Product Backlog: Avoiding the Dreaded Backlog Rot

Updated: Jan 20

Backlog Prioritization

We oftentimes have requests that are submitted through well-meaning stakeholders that fill up our backlog. When those requests come in, we try our best to honor the mantra of anyone can add items to the Product Backlog. However, what do we do to ensure that the Product Backlog doesn't become unmanageable. There are 3 keys things to remember... First, The Product Owner is the person to prioritize the requests. Second, No should be a readily available and used word. And Third, there is a healthy balance of how deep your Product Backlog should really be at any given point in time.

The Product Owner Prioritizes

Many people will give input and insist that their items must be done first. Many years ago when working with a Product Owner, I recognized that he had the title in name only. He was a bright, well-meaning person but he never truly had the authority to prioritize the requests that came from various external customers and internal stakeholders. It was readily apparent partway through a given sprint that this Product Owner approached the team in a frenzy to give some bad news... everything being worked on needed to be stopped because all funding had been pulled from that initiative. It was met with much grumbling, complaining and the team asked how this could possibly happen since the Sprint Planning session had just happened a mere couple days previous. As the sprint was terminated that day, many discussions ensued in the Retrospective and very rough Sprint Planning session. How could this possibly happen that quickly into a sprint? The short answer I discovered as a ScrumMaster was that our "Product Owner" was not really empowered to make decisions for the products and initiatives he was "in charge" of for the company.

It is imperative that the Product Owner be the decision maker. It is for their good and for their ill. They are the ones that chart the course based on input they receive from stakeho