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Agile 12 Step - Step Four - Focus on the Product Backlog

Step four involves transitioning from a traditional product requirements document into a true agile product/ release backlog. Many people are quick to jump to the conclusion that Agile means very little or no documentation. This is certainly not the case. In fact, many highly regulated industries select Agile Methodologies as a means for completing work since they fall more naturally into this documentation workflow model. The secret sauce of success revolves around how your organization handles the transition of thoughts and vision into a workable strategy. Once the vision and strategy are identified, the next step is to create a roadmap.

The roadmap lays out the plan for what objectives you attend to accomplish that fall in direct line with your strategy. A very close friend once shared, “Even if you are driving the finest Italian sports car, without a steering wheel, you would definitely lose sight of what direction you are intending to travel.” The roadmap to the project or product is just as important as a steering wheel to a car. Do not drive without direction. Trust in leadership ability to outline where you are heading and how to get there.

Once the roadmap has been laid out, it is time to do a proper rapid release planning session. The idea here is that you will be able to count on requirements being clearly defined and each will contain enough information for you and your team to reasonably assess size and or complexity of each item. Each item should easily paint a clear picture of the feature’s functionality and how the end user will interact.

Once the items have successfully been included as part of a release, they are then ready to be set into iterations and the team may begin to work on them accordingly. Obviously, this does not cover every possible type of documentation that could occur in a real world project, This is intended to get you out of the trailer and into the starting gates. The real key to achieving success in step four is to realize that this step is not an all or nothing proposition. Even taking it one step at a time is far better than not doing anything at all.

The backlog should be lean and transparent. We should work hard to identify what work will NOT be done and then focus our attention on driving outcomes instead of outputs. Once we are able to get our head in the game and focus on limited work in progress, this is the point where we will achieve great Agile success.

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