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Understanding Scrum - Sample Product Backlog

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 9/12/2011

The Scrum Product Backlog is one of the most important elements of a Scrum project, but yet one of the least understood. Find out what a Product Backlog is and what one looks like in this article by Bright Hub author Ronda Levine.

  • slide 1 of 4

    What is the Product Backlog?

    If you have been reading along with the Understanding Scrum Series, you will have noticed the term "Product Backlog" used multiple times. While by now, you should know that the product backlog is a place where all to-do items are prioritized in waiting for transfer to the Sprint Backlog, you may not know what components need to be represented on a Product Backlog you are using in your Scrum project. Here is a list of components that should be found on your Product Backlog:

    • An identification number for each item, or "Story" on the list.
    • A Priority of each story on the list
    • Stories - Sprint stories are the descriptions of the work that must be completed during the Sprint. For example, a story may be as simple as "Finish creating database."
    • An estimated number of hours for each story's completion.
    • Who the story has been assigned to.
    • The number of the Sprint that the story has been assigned to
  • slide 2 of 4

    What About These Project Stories?

    Project stories, defined by the product owner, will follow Bill Wake's INVEST model where "INVEST" stands for:

    • Independent
    • Negotiable
    • Valuable
    • Estimable
    • Small
    • Testable

    Each of the stories in a project should follow the above six criteria before they are put onto the Product backlog. Stories should be independent, meaning that they should never overlap with another story and stories should be negotiable, meaning that the story when created will be a collaboration. Stories also need to be valuable to the product customer (not just to those creating the software). You should be able to estimate how long the story will take to implement and how large the story will be. Stories will be small - each story should only involve a couple of weeks work for one person. Finally, and perhaps most important, the story should be testable. If not, then there could be a huge problem in implementing the story during the Sprint.

  • slide 3 of 4

    Creating the Task Plan from the Product Backlog

    In addition to stories needing to follow the INVEST model, tasks should always follow the SMART model, meaning that each task is:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Boxed

    By creating your task plan following the SMART model, you will ensure that your team members will not be lost in a sea of busywork. Instead, they will be working on tasks and stories that lead to results and profit for your product and the company.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Creating the Product Backlog

    In an Excel Worksheet, or in a Scrum project management tool such as ScrumDesk, You will want to track your Product Backlog. If you are using Excel or another spreadsheet program, from right to left, list the following headings:

    • Priority
    • Estimate
    • Sprint
    • User Type
    • Story
    • Story Type

    You can then break your Excel worksheet into sections with "Very High Priority,"High Priority," "Medium-High Priority" and "Medium Priority." Finally, remember, if an item has a low priority, you may not want to include it on your list. For a great example of a Product Backlog, you may want to look at the one provided at Mitch Lacey & Associates.

    Please be sure to check out the other items in Bright Hub's collection of Agile project management guides and discussions.

Understanding Scrum - Part II

This series of articles details the principals behind Scrum methodologies - the process, environment, process, roles, etc. Everything you need to know to understand Scrum, you will find in these articles.
  1. Understanding Scrum - Sample Product Backlog
  2. Understanding Scrum - Team Roles and Responsibilities
  3. Understanding Scrum - Best Practices Guide