Navigating the Future with a Fine-Tuned Product Backlog

As a seasoned Agile consultant, I find myself amidst conversations about the mechanics of a successful Agile project. Today, I focus on an essential yet often underappreciated aspect – the Product Backlog. A well-ordered Product Backlog that is comprehensible to all stakeholders is a critical beacon that illuminates the path to a transparent future.

At the foundational level, the Product Backlog is simply a list of items required for a product, encompassing features, enhancements, and fixes. These items, sometimes called ‘User Stories’, are critical to understanding what needs to be built. The Product Backlog must be seen as a living document, which evolves as the market conditions, customer needs, and product goals change.

As we dive deeper into this subject, it’s vital to recognize the significance of ordering the contents of the Product Backlog. Ordering entails sequencing Backlog Items based on value, risk, size, and learning. This exercise ensures that the team focuses on the most valuable and relevant items first. 

No alt text provided for this image
From Professional Scrum User Experience

The next layer to unravel is the importance of well-articulated Backlog Items. Crafting these Backlog Items with sufficient details ensures all team members and stakeholders easily understand them. This exercise should be iterative, incorporating feedback to refine and improve the Backlog Items.

Moving further, let’s examine the refinement of the Product Backlog. Refinement is an ongoing process to ensure the Backlog Items are manageable and can be feasibly completed in an Iteration. The word refinement represents any work done by the team on the Product Backlog rather than on the increment itself. It involves breaking down more oversized items into smaller, more manageable chunks and continually reassessing their order.

One of the activities that happen during refinement is sizing. Sizing involves understanding the size of each Backlog Item. This size understanding assists in determining how many Backlog Items can be completed in a single Iteration and aids in release planning.

Now, with a well-ordered and refined Product Backlog in place, we pave the way for a continuous orienteering process. This is where the real magic happens. It enables the team to set their sights on the next tactical objective consistently, often called a Sprint Goal. This, in turn, guides them towards the intermediate strategic aim, the Product Goal, and eventually, the overarching strategic goal or vision.

No alt text provided for this image

The delineation of goals can be articulated in many ways, while you can choose your own OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are quite popular and add value if used well. If used poorly they can be a significant impediment to value delivery. The value of OKRs lies in aligning objective data points of critical results with the subjective outcome of the objective. It’s essential to remember that while data and OKRs offer guidance, they are not constraints. The paramount focus should always be on the outcomes that furnish greater value to the customer.

In conclusion, an ordered Product Backlog serves as an astrolabe that guides your vessel through the murky waters of product development. If well refined through order, discussion, and sizing, it becomes an indispensable instrument for navigation, continually orienteering towards goals that ultimately culminate in a value-driven product.

As stewards of Agile Product Management, let’s uphold the art and science of meticulously curating a Product Backlog. It’s not merely a list, but a compendium of aspirations that build the bridge to a transparent and flourishing future.

Upcoming Training Opportunities

These are the next five classes we have, and you can check out our full public schedule of classes.

Immersive Professional Scrum Product Owner with Russell Miller over 8 weeks starting 11th October 2023
Virtual Immersive
11 Oct-13 Oct, 2023
09:00-13:00 EDT
8 weekly half-days
Immersive Applying Professional Scrum with Simon Bourk over 10 weeks from18th October 2023
Virtual Immersive
18 Oct-20 Oct, 2023
09:00-13:00 EDT
10 weekly half-days
Immersive Professional Agile Leadership Essentials with Joanna Płaskonka Ph.D. over 7 weeks from 20th October 2023
Virtual Immersive
20 Oct-1 Oct, 2023
09:00-13:00 BST
7 weekly half-days
Live Virtual Product Backlog Management Skills with Joanna on 2nd November 2023
Virtual Traditional
2 Nov, 2023
09:00-17:00 GMT
1 full-days

We can deliver any of our courses as private in-house training over Microsoft Teams & Mural. We also recommend training based on your accountabilities or role, you can go directly to recommended courses for Scrum MastersProduct OwnersDevelopers and Agile Leaders.

Create a conversation around this article

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin

Related Courses

Scrum with Lean Product Development


Professional Scrum with User Experience (PSU) is a hands-on, activity-based course where students experience how Scrum and User Experience (UX) align and integrate to create cross-functional teams that connect more closely with end-users and customers, ultimately delivering more value and improving outcomes.

Read more

Martin Hinshelwood
🚀 Navigating the intricacies of the Sprint Goal in Scrum? 🎯 Discover the essence of crafting a goal that drives real value! 📈 Dive deep into the tactical steps, avoid common pitfalls, and ensure your team is on the right track. 🛤️ Let’s demystify the Sprint Goal together! 🤝 #Scrum …
Martin Hinshelwood
Software Development is not just a systematic process but a dynamic interplay of critical work that shapes the progress of your product. A Scrum team’s work can be classified into Sprint work and Refinement. To steer your Scrum Team towards success, it’s essential to understand, manage, and balance these two …
Daryn Basson Would you recommend the APS course to a newbie scrum team, and Why? Why the APS Course is a Must for Newbie Scrum Teams In this article, I’d like to share some thoughts on the Agile Practitioner Series (APS) course and its relevance to newbie Scrum teams. But first, …
Martin Hinshelwood
🚀 Navigating the nuances between the Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria? 🤔 Dive into our latest article that explores the sanctity of a working, usable product without compromising value. 💡 Let’s ensure quality and value go hand in hand! 🤝


We believe that every company deserves high quality software delivered on a regular cadence that meets its customers needs. Our goal is to help you reduce your cycle time, improve your time to market, and minimise any organisational friction in achieving your goals.

naked Agility Limited is a professional company that offers training, coaching, mentoring, and facilitation to help people and teams evolve, integrate, and continuously improve.

We recognise the positive impact that a happy AND motivated workforce, that has purpose, has on client experience. We help change mindsets towards a people-first culture where everyone encourages others to learn and grow. The resulting divergent thinking leads to many different ideas and opportunities for the success of the organisation.