November 30, 2015

BABOK v3 Techniques: Backlog Management

Post by: Rachael Wilterdink

For anyone who has heard the buzzword “agile” over the past decade or so, the addition of the Backlog Management technique should not come as a surprise. For those working in “traditional” environments, this technique may be completely unfamiliar. Most people likely associate backlogs only with agile, but a backlog can be used in other situations, too.

What is a Backlog?

Simply put, a backlog is a list of “things” that need to be completed. A backlog generally consists of work that is planned, but is not yet being worked on.

What “Things” Go in a Backlog?

This depends on the work to be done. According to the BABOK, it could be nearly anything, from use cases to change requests. In agile methodologies, the most common item in a backlog is written in the form of a user story.

How is the Backlog Prioritized?

Backlog items are typically ordered based on relative priority, with the highest business value items appearing first on the list. Nearly any of the typical prioritization methods can be used to assign the priority, such as MoSCoW, or very broad methods, such as High/Medium/Low; however, as the list grows, additional ways to denote priority may be needed (such as a numeric assignment).

How are Backlog Items Estimated?

Estimates tend to be fairly rough on backlog items, until they become closer to being developed, and more details are known. Rough estimates are initially applied, based on what is known at the time, and become more refined as more details emerge.

How is Change Managed in the Backlog?

Items may be added or removed as needed, based on the direction of the backlog owner. The backlog is continually being reviewed and refined to ensure that the top priority items are first, and when changes happen, they are evaluated along with the remainder of items in the backlog.

Why Should I Use a Backlog?

Backlogs are extremely versatile, and can assist in ensuring that the highest business value is delivered first. Time is not spent determining detailed requirements until an item has been selected for development, which significantly cuts down on wasted effort. Likewise, little to no time is spent working on low-value, low-priority requirements, which may ultimately end up being discarded. Backlogs are also effective at improving communication and providing transparency to the project team.

Are There Any Reasons I Shouldn’t Use a Backlog?

There are a few circumstances in which backlog management would not be ideal. If your project is very large and has a significant number of backlog items, management could become cumbersome, and there would be increased probability of things being missed. Skill is also required in order to properly break down the backlog items and provide enough details for accurate estimates.

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