Who is allowed to add items to the Product Backlog?

Last post 07:53 am January 20, 2022
by Manoj Agarwal
9 replies
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10:39 am April 5, 2014

Hi guys, new to the forum. Have not taken the test yet.

I've seen this pop up, and not found a definitive answer yet...

Who is allowed to add items to the Product Backlog?

Thanks,
Brian

05:57 am April 6, 2014

Hi Brian,

The Scrum Guide (July 2013) state on page 5 "The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog." to emphasize: the PO is "responsible for managing".

"Managing" can be achieved in different ways.
- One way is, that only the PO may add items. But this will greatly limit the effectiveness of your Scrum implementation. You will get problems with complex PBIs, you limit your Development Team to create the best possible solution, your PO is getting to be a bottleneck in 1-Team setups as well in multi-Team setups.
- A better way to understand "Managing" is, that everybody in the Team (PO and DevTeam) is allowed to add items to the Product Backlog, but the PO is responsible to keep the Product Backlog in a workable state. This may be achieved by a policy, e.g. new items needs to be flaged so the PO can find them fast.
- The best way is that everybody in need to add an item to the Product Backlog collaborate with the PO directly.

Summary: It depends on our culture. You will benefit greatly, if don't put any constrains on who may add items to the Product Backlog. But only if your PO is capable of managing the Product Backlog. This may mean, he as enough time, he can handle the tools, ...

Hope this answer helps,
Michael

09:01 am April 6, 2014

Thanks for the great answer!

Yes, that makes complete sense. I found it strange that it wasn't directly called out in the Scrum guide, but I guess that would make it more of a best practice, which the Scrum guide seems to try and avoid.

Thanks,
Brian

11:55 am April 9, 2014

The Scrum Guide says that each item on the Product Backlog must have an estimate...and that only the Development Team are in a position to provide that information.

This implies that while the Product Owner owns the Product Backlog and is responsible for managing it, he or she cannot add items without the co-operation of the Development Team. To put it another way: if the PO arbitrarily adds items, the backlog is not well formed due to the absence of estimates, and the rules of Scrum are not being followed.

That's a very strict interpretation. In practice most Scrum Teams will allow unsized items onto a Product Backlog with the understanding that estimates will be provided (and the items discussed) in the next refinement session. For examination study purposes however, a strict interpretation of the Scrum Guide is generally the wisest strategy to follow.

09:39 am September 10, 2014

Anyone should be able to add items but PO decides what to do with them.
He/she can reject the item or never prioritize it.
A PBI item may never be released.

11:27 am September 29, 2021

Sorry, I am still not clear with the answer given by earlier people.

 

Question: Who add items to the product backlog? 

Product owner alone or Product owner+stakeholders?

08:44 pm September 29, 2021

The answer is who ever your organization decides.  The answers provided are from 7 years ago and the Scrum Guide has been updated a couple of times since then.  The current Guide states this under the section that explains the Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is an emergent, ordered list of what is needed to improve the product. It is the single source of work undertaken by 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. They usually acquire this degree of transparency after refining activities. Product Backlog refinement is the act of breaking down and further defining Product Backlog items into smaller more precise items. This is an ongoing activity to add details, such as a description, order, and size. Attributes often vary with the domain of work.

The Developers who will be doing the work are responsible for the sizing. The Product Owner may influence the Developers by helping them understand and select trade-offs.

This is stated in the section that explains the Product Owners responsibilities

The Product Owner is also accountable for effective Product Backlog management, which includes:

  • Developing and explicitly communicating the Product Goal;

  • Creating and clearly communicating Product Backlog items;

  • Ordering Product Backlog items; and,

  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is transparent, visible and understood.

The Product Owner may do the above work or may delegate the responsibility to others. Regardless, the Product Owner remains accountable.

Notice that no where does the Scrum framework state explicitly who can add items to the Product Backlog. It does state that the Product Owner is accountable for effective management of the Product Backlog but they can do the work or delegate responsibilities to others.

In the teams I work with I encourage anyone to add items to the Product Backlog. Then as the item is refined the Product Owner can become familiar enough to order it appropriately. I've found that the person that has the most knowledge of the need can most effectively communicate that in the Product Backlog item. This will often lead to Developers creating items in the backlog.  I have even seen where Product Owners for different products will enter items in another team's backlog if they are something needed by their product. 

09:28 am September 30, 2021

perfect, thanks for your answer.

01:29 pm October 5, 2021

Everyone, it should be encouraged. Ideally a conversation with the PO should come first.

05:25 am January 20, 2022

Product Owner-

1- Voice of customer

2- Sets vision towards the Product/Project goal

3- Sets priority