5 Factors to Help Prioritize Your Scrum Product Backlog

Introduction

Scrum is intended as a simple, yet sufficient framework for complex product delivery. Scrum is not a one-size-fits-all solution, a silver bullet or a complete methodology. Instead, Scrum provides the minimal boundaries within which teams can self-organize to solve a complex problem using an empirical approach. This simplicity is its greatest strength, but also the source of many misinterpretations surrounding Scrum.

Smart and experienced product owners know that a product backlog without prioritization can lead to bad decision-making, wasted time, and can even breed distrust among the team. Don’t let this happen to you. Take heed of these five factors to help prioritize your product backlog. Because this is a post on prioritization, the factors are listed in priority order.

How does each product to your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

What is the minimum viable product that can be delivered to customers? As terms as prioritizing your backlog, the keyword is “minimum.” While features may be valuable, it doesn’t mean they are necessary, and the distinction between the two becomes more important when you’re time-boxed with limited resources. Have an understanding of the resources you have at hand and then categorize  products into three buckets: Must Have, Nice to Have, and Won’t Have. You can also use the Moscow analysis and separate products into four categories:

  • Must-Have
  • Should Have This If Possible
  • Could Have This If Possible
  • Won’t Have This At This Time But Would Like In The Future
Prioritize Your Product Backlog by Understanding the value of each feature
  • Every product backlog product should help solve a problem for the user. If it doesn’t, then it shouldn’t be on the list. Take some time to read through customer feedback through polls, surveys, or submitted reviews. By understanding what worked, what didn’t, and what they need, your product backlog will be one step closer to containing features that will add value.
  • After learning more about the customer, it becomes a lot easier to write customer stories. A user story is a simple statement told from the customer’s perspective that explains why a feature would give them value.
  • User stories will guarantee customer value is kept top-of-mind as you prioritize and communicate your product backlog products.

5 Factors to Help Prioritize Your Product Backlog
1: Who is your customer?

Everybody prefers to be within their safe zone. This is why even agile teams prefer features that are easily churned out in a given time-box and are budget friendly rather than having to go that extra mile of finding the ones that actually benefit the customers. But, even before you get that product out, you should know who your customers are! And what better way to find that out than by creating ‘Personas’!

Personas are the ultimate beneficiaries of your product! An outside-in perspective of analyzing the product’s capabilities through different Personas will cause teams to identify the motivations and challenges of their prospective users. This will open up the scope for creating features that may enhance customer experiences.

2: Always follow the data

Now, so far, we have mainly been talking about different processes for ordering the product backlog, but unless you are sure of the priority of each item, how do you know you are choosing the best path forward? This is where data, testing, and user feedback come into play. Our advice is to always follow the data.

This all goes back to UX designs and taking the needs of the user seriously. Often, developers will run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out their audience, when they could simply ask them. By conducting thorough testing and working with a product manager who understands the end-users, you will make better decisions and end up with a better end-product.

3: Keep the team involved

Which leads us to the last tip for grooming your product backlog: keep the team involved. As a Scrum master or product owner, it can be easy to slip into leadership mode and make all backlog grooming decisions yourself. However, if you truly want to have the best possible development, you need to include your team and make these decisions together.

This may be as simple as scheduling a meeting every couple of weeks to review the product backlog and make any necessary changes. If you have been using best practices throughout the process, this will be a quick meeting, allowing you to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

4: A number game

Which one of these would actually fetch you more business value? Optimizing the home page of your e-commerce site to display the most often browsed content or including a new filter option in it? The former will definitely benefit the majority of the existing site users. Optimization may not be the core development, but it is the most effective way of exciting and retaining the existing user base. Hence, during prioritization, it is always better to analyze the impact of any feature on the number of existing users.

5: The earlier planned the better

Many backlogs could be associated with varying degrees of risk. Some can have a low impact while others can adversely impact the development cycle, thereby affecting the overall business. Prioritizing high-risk backlogs early in the development cycle will be cost effective and reduce the overall implementation risk.

In the previous example of a big truck and cars on a highway, an early realization that the big truck will slow down the speed of small cars and thus, should be diverted will actually benefit the car users!

Nothing is hardly etched. The factors that influence backlog prioritization is not limited to the above and may vary according to the industry, business models, and organizational needs.

Conclusion
  • In the end, the best tool you have at your disposal in the grooming process is your team and the collaboration they offer. By getting insights from each member of the project, you will have a better-rounded product offering. Not only that but if you follow the above tips and follow the data, you will have built in an exceptional user experience throughout.
  • Our hope is that you will take these tips and use them on your next project to create an even better experience for your clients. Hopefully, if everything runs smoothly, you may even have created a good experience for your team as well.

Barghavi

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