Solving backlog in agile software development

If you are planning to implement agile in your company, understanding the backlog is one of the first steps to make. If you’re wondering what exactly backlog is and how to work with it, our tips will be helpful for you!

Agile methodologies are the leading ones across industries, gaining increasing popularity outside of IT as well. Even though they originate in software development, today you can find them in various different projects. In order to implement agile correctly, you need to adjust the team structure and the project development process to its principles. There are core elements that agile will not work correctly without – among them, iterations, user stories, or the backlog.

This article focuses on the latter, explaining how you can use backlog in order to achieve your project goals.

software development

What is a backlog in agile development?

Agile project management methodology interprets the backlog as a prioritized list of functionalities the software or a product should contain. It is worth remembering that the backlog may adopt different names depending on the methodology – for instance, in lean management, it is an option pool. It consists of requirements and roadmaps, pointing out which things need to be done and when.

Backlog in agile vs. requirements

In the waterfall methodology and other non-agile approaches to software development, the list of requirements gets written down at the beginning of the project at then fulfilled through its course. It remains the same from the beginning to the end, having one final deadline. Backlog, on the other hand, can evolve with time. Every few sprints, the Product Owner usually redefines it, adjusting the priorities and roadmaps – preferably, with all the team involved.

What does backlog consist of?

Backlog in Scrum and other agile methodologies usually contains the tasks, bugs, knowledge acquisition, and user stories that describe the software requirements from the user’s perspective. With every refinement session, the backlog user stories should be revised for clarity. If it contains ambiguities that could cause differences in interpretation, lacks value, or is not testable, the Product Owner should define it before it goes to the backlog again.

Backlog in Agile – advantages

In agile methodologies, the work is delivered in iterations, and the backlog evolves with them. In such a form, the requirements remain much more flexible. They can change, and so can the roadmap, depending on the direction in which the project evolves. Prioritization of the backlog allows the project team to work more efficiently. Instead of being overwhelmed with a never-ending list of requirements from scratch, they can progress step by step in an organized manner.

How to work with the backlog? Backlog management practices

If you have used common backlog management tools like Jira or ClickUp, you likely have already worked with the backlog. Every issue to work on starts in the backlog. Then, it is selected for development and passes the stages of acceptance and fixes. Once done, it goes back to the backlog. What’s important, the whole process described takes place within an iteration.

You don’t create the backlog once, so if something’s not working, you can always correct it throughout the sprints. However, if you stick to these rules, you can make it as functional as possible from the beginning. A well-thought backlog can make the team’s work much more coherent and autonomous. Here’s how to achieve this goal:

#1 Keep the backlog detailed, but not too much

Make it as informative as possible, so that team members can interpret the information on their own. Involve brief but informative user stories with well-thought acceptance criteria and epics. At the same time, don’t be afraid to break more extensive user stories into a few smaller ones – the team will benefit from that.

#2 Make sure the roadmap is realistic

A tighter schedule can motivate the team, but if you overdo it with the deadlines, the effect may be the opposite of expected. Give your team time and space to work without worrying too much about the schedule.

#3 Prioritize with moderation

Priorities are a great tool to streamline teamwork, keeping it going smoothly. However, make sure to pick a reasonable ratio. Only a few issues can go for the highest priority, and the majority should stay low. Otherwise, prioritization will be counter-effective.

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