Product Backlog Items

Last post 04:26 pm January 13, 2021
by Daniel Wilhite
3 replies
07:37 pm January 12, 2021

Hi All,

I was going through the scrum guide when I came across this particular sentence below:

'Higher ordered Product Backlog items are usually clearer and more detailed than lower ordered ones'

By ordering are they referring to how the items are arranged in the product backlog?

As in the items that are arranged higher in the order are more clearer and detailed? if yes, can anyone explain why is this the case? 

Does the sprint review play a role here?, as the resultant of the sprint review defines a list of probable product backlog items for the next sprint. 

Any clarification here would be really helpful! :)

01:49 am January 13, 2021

This wording appears to have been removed in the November 2020 revision of the Scrum Guide. My guess is that this is among the things that were deemed to be too prescriptive.

Your assessment of the meaning of the quote seems to be correct to me. The Product Backlog is ordered by the Product Owner, taking into account feedback from stakeholders (some of which may be received at Sprint Planning, but it can also be received at other times as well) and refinement activities with the rest of the Scrum Team. Frequently, the ordering of the Product Backlog reflects the order in which the work will be done, work that is closer to being selected for a Sprint will have more detail. This also aligns with the idea that Product Backlog Items are ready for selection during Sprint Planning are sufficiently refined such that they represent work that can be completed by the team within one Sprint.

I don't agree that a result of the Sprint Review is a list of probably Product Backlog Items for the next Sprint. One result of the Sprint Review is adjustments to the Product Backlog based on "new opportunities". The Sprint Review is a good opportunity for the Scrum Team to synchronize with the outside world, or timelines, budgets, and changes to the marketplace. At any point in time, the work that is likely to be coming up before the Scrum Team should be clear in how its presented in the Product Backlog.

06:37 am January 13, 2021

As in the items that are arranged higher in the order are more clearer and detailed? if yes, can anyone explain why is this the case? 

Does the sprint review play a role here?

Think of the Product Backlog as offering a rolling long-term delivery horizon. As work bubbles through it and is completed Sprint by Sprint, it is continually refined and made ready for Sprint Planning. The Product Backlog is emergent, and yet progress will be stable enough over multiple Sprints so long-term forecasts can be made.

The Sprint Review presents a formal opportunity for the Product Backlog to be updated in a timely manner. Invited stakeholders can provide input and help shape it with the team just before a new Sprint begins.

04:26 pm January 13, 2021

If you owned a construction company that built homes in new subdivisions, would you want your team of carpenters to start building a home that has a set of blueprints, schematics and list of features or a home where someone says "I want a 4 bedroom home" and nothing else is known?

The statement you quoted is from the 2017 revision of the Scrum Guide. The current revision has changed that wording.However in both of the revisions the Product Backlog is the list of all work needed for a product.  Some of the work is better understood.  It makes sense that the better understood work will be at the top of the list because a team of builders will be more successful at completing that work. From the current revision of the Scrum Guide (

The Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Scrum Team.

Product Backlog items that can be Done by the Scrum Team within one Sprint are deemed ready for selection in a Sprint Planning event.

There is nothing that says that all of the "deemed ready for selection" items have to be at the top of the Product Backlog.  And there is nothing said about how the Product Backlog is actually ordered. Each team can determine what makes most sense for them for the ordering methods.