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What is Product Backlog and how it connects with the other elements of Scrum

March 1, 2022

Welcome to Scrum Sutra — a series where I shall share a 2-min overview of each element of Scrum and how it connects with the other elements in the bead to form Scrum Sutra. This bead is about Product Backlog.

The Product Backlog is one of the three Scrum Artifacts. The other 2 being Sprint Backlog and Increment.

The Product Owner is accountable to ensure that the Product Backlog and its constituent Product Backlog items are transparent, visible and understood. He or she is also accountable for ordering the Product Backlog items based on what optimizes the value of the product. It’s a single source of truth for all work needed to realize the Product Goal.

Talking of the Product Goal, it is a commitment for the Product Backlog, describes the future state of the Product and serves as a target for the Scrum Team to plan against. This is part of the Product Backlog and gives the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. The Product Owner crafts this Product Goal and ensures everyone in the organization understands it. This Product Goal helps everyone remain Focused.

In fact, this transparency is achieved as part of an ongoing Product Backlog refinement activity where the work items are broken down into smaller and more precise items and details are appropriately added. While ordering is done by Product Owner, the Developers are responsible for the sizing. This is intentionally done to avoid waste.

Scrum’s empirical approach gives many opportunities to inspect and adapt this Product Backlog.

  • In Sprint Planning, the Product Backlog serves as an input from where the Developers select items to include in the current Sprint. They are focused toward the Product Goal and demonstrate courage in picking up PBIs which are challenging but are important to maximize the value.
  • In Sprint Review, the Product Owner presents the Product Backlog evolutions against the long-term Product Goal and adjusts the Product Backlog to include new opportunities.

Scrum Guides mentions “emergent” because the Product Backlog emerges as new information and experience is gathered.

That’s a 2-min overview on Product Backlog. Stay tuned to the next in the Scrum Sutra series.

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