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Good Product Owners Delete Product Backlog Items

April 22, 2016

At a recent course, one of my attendees talked about his use of a "to delete" status for items in his Product Backlog. Where items had been in his Product Backlog for more than 3 months he tagged them as "to delete". He would then review this sub list with stakeholders as part of the ongoing Product Backlog Refinement process. After some discussion the items were either deleted/archived or the tag was removed.

With new Product Backlog Items (PBI's) being added all the time, he wanted to encourage his stakeholders to remove PBI's if they had been around for awhile but had never been deemed valuable enough to work on. It was likely these would never be implemented as there would always be something more important to do. This reminded me of an important point - Good Product Owners Deleted Product Backlog Items.

The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes:....Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all - The Scrum Guide

In many organisations, the rate of new Product Backlog Items being generated far exceeds the Development Team's capacity to convert them into increments of working software. As a Product Backlog grows over time, so does the time required to refine it. Much time can be spent discussing this huge number of PBI's. Time is money, and as many of these PBI's will never be implemented this introduces significant waste into the Product development process.

As part of Product Backlog Refinement, good Product Owners will proactively aim to keep the Product Backlog as small (in terms of numbers of features) as is possible to reduce this waste. Even if not deleted, items should be archived to remove them from the Product Backlog. This will help eliminate waste and allow more time to be spent focussing on the features that will be implemented. Focus is a Scrum value and this technique is one way Product Owners can bring greater focus to the Product Backlog.

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