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Should we make the product backlog transparent to competitors?

Last post 10:08 pm November 14, 2018 by Simon Mayer
7 replies
11:30 am November 13, 2018

Hi Folks,

I am studying regarding the transparency of product backlog. I had been reading this article

One of the questions, which is often asked to me while i am consulting with clients, should we make our product backlog transparent to the competitors?

I feel that really depends upon the organization. I am not a big fan of it, as i feel it can impact our own product. As it can consumed by

competitors and they can fill in the gaps which our product has.

What are your thoughts? Thanks 

03:11 pm November 13, 2018

Product backlog is a set of functionalities and features . You did not mention why the client insists on showing functionalities and features of product to competitor?

According to me it does not make any sense.

03:50 pm November 13, 2018

Well, Agile is about transparency and if your clients feel that they want to be that transparent, I'd say "Go for it".  But if they asked my opinion, I'd ask them how much of their competitive advantage they want to lose.

In my experience, features are only revealed externally after the feature is delivered.  That is part of release notes are for. 

04:31 pm November 13, 2018

One of the questions, which is often asked to me while i am consulting with clients, should we make our product backlog transparent to the competitors?

Would those competitors be helping to inspect and adapt the product?

09:09 pm November 13, 2018

Um..... why would anyone want to give out those details to a competitor? Does Ford give out the schematics of exactly how they build their engines to Chevy? How many restaurants put their exact recipes on display for all to see? Pretty sure Apple does not share how they build their OS with Windows. 

Transparency is great, but not if it causes you to go out of business by losing the competitive edge through giving away all of your secrets. 

07:37 am November 14, 2018

Beside the obvious concern that was already raised by Vishal and Curtis (and somewhat more subtly by Ian) there's another thing to beware of:

The more people you need to create transparency for, the harder it gets. It's easy to create transparency for two people. It's a bit more complicated for five. It's next to impossible for 150. The more people you need to be transparent for, the more complex the task of creating transparency becomes.

With that in mind, creating transparency over your Product Backlog for competitiors would likely involve considerable effort. Now, what value is to be gained from that investment?

02:24 pm November 14, 2018

Am I right in assuming you work for a provider whose services are contracted by different clients? If not, please advise your situation so we're in a better position to suggest ways of working.

If my assumption is correct, please note there is a single product backlog per product, which means you have a product that you sell (+ customize) for others. It would be, in my view, not only unfair, but also unethical to make your "product backlog transparent to the competitors". You could also end up in legal troubles. 

Why is there this desire to make the backlog transparent to others? What's the fundamental reason?

10:08 pm November 14, 2018

Perhaps you (or your clients) are referring to the inadvertent transparency of making the backlog visible to your competitors when you make it available to your customers. This could, for instance, be an attempt to gain customer feedback.

It would be worth considering whether there are better ways of getting this feedback, without risking the loss of a competitive advantage.

The decision might depend on how quickly the competitors would be able to use such information to bring an idea to market.

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