Technique for Ordering the Product Backlog: Factoring Business Value and Risk

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Scrum is the most popular agile project development and delivery framework. In Scrum, the product release backlog (sometimes referred to as the product backlog) is a list of features, user stories, bugs to be fixed, and/or other requirements. The Product Owner is the ultimate holder of the backlog. The Product Owner prioritizes items, and different methods can be employed to help accomplish that work. This brief article focuses on the technique of factoring business value and risk.

Each item in the product release backlog would be rated as either high or low in two dimensions: business value and risk. It is suggested that high business value, high-risk items are worked on first. While that may seem counterintuitive, the earlier this work is done, the sooner the team will move to mitigate the issues and unknowns—leading to a higher quality product. If there's a failure, it will occur early and relatively inexpensively.

An ordering of priorities is illustrated above, and it follows:

1. High business value, high risk.
2. High business value, low risk.
3. Low business value, low risk.
4. Low business value, high risk.

Alternatively, other prioritization methods—such as the MoSCoW ranking model— may be used. MoSCoW will be highlighted in a subsequent article.

This content is an abridged excerpt from the award-winning book,
Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions, available in paperback and ebook formats at Amazon. For additional information on the book, visit AgileScrumGuide.com.

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Techniques for Gathering User Stories

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In Scrum, user stories act as requirements. Each story represents a portion of business value that a team can deliver in an iteration. A common format is: “As a (role), I want (goal) so that I can (reason).” Here's an example: “As a customer, I want shopping cart functionality so that I can buy items online.” User stories are captured in the product release backlog. This short article focuses on techniques for gathering user stories.

The following methods can help the Product Owner gather material for user stories:

Interviews: Ask a diverse group of users—or anticipated users if the product/service does not yet exist—open-ended questions containing "how" or "why." For example: "How would you pair this device with your iPhone?”

Observation: Watch people using the product/service.

Prototyping: Use tools such as sticky notes, PowerPoint, and wireframes to illustrate ideas, show preliminary versions of the product, and facilitate discussions.

Surveys: Employ surveys where the Product Owner verbally asks respondents pre-determined questions, or questionnaires where items are presented via forms (online or in hard copy format).

Workshops: This is a type of brainstorming where the group identifies as many user story ideas as possible. To support getting a high quantity of ideas, it is suggested that participants should not agree/disagree with or assess items during the workshop.

The above content includes excerpts from the book,
Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. It’s available in paperback and ebook formats at Amazon. The press kit is available at agilescrumguide.com.

★★★★★

You're invited to connect with
Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™ on social. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

For more information, you can
review what we do, see who we are, check out our infographics, read additional stories from our blog, and visit our newsroom.




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