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Topics: Agile, Scrum
Does Scrum lead to never-ending effort?

By definition, the Product Backlog is a list that continues to be refined. This includes adding PBI. Does that mean the team is in a never-ending effort loop?
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That depends on the nature of the product. If you're creating something you don't intend to constantly modify, eventually you'll run out of items to add - most projects fall into this category. However, if the product is meant to remain in a constant improvement cycle, then your Scrum team could spend decades constantly adding improvements and upgrades, usually in response to customer feedback and requests - a popular software package like Microsoft Project probably has a Scrum team permanently assigned to it.

I suspect it would depend on who's paying the bills - at some point the ROI will become questionable

It might, but I would not consider Scrum the root cause. Two scenarios come to mind.

1) A project to create something. If you're using a predictive approach, you can end up with scope creep or a "phase 2" project. Scrum is geared toward identifying scope changes sooner.

2) Something has been created and you are now supporting it with bug fixes and enhancements. This is ongoing until you stop supporting it.

The first scenario can lead to the second, but it does not have to be the same team. Two important differences between the scenarios are that a project has defined scope and a defined end point. If backlog refining is adding scope to the project, make sure the changes are going through change management and getting approval for the additional time, cost, and resource utilization. The sponsor might be able to approve the additional time and cost, but your team members might be needed on a different project that is waiting for them to be released.

In short - All projects have to come to an end. Practically, they do as soon as you run out of money.

Just to clarify, Scrum is not a type of project management. It's a framework to develop products. That's a very significant difference. Projects end when stated goals have been accomplished and all defined work (within scope) is completed. Product support ends when the last user stops calling, or when the organization refuses to support the product any longer.

In the case of Scrum, we're should really talk about ongoing effort in terms of disposal or end-of-life policies.

So yes, the product backlog will continue past initial development into operational support, but it won't be "never-ending."

With any product development initiative there needs to be some top-down governance that draws a "good enough" line where resources can be put on higher-ROI activities. If a business owner is allowed to "pork barrel" backlog items into an existing project then they'll do so at the expense of other projects that may have a greater need. Backlog items should be assessed against competing activities and resources should be assigned based on business priorities. I'd hate to see Priority 1 features not get developed on one project while a team on another project is working on Priority 3 features.

In a product management driven environment, the product life-cycle marks the end.
In a project management driven environment, finalization and acceptance of delivered sope marks the end, however due to market/ customer demands a new project might start and PBI cycle starts again covered by a new project.

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