Product Backlog Transparency vs Visibility

Last post 06:19 am July 15, 2021
by Paweł Huryn
17 replies
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05:24 am November 12, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I am reading the scrum guide and one line has confused me in the Product Owner role. it states that

"Product owner ensures that the product backlog is visible, transparent, clear to all, and shows what the scrum team will on next"

I have the following questions after this :-

  • What is the difference between transparent and visible?
  • How does the product owner ensures that product backlog is transparent? In my opinion, it contains list of all features and fixes and describe the value associated with each PBI. Secondly those performing the work and those inspecting the resulting increment must share a common DOD. That's what make it transparent. Am i thinking correct?

Appreciate the response. Thanks

06:03 am November 12, 2018

A traditional requirements set and project plan may, together, contain all of the information needed to represent a Product Backlog and for a Definition of Done to be implied. However, the Product Backlog and DoD might not be very transparent to team members if they were to be presented in such a format.

06:18 am November 12, 2018

Understanding this, what makes a product backlog transparent then?

If i consult the scrum guide, following are ways, product backlog is transparent

  1. A product backlog to be transparent, it should lists all features, functions, requirements, enhancements and fixes that constitute the changes to be made to the product in future releases and to make them transparent, they should be visible and accessible to everyone on the scrum team.

Am i correct? Thanks.

07:44 am November 12, 2018

The answer to that question probably extends beyond the Scrum Guide. What makes the Produtc Backlog transparent depends on the devlopment team and the stakeholders.

01:18 pm November 12, 2018

Are there any good practices by which we can make the product backlog transparent?

05:43 pm November 12, 2018

My interpretation of the difference between visibility and transparency is between radiating information (visibility) and making available the right information (transparency).

08:19 am November 13, 2018

Are there any good practices by which we can make the product backlog transparent?

Using clear, ubiquitous language that is understood by both developers and stakeholders when writing PBIs is helpful.

09:03 pm June 26, 2020

The Product backlog is transparent when it is ordered and when the product backlog is available to all stakeholders.

02:18 pm June 29, 2020

What is the difference between transparent and visible?

If transparency were to be described as being 'well understood'  would this help with the difference between the two? 

A backlog can be ordered and accessible to the team and stakeholders, however, they may not understand the direction the product is going, the work that needs done to get there, and it's value. 

10:19 pm June 29, 2020

To take it a bit further, could a backlog be considered transparent if there are hidden considerations that will cause it to be adapted in the future?

For example, the current state of the Product Backlog is visible to all stakeholders, but the Product Owner knows they will interview one stakeholder in secret next week, and that has the potential to trigger a substantial shift in priorities.

09:33 am July 12, 2020

my perspective about Transparency and Visibility:

Transparency - This is between the PO and Stakeholder, all the possible requirements are reflected in the Product Backlog.

Visibility: This is where it's visibility Scrum Team (Scrum Master and Development Team.) All the possible PBI's are being discussed during the Backlog Refinement/Grooming.

08:07 am March 31, 2021

I'd like to pick this up again as I was doing some research regarding transparency the other day. 

To distinguish transparency from visibility it helps to think about the definition of transparancy on a broader scale. I do believe that transparency - not only having the Product Backlog in mind -  has a lot to do with sincerity, honesty, openness, traceability and straigthness. From that point of view visibility is only describing that something can be seen - in this case the Product Backlog. And just seeing something does not imply that it is understood. 

 

09:20 am July 10, 2021

Thank you Stephan. I resume it as Transparent : visible, accessible, known (this three are prerequisite), but moreover transparency requires understood may be to the extend that one can possess the vision and be flexible in complex situations where adaptaions or dilemma might happen.

so to be transparent a Product Backlog should be refine regularly in a way to create powerful discussions to leverage understanding and even ownership on it inside the Scrum Team

08:41 am July 11, 2021

Transparency is more equal to everybody understand something 

Something visible is not always understood 

08:57 am July 11, 2021

What is the difference between transparent and visible? - Beenish Zaidi 

It's simple. First, let's look into Scrum Guide 2020:

Transparency

The emergent process and work must be visible to those performing the work as well as those receiving the work. With Scrum, important decisions are based on the perceived state of its three formal artifacts. Artifacts that have low transparency can lead to decisions that diminish value and increase risk.

Transparency enables inspection. Inspection without transparency is misleading and wasteful.

 Let me give you and example of a PBI:

"Jako użytkownik chciałbym móc dodać prpodukt do ulubionych, aby móc go łatwo odnaleźć"

Everyone can see it. It is visible. But it's in polish. Do everyone can share the same understanding? Can you make a better decision looking at it? Can it be inspected by those performing the work as well as those receiving the work? Not necessarily ;)

How does the product owner ensures that product backlog is transparent? - Beenish Zaidi 

I'd suggest:

  • Use language everyone can understand (for software projects use language both IT and business can understand)
  • Clearly express why PBI is needed? What are we trying to achieve? For whom? What value it would supposedly deliver?

One of the approaches that can help you with transparency is User Stories format. Like this:

"As a user, I would like to be able to add a product to my favorites, so that I can easily find it"

Now it's more transparent. Isn't it? ;)

03:37 pm July 11, 2021

Unfortunately, it's not possible to edit comments.

Three more examples of visible, not transparent Product Backlog:

  • Product Backlog is not updated frequently enough.
  • Product Backlog Items on top of the Product Backlog are hard to understand, without enough details e.g. single word "Favourites" without any comment.
  • Unclear Product Goal.

All you need to do to generate even more examples is to focus on a goal of the Transparency (Why). Transparency enables Inspection and helps make better decisions.

 

12:45 pm July 12, 2021

To me transparency refers to providing all the information the PO believes is needed for a story to be worked on by the dev team so that the Done state is reached. Transparency as a Scrum pillar, applies to the functions of other members of the Scrum team as they all work towards the same goal, the Sprint Goal.

On the other hand, visibility is there as means to allow for transparency.

E.g. Requirements need to be captured (transparency) at the user story level (visibility); changes in requirements need to be captured when found (transparency) at the user story level and the dev team needs to be informed about changes being made in requirements (visibility); impediments need to be communicated by the dev team as soon as they are found (transparency) and captured ideally at a place where people can monitor at all times so that information is not lost, remains visible to all, and can be utilised in similar cases in the future (visibility).
 

06:19 am July 15, 2021

To me transparency refers to providing all the information the PO believes is needed for a story to be worked on by the dev team so that the Done state is reached.

Transparency in Scrum is one of the "empirical pillars". So it should be viewed in a context of empirical process control (empiricism) only, not the colloquial language.

E.g. Requirements need to be captured (transparency)

I'm not sure. E.g. there is no point to capture requirements that have low-value or are not aligned with the product goal. Product Owner can say "no" before they are added to the Product Backlog

at the user story level (visibility);

User stories are not mandatory in Scrum

the dev team needs to be informed about changes being made in requirements (visibility)

Changes have to be made to the PBIs. I don't see a reason to "inform" about them because Product Backlog is transparent and everyone can access this new information.

captured ideally at a place where people can monitor at all times so that information is not lost, remains visible to all, and can be utilised in similar cases in the future (visibility).

Although it might be a practic, this "place for lessons learned" is additive to Scrum