Change Specialists - Simplifying Change

How To Manage Backlog In Agile

Change Specialists Practice Director, Julian Brown, shares his 5 best practice steps to manage backlog in an Agile environment.

I’ve witnessed a number of Agile transformations within organisations of all shapes and sizes. It’s fair to say that Agile has revolutionised the way that software development is approached, fostering both adaptability and collaboration.

However, in my experience, one of the core challenges often encounter is managing the backlog effectively.  It could become that enormous pile of dirty clothes that need washing and a daunting task in front of us. 

I’d therefore like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from being on the front line of Agile project management.

The Backlog Is a Living Entity

One of the fundamental principles of Agile is to be adaptable, and this applies to the backlog as well. It’s not a static list of tasks but rather a dynamic entity that evolves over time. It’s crucial to remember that priorities can change, new user stories may emerge, and some items may become less relevant. 

Encourage your teams to regularly review and refine the backlog to ensure it reflects the current state of the project and aligns with strategic objectives.

Collaboration Is Key

Effective backlog management isn’t the sole responsibility of a Product Owner.  Encourage cross-functional collaboration by involving the entire team, including developers, testers, and designers, in backlog refinement sessions. 

Incorporating different perspectives can uncover hidden complexities, identify dependencies, and lead to more accurate estimations. 

Promoting transparency and open communication within your Agile teams will help maintain a well-organised and manageable backlog.

Use Business Value To Prioritise the Workload

In Agile development, delivering value to the business is so important. It’s essential to prioritise backlog items based on their impact on the overall project goals and the value they bring to your company. 

Encouraging your teams to consider factors like customer and colleague feedback, market trends, and business objectives when determining the order they tackle backlog items.

This ensures that the team is consistently focused on delivering the most valuable features and improvements.

Embrace INVEST

To maintain a backlog that’s both actionable and well-defined, consider the INVEST criteria for user stories: Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, and Testable. These criteria provide a clear framework for creating user stories that are easy to understand, estimate, and prioritise. 

 By looking at items through an INVEST lens, your teams will be able to streamline their backlog items and the delivery should become more efficient.

Take A Regular Look Back Through the Rear View Mirror

Regularly review your backlog management processes. Conduct retrospectives to identify areas which can be improved or enhanced.  Encourage your teams to reflect on what’s working well and what isn’t, then adjust their practices accordingly. 

I personally like to use a Win, Learn & Change approach so you can identify successes as well.

Agile is not just a methodology; it’s a mindset. Continuously learn, adapt, and improve your backlog management practices to ensure your organisation remains agile and responsive to change.

Fancy a chat about change? Interested in exchanging a few ideas? Please contact me / Contact Us – Change Specialists Ltd