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Powerful but Nimble: How Product Backlog Works in Agile Development

What is a product backlog in Agile development and how is it used

Have you ever wondered, "What is a product backlog in Agile development and how is it used?"

In answering that question, it helps first to understand the core benefit of the process: the Agile method gives you the ability to make fast and powerfully effective course corrections as you construct your product backlog.

Power and agility have always been a winning combination.

Athletes who combine power with light feet and quick correction capability are usually the ones who out run, outmaneuver, and outscore their opponents.

In aviation, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet has "supermaneuverability" -- the ability to turn on a dime, yet maintain incredible power and control, in ways that outperform normal aerodynamic technology.

These analogies illustrate how product backlog works when you're applying the principles of agile development.

It's all about speed, effectiveness, and maneuverability.

The Crucial Role of Product Backlog

Venture Beat makes this important observation about product backlog:

A backlog is where you define and prioritize the functional and non-functional requirements of the app. Each feature within the app must have requirements associated with it. If the development is left open-ended and lacks requirements, then you are more likely to get something you didn’t expect.

In other words, product backlog ensures that every little component knows what it's supposed to do (and not do).

Going back to the sports analogy, it's very similar to crafting a successful play in football: the 11 players on the field know exactly what their job is -- and what their job isn't. (You really wouldn't want a 350-lb lineman trying to run a passing route to catch a pass.)

How the Agile Scrum Revolutionizes the Backlog Process

As you map out all of the requirements for your app's features, the scope of the work can be intimidating.

That's where the "Scrum" team in Agile development comes in.

This method saves you the inflexible, tedious burden of having to document every requirement in your product backlog at the beginning of the process -- a very imposing, slow-going road over the mountain, especially at the start when you haven't built much momentum yet in your project.

How is this accomplished?

The major stages of developing product backlog -- mapping out the requirements for features and bugs, for example -- are no longer kept separate. You don't do each type of work one at a time in a linear path like an assembly line (also called the Waterfall method). Each type of work in a Scrum is combined, developed, and refined all together into "sprints." This allows incredible flexibility, speed, and quick correction capability.

Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat, one of the top trainers in the Scrum method, wrote this about product backlog in Agile development:

"Typically, a Scrum team and its product owner begin by writing down everything they can think of for agile backlog prioritization. This agile product backlog is almost always more than enough for a first sprint. The Scrum product backlog is then allowed to grow and change as more is learned about the product and its customers."

Other crucial stages, like listing all technical work or additional research that is needed, are also combined with the other stages. The team -- as they review their agile list of features, bugs, needed tech work, and research to-dos -- then decide together which items are the highest priority and which of those can be done in a single "sprint."

Greater Transparency and Collaboration

This sprint-by-sprint, all-stages-combined process allows insightful transparency for the customer. In fact, it gives the customer real-time collaborative opportunities throughout every stage of development. They no longer have to walk away and wait for the team to make their way down the assembly line of the Waterfall Method.

It also helps to have a wonderfully talented team of engineers, analysts and designers -- something that we're very proud (and grateful) to have at Contensive. To discover more about agile development, contact us and learn how our talented, hard-working team can help.

Posted By Dwayne McGowan | 4/22/2015 9:43:20 AM