasons stated above is very important to keep a backlog with the least number of items possible. Empirical evidence from several sources including my own experience show that less than one hundred items seems adequate. 

Be Proactive and Groom it

The Backlog Refinement Meeting is an event specifically designed to keep the backlog away from growing unnecessarily and with the wrong level of detail. This event an other mechanisms should be used to keep the backlog in good shape and as a valuable artifact for the team. 

Making an analogy with gardening, grooming is an essential activity that needs to be performed weekly or bi-weekly at the most, if not plants and trees grow wildly and eventually the whole garden ecosystem starts to degrade. Not grooming the backlog will cause the same effect: degradation. 

Share the Backlog with Stakeholders

Having stakeholders input about the backlog is very valuable because it helps the team to gain reassurance if they are building the right product with the right features. From the stakeholders perspective it’s very valuable to learn if the team is correctly interpreting their needs and concerns and crafted a possible solution that is being represented in the form of backlog items.

Trying to share the backlog with stakeholders will fail if communication is not effective and for this high bandwidth communication like face to face dialog is always recommended. Avoiding concussing terminology in the communication is another recommendation.