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Prioritizing a Backlog with multiple Products in it

Last post 08:10 am August 12, 2014 by Ian Mitchell
5 replies
12:51 pm August 10, 2014

Hi all,
Can anybody give me advise on the following:

We have backlog which consists of stories for multiple products. (5 to be exact)
For every product we have a Product Owners so we have 5 of them. Our development team consists of 5 highly experienced developers.

We have a Chief Backlog Owner (we don’t call him Product Owner because it’s not a 1 product backlog) whom is owner of the backlog, ultimately decide the prioritization of the backlog and act as single point of truth for the Development Team. There is a Backlog Prioritization Meetings where the Product Owners tries to come to a consensus regarding the prioritization of the backlog. Unfortunately they are struggling with it. Every Product Owner think their items are the most important and will do anything to get it higher in the backlog.

Are there any good techniques that can be used to help them prioritize?

05:02 pm August 10, 2014

Hi Pablo,

One backlog, Chief backlog owner, multiple products, five product owners and one team of five devt.
Is the team dimensioning correct as there are more owners than developers 5 PO + 1 Chief backlog.
Each product owner should be optimizing value, after all that's their focus.
Technically one PO for every team member sounds like a large overhead.
CBO isn't a role, if we are implying they are in control of all products in it then they should have the
overall view of that backlog, including the priority of it, after all its a CBO.

Lets look at what the PO should be doing:
The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog.
Product Backlog management includes:
*Clearly expressing Product Backlog items;
*Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions;
*Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs;
*Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next; and,
*Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed.

Lets look at what the SM also has to do
Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner
The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:
* Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
*Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
* Understanding product planning in an empirical environment;
*Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value;
* Understanding and practicing agility; and,
*Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.

Have the product owners had any valid training at all, would be the first question?
Second one has this been raised in the retrospective as something that's not adding value?
Third has the SM been coaching them as part of their services?

This looks like education as to what they should be doing and what they are doing.
Each PO has their own agenda, so really doesn't understand value across many products.
This is ineffective product ownership and nothing more.
Product ownership is much much more than this if they are true "value optimizers".
Have you set up any sessions with scenarios based on historics and explained the issue.
What outcomes have failed so far?


02:23 am August 11, 2014

Hi Michael,
Let me rephrase my question.
- We are a Product Development department.
- We have created 5 products so far.
- For every product we have Product Managers who also act as Analysts. One of their objectives to finding out which new features needs to be created in order to generate more value. They call themselves Product Owners, but they aren’t.
- Every Product Manager has his/her own agenda when it comes to prioritisation.
- We recently hired a Backlog Owner. (similar to a Product Owner), who is responsible for clearly expressing Product Backlog items, ordering the items in the backlog to best achieve goals and missions etc.
- Development team consists of 5 developers.
- Every week the Backlog Owner and the Product Managers comes together and talk about the prioritization of the backlog. (they call it the Prioritization Meeting)

Unfortunately I noticed that these meetings are usually about the ones that screams to loudest gets their related item in the next sprint.

So my ultimate question: is there a constructed and valid way to calculate Business Value? A way where the Product Managers and Backlog Owner can apply to objectively prioritize the backlog?

03:45 am August 11, 2014

I'm sorry I don't know a simple Business Value Model. I will very soon deal with the same situation : several products maintained by a single Dev Team.
Each product has its own PO but within the same department in our organization.
The POs will have to learn that they have to manage a whole portefolio of product and not a single product, and their job is "value optimizer" for the company, not for their own product.

They will probably need a scrum master as a facilitator for their planning meeting and to find out how to model their "global" business value.

01:14 pm August 11, 2014

Hi Pablo,

Each PO must understand what it is they are supposed to do, here we know they are PO in name only.
He who shouts loudest wont work in scrum, its about value and maximizing it.
Oliver has also hit on it, that the SM will be a major part in this, it will be essential.
If they all understood what it is combined they are supposed to be doing would be a start.
This will take some time as they are not even in scrum mode, more likely PM mode.

Could you not apply a visualization room for all the work from all the PO's, where its visible.
When it comes to business value all the PO's would have to come up with valid negotiation points.
Its important wont cut it, its why is it more important than feature x or product y based on data.
No different to sizing when it comes to the team, but at product owner level based on overall value.
Its very clear it wont be easy, as there will have to be trade offs and negotiation by everyone.
If no one is prepared to do this then no matter what option you go for none will work.

This could be a fun way to get them into the swing of things by running a few sessions.
Negotiation and trade offs is going to be key to making it flow between all product owners.…


08:10 am August 12, 2014

Are coherent Sprint Goals articulated for each Sprint, and does each Sprint result in a potentially releasable product increment?

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