How Do Product Owners Typically Organize Items in the Backlog?

Scrum Product Backlogs can be daunting. How do you organize all of those items? What goes where? Let’s explore some of the options and help you find what will work best for your team.

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Introduction

A product backlog is a list of all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that are desired for a product. It’s the single source of what needs to be delivered in order to incrementally improve a product. The product backlog is an ordered list of everything that could be done to improve a product. The backlog items are ordered according to business value, with the most valuable items at the top of the list. As new items are added to the product backlog, they are prioritized according to business value. Backlog items that are deemed less valuable may never be implemented.

Product backlogs can take many different forms, but most Product Owners (POs) typically organize them in one of two ways: by Feature or by User Story.

Some people also like to think in terms of Epics vs Stories vs Tasks but this is just another way of looking at Features and User Stories.

Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is a prioritized list of everything that is known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product. The product backlog items are ordered by priority, with the most important items at the top of the list.

Prioritization

As a general rule, the product backlog is prioritized from top to bottom. The most valuable, or most important items are at the top of the backlog and the items of least value are at the bottom. However, there may be some items in the middle of the backlog that are of higher value than items at the bottom, but lower value than items at the top. The product owner is responsible for ensuring that the backlog is always prioritized so that the development team is working on the most important items first.

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Ordering

Product backlog items are typically ordered using one or more of the following criteria:
-Business value
-Priority
-Work complexity
-Dependencies

Conclusion

Product owners typically organize backlog items by defining themes and epics, which are broken down into user stories.

Themes are high-level goals that a product or service must achieve, while epics are large user stories that need to be completed in order to achieve a theme. Once the themes and epics have been defined, the product owner will create user stories, which are smaller pieces of work that need to be completed in order to complete an epic.

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