If it isn't on the list, it won't get done.

If it isn’t on the list, it won’t get done.

The team backlog is comprised of everything a team might get done because if it is not on the list, it can’t be prioritized and taken into a sprint. Simply put, if it isn’t on the list there is no chance of it will get done. The attributes of the team backlog are:

  1. The backlog includes all potential work items of the team. Work items will include user stories, non-functional requirements, technical items, architectural requirements, issues and risks. Note: All of these can use the user story construct for communication and presentation.
  2. Backlog items represent possibilities. Until the team’s product owner prioritizes an item and the team accepts the item into a sprint, it is merely an opportunity that may get done.
  3. Backlog items should be estimated. An estimate reflects the level of effort required to complete the work item based the definition of done and the work items acceptance criteria. Until it si accepted into the sprint, having an estimate is not a sign that the work item has been committed to be delivered.
  4. The product owner owns the backlog. The product owner prioritizes that backlog therefore controls what the team works on (product owner is a member of the team). In programs, the product owner helps to channel the programs priorities.
  5. The backlog is groomed. Grooming includes ensuring that backlog items are:
    • Well formed,
    • Understood,
    • Estimated,
    • Prioritized, and
    • When necessary removed.

Disclaimer: I am a list person. I have lots of them. I have not descended into lists of lists, albeit I do have a folder in Evernote of lists. Backlogs are the queue of work that a team will draw from. Backlogs, like any list, can feel like they are the end in their own right; almost a form of tyranny. I heard it said, “What is the reward for completing a user story? Another user story.” The backlog can seem relentless. However grooming, prioritization and sprint planning ensures that the team works on what is important and valuable. The backlog is merely a tool to make sure nothing is inadvertently forgotten or ignored.

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