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What is Scrum backlog?

Fri 13 May 2016 10:41

The Scrum backlog, officially referred to as the product backlog, is the main list of product features prepared by the product owner in accordance to the product envisioned by the stakeholders and project owners. In Scrum, it is not required to undertake extensive project planning activities to initiate the project. Instead, a list containing the product features can be prepared to start the actual development process.

What is Scrum backlog? In simple terms, a scrum backlog is a prioritized features list that contains a short description of all functionality required to develop a working version of the product. The list may not be “perfect” when it is initially created. The product owner and team members can simply begin noting down everything they can possibly think of in terms of product features and functionality required to build the product, and create the list. It can always be updated later on, and new features added to it as and when stakeholders desire new functionality to be included in the final version of the product. The “feature items” in the list, or the backlog, are known as product backlog items. Also known as user stories, the backlog items are taken up for development by the team, and developed during the daily sprints.The product backlog is an important artefact in Scrum. The entire development activity, and even the success of the product is dependent upon it. Therefore, Scrum advocates that the backlog should be considered as important and enough efforts should be spent in grooming it on a regular basis to preserve its “health”.

product backlog

Characteristics of the product backlog used in Scrum Agile process

The Scrum backlog, used in the Scrum Agile process, should ideally exhibit the following characteristics:


  • I = Independent

  • The backlog should have an independent existence.

  • N = Negotiable

  • Backlog items should be negotiable i.e. added, updated, or removed after providing valid reasons.

  • V = Valuable

  • Each backlog item should carry a certain business value.

  • E = Estimable

  • Each item in the backlog should be associated a certain “story point” value and estimated properly.

  • S = Small

  • Backlog items should be small so they can be easily managed.

  • T = Testable

  • Each item should have a certain acceptance criteria or associated with benchmark parameters. It should be testable.

What is product backlog grooming?

The product backlog grooming sessions are also referred to as backlog refinement sessions. They are an inherent part of Scrum process and are conducted to ensure that the product backlog reflects a true “picture” of the product as envisioned by the stakeholders. The grooming activity consists of updating the product backlog from time to time. Changes occurring in the product features or business value of the backlog items should be updated in the backlog.

Product backlog grooming consists of :

  • Removing user stories which are no longer important or relevant to the product being developed.

  • Creating new user stories on the basis of feedback received from the stakeholders and newly discovered “needs” or requirements.

  • Re-assessing the business value (market worth) associated with user stories currently in the backlog.

  • Estimating stories.

  • Correcting current estimates of user stories in response to newly “discovered” or “received” information.

  • Splitting up epics or “large” user stories into smaller and easily manageable ones so they can be easily managed and developed during the sprint cycles.

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