The Scrum framework presents a well-defined structure for agile projects to follow. The iterative project progression is supported by several key meetings and artifacts. The Product Backlog is one of the most important artifacts. It is essentially a prioritized collection of all the work to be completed – a subset of which feeds into each iteration, or Scrum Sprint.
Ordering All Project Tasks
One of the successes of Scrum is its ability to break up a large project or product development into smaller stages and proceed iteratively towards project completion. To be able to do this, a complete list of all work tasks (known as items) is created. This is known as the Product Backlog.
The items within the Product Backlog are ordered by priority. This is important, as it will reflect the order in which the project team takes them on. It is also important that work tasks are broken down sufficiently to create meaningful and workable items that can be included in a single Sprint.
Assigning Story Points to Product Backlog Items
As well as priority, each item in the Product Backlog is given an estimate of complexity. This is done using scrum story points – usually, a points scale (such as 1 to 10, but anything can be used) agreed amongst the team.
The team assigns each item a points value based on how easy or complex it will be to complete. This is easier to work with than fixed time estimates.
Defined and Controlled by the Product Owner
Scrum teams are largely self-managing instead of having a traditional project structure with a defined manager. However, the Scrum framework does define specific other key roles as part of a project. One of these is the Product Owner. They are responsible for the Product Backlog, item priorities, and story point values.
At the start of a project, the Product Owner will complete the Product Backlog and then manage it as the project proceeds through iterations. The Product Backlog is a living document and should be reviewed and kept up to date with changing requirements throughout the project.
From the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog
The Product Backlog contains all the work needed in the project. To implement these, they need to be handled within a single Sprint. The subset of items taken on in each Sprint is known as the Sprint Backlog. The Sprint Backlog is produced at the Sprint Planning meeting, held at the start of each Sprint session.
The Product Owner may help and guide selection, but the team members are responsible for decisions on inclusion. Decisions are based on the current requirements, item priorities, the points value of the remaining items, and the team’s capacity.
A ‘Sprint goal’ or high-level objective for what the team aims to achieve during that Sprint is also defined. Ensuring team focus is a key element of Scrum, and techniques like this help to maintain this.