Agile 101: Product Backlog

Tom Mochal

Tom Mochal, PgMP, PMP, TSPM is the president of TenStep, Inc., a methodology development, consulting and training company. Tom won the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Project Management Institute for his work spreading knowledge of project management around the world. He is a speaker, lecturer, instructor and consultant to companies and organizations around the world.

In an Agile project, you don’t create large documents to hold user requirements; in fact, you don’t need a traditional document at all. The preferred technique is to use a product backlog, which represents a prioritized collection of work remaining on the project at any given time.

In an Agile project you don’t create large documents to hold user requirements. In fact you don’t need a traditional document at all. The preferred technique is to create a product backlog.

The backlog is not a document as much as it is simply the prioritized collection of work that is remaining on a project. This could be a spreadsheet or table that contains a list of user stories. It could also be a stack of index cards that each holds a user story or a unique item of work.

The initial product backlog is generated at the start of an Agile project. The timing could coincide with an initiation phase for the project or during an initial set-up iteration (sometimes called iteration 0). The initial product backlog consists of all easily identified work that is known when the project starts.

As each iteration begins, a planning meeting is held between the product owner and the project team. The product owner identifies work on the product backlog that he would like completed in the iteration. The project team validates they can complete the work. Negotiations are held if there…

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